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Tram


A tram in Vienna, Austria
A tram (or tramway, trolley, streetcar) is a light-rail vehicle for public transport. Trams are distinguished from other forms of light rail in that they travel along tracks laid down in the right-of-way of city streets. Another distinguishing factor is the short length of the vehicle, which usually consists of a standalone car or three at most. A special type is the cable car.

Tram systems are common throughout Europe and were common throughout the Western world in the early 20th century. In Australia trams are in use in several cities, most extensively in Melbourne with its W-class tram.

In the United States, most trams were removed by the 1950s. Often tram operators were bought out by large car manufacturers who replaced the trams with fleets of buses. Not all trams were removed; the San Francisco cable cars are the most famous example of trams in the United States. More recently some American cities have built light-rail systems which operate partially in the right-of-way of city streets. These systems could be called trams by Europeans and Australians but are generally not known by that name within the US.


Interior of a tram
Early trams were pulled along by horses. Later trams, known as cable cars, attached to a moving cable underneath the road. The cable would be pulled by a steam engine at a powerhouse. Railed vehicles pulled by cable up the hills at steep incline, such as Hong Kong's Victoria Peak Tram, and Monongahela and Duquesne Inclines in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, are also called trams, but are more accurately funiculars. Modern trams generally use overhead electric cables, from which they draw current through a pantograph or a trolley pole.

In some countries, the word "tram" also refers to small localized transportation systems that do not run on rails. These can be small linked vehicles used to shuttle visitors around a tourist attraction or from a large parking lot into a building such as a shopping center. These trams run on regular paved road with rubber tires. Suspended cable cars, such as those found in ski resorts, may also be called trams, see Aerial tramway.

The name "tram" is from Low German traam, meaning the "beam (of a wheelbarrow)".

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