Ever Wondered What Happens to Old Trams in Finland?

Inside a tram carriage.
Inside a tram carriage. | © Burst / Pexels
Jessica Wood

In early 2018, the Helsinki City Transport service ran into a problem. They had a stockpile of antique trams which they needed to get rid of to make room for their new rolling stock. The old trams weren’t significant enough to be sent to museums yet the transport authority felt it would be a waste to simply scrap them. Instead they came up with a third option – give them away for free.

An iconic green and beige tram rolls through central Helsinki.

How to pick up an antique tram

The trams available for adoption date mostly from the 1950s to the 80s, have room for over 100 passengers, and weigh over 20 tonnes. One of the models on offer even dates to before Finland’s independence, making it over 100 years old.

Interior of an antique tram

There are a few catches to picking up one of these trams for free, however. First of all, they can only be transported within Finland and owners must organise and pay for the transportation themselves. Secondly, applicants must demonstrate that they will be able to properly care for the trams and put them to good use. They will even need to submit annual reports to the transport authority to prove that the trams are being used appropriately. This will allow the trams to be preserved, ensure they are recycled, and prevent them from being sold off for scrap.

Uses for antique trams

HCT will not allow the trams to be used as houses or for storage. They are no longer fit to actually run either. But there are some creative uses which owners can find for them, other than simply adding them to their antiques collection.

A pair of antique trams

They could be repurposed as retail spaces, such as the old tram car in Turku city centre which has been transformed into an ice cream kiosk. Or they could be turned into hotel rooms such as the Controversy Tram Inn in the Netherlands. They could even be converted into churches, such as the Orthodox church inside of an old railway carriage in Russia.

A re-purposed railway carriage.

No matter what uses the new owners find for their antique trams, they can be proud to own an important and beautiful piece of Helsinki’s transport history. If you can read Finnish, check out the HCT website to see which trams are still up for grabs and get your bid in by early August for a chance to own one.

The Sparakoff Pub Tram in Helsinki, a good use for an antique tram car?
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