Tunel (English: Tunnel) is an underground funicular with two stations, located at the northern shore of the Golden Horn and connecting the quarters of Karakoy (Galata) and Beyoglu (Pera) regions. Inaugurated only 12 years after the London Underground, and being the second-oldest extant subterranean urban rail line in the world, Tunel is 142 years old today. The story of Tunel begins with the initiatives of French engineer, Eugène-Henri Gavand. Tunel was designed by Gavand in 1867 and was opened for service on January 17, 1875. Now, hvac&r Turkey magazine presents you an adventure of 142 years…
18th century … In other words, the period when public transport in Istanbul was only provided by horse-drawn carriages and boats. But how could the boats respond to the growing population and especially those who had to commute between the two sides of the city? Under such circumstances, the ferries became the leading actors of public transport in 1855. Four ferries started to operate between Uskudar and Eminonu. Three years later, in 1858, two ferryboats started to serve between Uskudar and Kabatas.
1867: A Frenchman comes to Ottoman lands
At the time the calendars hit 1867, Eugene Henri Gavand, a French engineer, comes to Istanbul for a touristic visit. When he first stepped into the Ottoman lands, he certainly does not know that he will be one of the most renowned names of Istanbul a few years later. In addition to being an engineer, Gavand is a good observer too. And he notices that people who want to pass from Galata to Beyoglu or Beyoglu to Galata have to use very steep and neglected Yuksekkaldirim. Yuksekkaldirim has a very unfavorable structure for pedestrian walk and transportation at the time. Gavand takes the pen-paper and makes a calculation. According to his findings, in average 40,000 people travel between these two sites each day. The width of the street with 24 percent curvature is 6 meters and even 4 meters in some places. Gavand brings this solution in the light of all these determinations: “It will be possible to carry people and goods with an elevator-type underground railway (tunnel) between Galata and Beyoglu.”
1868: The initiative becomes official
Gavand wants to formalize his project one year after he stepped into the Ottoman lands. He goes to France for a short period of time prior to the application and contacts with some rich Frenchmen to pledge support for his project. After returning to Istanbul, Gavand presented the Tunnel project to Babiali (Sublime Porte meaning the Ottoman Palace) in February 1868 and requested for concessions. The project presented by Gavand is evaluated and the French engineer is granted concession with the edict dated 10 June 1869. On November 6, 1869, the texts of contracts and specifications for the construction of Tunel were signed by Minister of Public Works Davut Pasha and Gavand, the concessionaire.
1874: Tunel is ready to service
Gavand starts with establishing a company of French investors after the signatures. However, the war between France and Germany that broke out on July 19, 1870 ruins all his plans. This would be destruction for Gavand and he had to approach the English. Moreover, the period given by the Ottoman State for establishing the company in this period also expires. The State grants an extension of time which allows Gavand to breathe for a while. The day of construction is decided as September 1, 1871. Gavand, who succeeded in obtaining results from his contacts in Great Britain, established “The Metropolitan Railway of Constantinople from Galata to Pera” or ”Payitaht Dermiryolu Sirketi” in Turkish in July 1872. The only sign that shows his operation before September 1, 1871 is a ditch opened in a dead-end street around the Galata Tower. Gavand, obeying the articles of association of the company established, transfers his concessions to the company and finally Tunel becomes ready to serve at the end of 1874.
17 January 1875: An opening ceremony in absence of Gavand
In the late 1874, a strange situation occurred. The company circumvents Gavand and becomes Tunel’s sole proprietor. So much so that Gavand does not take place at the opening ceremony held on January 17, 1875. Gavand does not attend the ceremony as a reaction to this injustice done to him. At the opening ceremony the guests shuttle to Galata from Beyoglu in wagons. Illuminated wagons are arranged as “1st Class” and “2nd Class”. The ceremony ends with the speeches. As of January 18, 1875, the trains start to serve to public working from 7 am to 9 pm and departing at the same time in Beyoglu and Galata. 75 thousand passengers benefit from Gavand’s work during the first 14 days of travel from January 18 to January 31. The number of passengers is increases in the following months. The number of passengers, 111 thousand in February, rose to 127 thousand in April. In May, there comes a discount on the ticket prices which reflect in the number of passengers. In June the number of passengers is calculated as 225 thousand.
