I was quite tempted to write on T for Tollywood – the Bengali movie industry located in Tollygunje. T could also have been Tajpur in East Midnapore district – famous for the sea beach which is now getting upgraded to a port, Tarapith in Birbhum district where the famous tantric temple is located, Tarakeshwar – a pilgrimage for the followers of Lord Shiva, Theatre – the collaborative form of fine art with a rich heritage in Bengal, Tipu Sultan Shahi Mosque in Kolkata – a relic of architectural and cultural heritage and Town Hall – one of the majestic heritage buildings. My pick for the day is an entity that has its roots in Kolkata and has long been considered synonymous with the city – Tram.
The tram system in the city of Kolkata initially operated by the Calcutta Tramways Company (CTC) is the only tram network operating in India since 1902. Today CTC owns 257 trams, of which 125 run daily. Each single-deck articulated car can carry 200 passengers (60 seated).
Tram can be considered as one entity that gives the city a charm of nostalgia. Series of transformations & renovations from horses to electricity could never deprive the Tram of its eco-friendly tag.
In the era of luxurious cars and bikes, Kolkata tram has managed to brave the odds and thrives in the roads of Kolkata bringing back memories of a safe and laid back lifestyle.
The first horse-drawn trams operated in India between Sealdah and Armenian Ghat Street on 24 February 1873. The service was discontinued on 20 November of that year. The Calcutta Tramway Company was formed and registered in London on 22 December 1880. By the end of the century, the company owned 166 tram cars, 1,000 horses, seven steam locomotives and had 19 miles of track covered.
The first electric tramcar in India ran from Esplanade to Kidderpore on 27 March 1902. In 1951, the government of West Bengal entered an agreement with the Calcutta Tramways Company and the Calcutta Tramways Act of 1951 was enacted. The government assumed the tramways, reserving the right to purchase the system with two years’ notice on 1 January 1972 or at any time thereafter. On 8 November 1976, the Calcutta Tramways (Acquisition of Undertaking) ordinance was promulgated under which the company (and its assets) was nationalised.
Calcutta Tramways Company introduced bus service on 4 November 1992 with a fleet of 40 buses. On 30 September 2014, a tram converted into a museum opened to the public.
Kolkata Tram Museum –
CTC came up with a unique initiative to showcase its 140 year old heritage in the form of Smaranika (memorabilia), a tram museum housed inside an actual tram, stationed at the Esplanade Tram Depot.
The Smaranika tramcar, officially designated CTC-142, was built in 1938 and had been renovated and modified at the Nonapukur Workshop in 2014. The tram has two cars attached by a vestibule. The front car has been modified into a cafeteria whereas the rear one has a tram museum showcasing history of trams from the bygone era till date.
The collection includes multiple photographs and models of trams with their historical significance. It also has few interesting displays of gadgets used by CTC like a Coin Exchanger with Punch and Ticket Pockets used in the 1950s by Conductor for giving exact change to passengers . One of the famous tram models is the Byomkesh Bakshi Tram Car (used during the shooting of the movie Detective Byomkesh Bakshy starring Sushant Singh Rajput).
Entry Fee is only Rs. 10 per hour.
The present day –
Trams have found a place in literature and movies associated with the city of Joy. It used to be an integral part of Satyajit Ray‘s movies just as it played a significant role in the movies of the recent times – Kahani by Sujoy Ghosh, Bullet Raja by Tigmanshu Dhulia and Detective Byomkesh Bakshy by Dibakar Mukherjee.
Despite being ridiculed for its snail-like pace, there’s no denying the fact that trams render an old world charm to the city helping reminisce memories. That is why there have been constant modifications and renovations to suit the current requirements. New variants like the AC trams or those specifically used for the tour of city and its historical places are few offerings to ensure that this mode of transport doesn’t become redundant eventually.
The personal angle –
Trams have a permanent place in my growing years. At least one of my vacation was spent in the city – my mother’s premarital home. While there was a car at my grandparents place to ferry us around, I enjoyed nothing more than those lazy tram rides in the evening taking me to different parts of the city. As I grew up, the pace of life kept going faster. Regretfully, tram journeys didn’t fit in anymore. As I reach the climax of today’s write – up, I realize what a trip down memory lane this article has been. And I promise to go back to enjoy this easy and peaceful journey soon, only this time with a toddler in tow.
Hope you enjoyed this ride as much as I enjoyed writing this. See you tomorrow with another facet of the state.