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Žaliakalnis Funicular Railway

Kaunas, Lithuania
1 of 8
L. Mykolaicio nuotrauka, 2018 m.

Kaunas funiculars appeared as one of the most prominent and distinctive signs of the modernization of Kaunas’ infrastructure, testifying to the rapid growth of the city. The idea of building a funicular arose to connect the upper part of the city with the lower part more conveniently. With the swiftly expanding modernization of Kaunas, the construction in the Žaliakalnis district (the upper part of the city) decreased, while the one below - in the Naujamiestis district increased which has also resulted in skyrocketing prices for construction plots. It was explained by the fact that commuting between the lower city area and the area up the hill was difficult. To eliminate the problem, in 1927 the City Council decided to build the first funicular in Kaunas (of whole Lithuania too) connecting Naujamiestis and Žaliakalnis.

Sociological research helped to decide on the location of the first funicular when the Kaunas city municipality hired people to count everyone who are going up and down the stairs to assess potential passenger flows. It was found that the number of people passing by was the highest on Kaukas St. (about 4000 per day), then to Žemaičiai st. (3500) and the least on the Aušros St. (3000). More people avoided walking the Aušros St. because it was a steeper incline and were more steps to walk up to.

After the construction of the Žaliakalnis funicular, there was only one wooden, a tin-covered wagon that carried passengers; the second wagon was loaded with stones and was used as a counterweight. In 1932, Kaunas city municipality decided to convert the control weight wagon into a passenger wagon. Having won the competition, this work was approved by the American Lithuanian trading company AMLIT. Later on, in 1937, the funicular was reconstructed again. Passengers were transported in new, larger wagons designed by engineer N. Dobkevičius. The chassis was manufactured by the Swiss company “Theodor Bell”. In 1933 for the convenience of passengers, a shelter canopy was built at the lower station, in 1935. The final design of the funicular station has been preserved and stayed the same even now.

The funiculars, which are still operating today, emphasize one of the most expressive urban characteristics of Kaunas - the slopes and their immediate interaction with the city. In the architectural discourse, there are quite a few calls to turn the city of Kaunas towards the river. Meanwhile, the relationship between the city and the slopes is a less frequently exploited topic that could receive no less attention or interaction.

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