Tunel is not just the world’s second subway, but also the first contemporary funicular system
Tunel, opened on January 17, 1785 and costed 4 million 125 thousand 554 francs, records as the world’s second oldest subway (the oldest one is London subway which entered service in 1863). The length of the tunnel is 554.8 m, width is 6.7 m and height is 4.9 m. The railway length is 626 m. It was originally built as a double-track railway. The railroad profile is not straight. There is a slight ramp on the side of Karakoy. The reason for this is that the speed of the train is accelerating to overcome the next ramp. The tunnel section is a parabolic structure. On Karakoy side there is a slope of 10-20 mm/m. This slope gradually increases to 149 mm/m. The tunnel remains constant until the last 90 meters. Then the slope decreases slightly to 139 mm/m in Beyoglu station. The railway is 1,15 m above sea level at Karakoy Station. The altitude of Beyoglu Station is 62,7 m. There were two reasons for Gavand to open as a parabolic tunnel. The first reason is that it is far enough away from the ground of the buildings on top of Tunel.
The second reason is to take advantage of the high slope in Beyoglu to easily transfer the motion of the upper vehicle to the lower vehicle. The wagons are driven by a motor in Beyoglu Station and pulled with a single rope. Each wagon has a double brake system. The wagons were driven by a fixed steam engine in Beyoglu Station until 1968. The motion of the gears in the tunnel is provided by steam engines, each of which is 150 HP. The tunnel was closed in 1968 for electrification and renovation works and was reopened in 1971 with a renewed system. In 1981, the construction of a seven-story railway station was started on the Karakoy station of Tunel. The construction of Karakoy station building was completed in 1983. The exterior of Tunel wagons was completely renovated in 1998. In 2007, Tunel facilities were rehabilitated to be strengthened against earthquake. Karakoy and Beyoglu stations were renewed and the entrance and exit were adapted to disabled passengers. The complete tunnel vehicle path, the body of the vehicles, 40 percent of the rails, the lighting and energy system (catenary) was renewed. In March 2008, the IETT (İstanbul Electric Tramway and Tunnel Establishment) masters renewed the first wagons of Tunel (used between 1875-1968) faithful to the original versions. In 2009, ‘Your Road Friend IETT’ exhibition, selected from the IETT archive and consisting of black and white photographs depicting important milestones of the chronological history, was opened at the Karakoy entrance of Tunel. The 135th anniversary of the world’s second subway Tunel was celebrated with a ceremony in 2010. On the occasion of Istanbul’s election as the European Capital of Culture on February 15, 2010, Tunel, which used to make its last service at 21:00, started to work until 22:45 late at night. The tariffs for public transportation were revised effective from 30 October 2010. During the celebrations organized for the 136th anniversary of Tunel on January 17, 2011, a public announcement and promotion was made for the book titled “Tunnel de Constantinople-Istanbul Tunel”, which was published in 1876 in Paris by Eugene Henri Gavand and translated by IETT telling the story of Tunel’s construction and his talks with the Ottoman Government. The exhibition titled “Time Tunnel” was opened at Karakoy station, depicting the history of Tunel. On November 2, 2011, we experienced a first time on the date of Tunel and live music concert started at Karakoy station in the evening hours. In May of 2012, nostalgic clothes were designed for the nostalgic tram motormen and machinists working in Tunel, reflecting the 1930s lines. Tunel’s internet site was launched in 2014.
Tunel, which is not only the world’s second subway but also the first contemporary funicular system, today serves as a nostalgic bridge between Karakoy and Beyoglu.
- http://www.iett.gov.tr / Kronolojik Tarihce (Prepared by: Zikrullah Kırmızı, Filiz Acar and Prof. Dr. Vahdettin Engin)
- Tunnel de Constantinople (Author: Eugene-Henri Gavand, Translated by: Dr. Vahdettin Engin)