London Underground is famously the world’s oldest underground railway – but which one came second? Well, that accolade goes to the TÃ¼nel, in Turkey’s Istanbul. It is also arguably the world’s shortest underground railway, being just 571 meters in length and having only two stations.
The TÃ¼nel was opened in January 17th, 1875 (so it is 133 years old next Friday) to provide an easy ride between the two neighborhoods of Pera and Galata, both in the new district of Istanbul on the hill north of the Golden Horn. The railway is also notable for being a “funicular” railway – namely one which runs up a steep slope. You are probably familiar with funicular railways from their use in the Alpine mountains.
The TÃ¼nel was originally conceived by the French engineer Henri Gavand in 1867 – just four years after the London Underground had opened. Two years later, in November 6, 1869, he received permission from the Ottoman sultan AbdÃ¼laziz to start the project. After finding foreign funding, construction began in July 30, 1871 and ended in December 1874. The TÃ¼nel was finally opened for service in January 17, 1875.
When the underground railway first opened, people were scared of traveling underground, so the owners added an extra carriage for carrying animals to show that the service was safe.
When it opened, the TÃ¼nel was powered by horses, and was converted to electric cable in 1910, being converted to electric rail and locomotion on 1971. In the same year the original wooden cars were finally replaced by metal ones.