I recently read an article in the latest issue of Realty & More – Return of the Tram. The article mentioned that trams are set to stage a comeback in the National Capital Region (NCR), and I believe that this move would not only provide pollution-free, value -added mode of transport but also have nostalgic value to the people who have seen them plying in Old Delhi and Kolkata, where they have symbolic presence, but will also add to the tourist potential of NCR besides providing a novelty in commuting.
Though the feeder tramway network to the proposed Metro Rail along the expressway to Agra is still on the drawing board and may take upto two years to even start the work , the very idea of having trams in the region is a source of excitement to young and old alike. Irrespective of the long wait, the very idea of seeing trams running on the NCR roads has excited many. Tram transport was set up in India by the British in the 19th Century. Although discontinued in most cities between 1930 and 1960, at present, only Kolkata has the sole public tram system in the country. Delhi’s tram system started operating from March 6, 1908 till about 1963. At its zenith in 1921, there were 24 open cars on about 15 kms of track. While reviving an old-world nostalgia and proving to be a tourist attraction as well, the tramway proposal is part of Yamuna Expressway Industrial Development Authority (YEIDA) effort’s to enhance connectivity in the ever growing region.
The introduction of trams in NCR has certainly excited me no end (Proud Delhiite that I am) as I recollected my first brush with tram in Kolkata in 1990 (Calcutta then) when I saw a train like thing coming out from nowhere in the middle of the road. Excitedly I told my friend; “See train moving on the road,” How exciting! “I want to ride it,” I insisted. My friend who was from Calcutta told me, this is called tram and it is important mode of transport connecting entire city. “You too can certainly ride,” quipped my friend. My joy knew no bounds when I boarded the tram for the first time and probably last time of my life, till I read the above news and my hopes revived of riding the tram again.
Excitedly I thought of sharing what trams are all about and their history, and for that I have dug deep into the subject for my esteemed readers who too would be interested in knowing about them. Especially when we don’t have trams in any other part of the country (at least I don’t know of any, if you know, please share).
Tram was started about 2000 years ago, when Rome was under control of Augustus Ceaser in BC 27. The first tramcar of the world was built by Franciscas, a Roman citizen. It was a chariot for six persons to sit, made of wood and was pulled by one or two horses on rails made of bronze. Initially the tramcars plied in a route between Circus Maximus to Porto Apea of Rome. Within 20 years new routes were introduced in total 25 routes. This tram system survived for approximately 500 years and with the surrender of Roman Empire the Tram system also died.
Coming to Kolkata rather Calcutta trams, the idea of running tramcars in Kolkata was initiated in the year 1867, but the British rule permitted Government of Bengal in 1870 to run tramcars. Accordingly Government of Bengal sanctioned Rs.1 lakh to start tramcars from Sealdah station to Armenian Ghat of Hooghly River.
A horse tram system opened in January 1881, after a premature experiment in 1873, and a steam tramway line in 1882. Electric trams began running on March 27, 1902 and by 1921 there were 56 km of track and 512 cars in service.
In Kolkata tram cars were started on 18th February 1873. Firstly, it was a car pulled by two horses brought from Australia. Wooden tram lines costing about Rs. 150,000 were laid between Sealdah and Armenian Ghat by the side of Hooghly River. Interestingly though meant mainly for carrying merchandise, the first and subsequent runs were for carrying passengers. The first tram had three cars, one for First Class and two for Second class for passengers were coupled to form one unit. Each car was attached with two horses, thus 6 horses started the inaugural run of tramcars in India.
Kolkata Tramways Company Limited (CTC) was formed in 1880 with the cooperation of Kolkata Municipal Corporation and it was then in November again tramways were introduced in Kolkata with horse drawn coaches, from Sealdah to Dalhousie Square Central District. Gradually tramlines were laid to Chowringhee, Esplanade, Chitpur Road, Shyambazar, Strand Road and Wellesley. New steel lines were laid from Khidirpur to Esplanade (Dharamtolla). Old Kolkatans still remember the journey from Kidderpore to Esplanade, through the lush green Kidderpore Road and Race Course. Journey in a tram are bound to experience some aspects of greenery of Kolkata.
With the advent of technology, trams driven with electricity came into being. The tracks were improved to make the journeys smoother and safer. From then on, trams became a permanent feature of Kolkata. The cars were all imported from England. The repairs were done in the workshop setup for the purpose in Kolkata. The coaches had Driver’s cab and behind the cab wooden seats were provided for passengers. The Driver had a “Foot Gong” to warn pedestrians which is still there.
The management of Kolkata trams was taken over by Government of West Bengal on 19th. July 1967 and was nationalized on 3rd. November 1976. Soon a bad patch followed for tramways. Large number of motor vehicles crowded the streets of Kolkata, making it difficult for trams to ply.
It is indeed heartening to note that Trams will be a reality in NCR soon, let’s rejoice!
Source: Realty & More