I went around in a circle today. On the number 7 tram to Pasila Library and back. It must have been a 7A rather than a 7B because in the picture below, the 7A is going in the direction I went today – clockwise.
In the (good) old days, there was a tram that did a figure of 8 around the city. In fact, you could say there were two trams that did a figure of 8 around the city, but in opposite directions. These were the 3T and the 3B. Most people, one assumes, must have got them confused around Stockmanns and the railway station. That was where they crossed paths. If you were heading south towards Eira (as I often was as a kid) a 3B would go from Stockmann’s main door, on its north side on Alexanterinkatu and end up going to the market and taking ‘the long way round’. For the more direct 3T you’d head (out of the store) to Mannerheimintie (as in the photo below), from where the tram would transport you swiftly home along Bulevardi and Freda. (By the way, the first time I typed that I got ‘B’ and ‘T’ the wrong way around).
That was then. A tram line doing a figure of 8 is not the easiest for anyone to negotiate and anecdotally we know what a scramble of trial and error it has been, not least for tourists. So the City launched a new route earlier this year. We still have 3B and 3T and they still do 2 figures of 8 between them, more or less past those locations (the lovely zoological museum or, to give it its English-language branded identity, Natural History Museum, however, being a casualty of the new route). But now you get the same number on both sides of the street. When you put it like that, it almost sounds as if there is a logic to it. But anecdotally and personally speaking, it still confuses.
We do know that somewhere between Kauppatori and Eira hospital, the tram that was 3T when a passenger got on has switched to a 3B by the time they get off. We also know that the only tram one could get on at Eira hospital (in the image below) is a 3B (both trams below are thus 3B). Where does this leave us? Confused but still in Ullanlinna/Eira. Anyway, at the ‘edge’ of the route, it doesn’t really matter – you kind of know where you want to go.
(Spot the risk-taking individual cycling on the pavement wearing a helmet. Maybe just to avoid cobbles, let’s be charitable.)
Anyone interested in where the letters came from would have a minefield of transport planners’ rationalities to navigate.
Rumour had it that T was for tourist. The myth actually has some substance – from time to time the City produces little leaflets to encourage tourists to use this tram route for sight-seeing, from the south harbour, through bourgeois Töölö to grungy Kallio to busy Hakaniemi past the railway station to elegant Bulevardi and expensive Eira and via Kaivopuisto’s embassy-neighbourhood back again to the market.
Would B then, logically, stand for Brunnsparken, the Swedish for Kaivopuisto? And would it also explain why the 14B which goes to Hernesaari (quite close to Kaivopuisto/Brunnsparken, particularly if you look at it from Helsinki-Vantaa airport or, for that matter, Vanuatu) also has the letter B? And why so many Vs on buses? But train-spotting or any other kind of transport-geekishness isn’t actually a household concept in Finland, so we are unlikely to return to this lovely topic too many times.