The Calcutta Tram

By Heritage Transport Museum

Trams near Writer's Building Calcutta (Sep-Nov 2017)Heritage Transport Museum

Trams in India - History Untold

The CTC Tramways is one of the epitomes of Kolkata's rich historical past and grandeur of the city. Ever since the  maiden journey of tram from Sealdah to Armenian Ghat it has become an entity and identity of the 'City of Joy'. With large numbers of passengers travelling daily, Kolkata tram is held in high esteem and designated to be the 'Life line of the Kolkata City'. It is one of the few historic treasures without which the first capital of India 'Calcutta' cannot be imagined.

Madras Tram (Sep-Nov 2017)Heritage Transport Museum

The tramways are the oldest operating electric public transport in Asia.

In the Indian context the first tram made its entry into Madras in 1874, and was horse drawn. They were later replaced by electric trams.

Tramway by Guicwar of Baroda (Sep-Nov 2017)Heritage Transport Museum

This lithographic print from Illustrated London News, 1863, explains though the trams were meant for passengers, they also carried goods. These used to operate between the docks and inland areas.

CTC Map, Sep-Nov 2017, From the collection of: Heritage Transport Museum
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The route map of Calcutta Tramways Company. The lines were laid throughout the city. Trams became the symbol of consolidation of Calcutta city.

Calcutta Tramways, Sep-Nov 2017, From the collection of: Heritage Transport Museum
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Calcutta also witnessed its initial trams being driven by horses. The tram cars were imported from England. Calcutta was the first city in Asia to get the electric tram. The service began in 1902 between Esplanade and Kidderpore.

Bhendy Bazar (1880) by Bourne & ShepherdHeritage Transport Museum

There was a time when trams were part of the hustle & bustle of the streets of Bombay, Delhi and Kanpur also.

Bombay Tram Horse wearing a Cap, Sep-Nov 2017, From the collection of: Heritage Transport Museum
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The horses designated to run the trams came from Kabul, Afghanistan. Due to hot and humid weather conditions in India many horses died. Special hats were produced for the protection of horses.

Bombay Double Decker Tram (Sep-Nov 2017)Heritage Transport Museum

Trams in Bombay

The trams were the first modern means of conveyance within the Bombay (now Mumbai) city, and served for almost 75 years. The first tram service started in Bombay in May 1874 after Bombay Tramway Company Ltd. got the license to begin its operations and bid farewell in 1964.

Early Tram in Bomaby, Sep-Nov 2017, From the collection of: Heritage Transport Museum
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An early Tram in Bombay city

Trams near Victoria Terminus (Sep-Nov 2017)Heritage Transport Museum

The earlier trams were horse driven and due to the expensive rates these didn't receive a positive response from the residents of Bombay. The company soon closed the horse-drawn system.

In 1907 Bombay Electric Supply and Tramways Company (BEST) purchased Bombay Tramway Company Ltd. and Bombay city received its first electric tram. People welcomed the electric tram with much pomp and enthusiasm.

Instructions by BES&T Co. Ltd. (Sep-Nov 2017)Heritage Transport Museum

In 1939 BEST & Co. (Bombay) issued a note to passengers providing with guidelines and instructions. These were the measures taken for the convenience of passengers.

Schedule of Bombay Tram-1954 (Sep-Nov 2017)Heritage Transport Museum

A list of routes and Schedule of Bombay Trams in 1954.

Delhi Tramways (Sep-Nov 2017)Heritage Transport Museum

Delhi was the last city in India to reap the benefits of Tram services. The tram service in Delhi began on 3rd June, 1908.

1940s Rechristened Tram (Sep-Nov 2017)Heritage Transport Museum

CTC Tram 204 - Carrying the Legacy

The tram stationed at the museum is reminiscent of the 140 years old legacy of Kolkata's travel history. It belonged to Calcutta Tramways Company, and was constructed in 1940. The trams have enabled the city mark its position on the global map. Another fine example of the preservation of this living heritage is showcased by 'Smarnika' the Tram Museum set up by CTC housed inside an actual tram at Esplanade Tram Depot Kolkata, that is Tram no CTC 142 built in 1938.

Tram Station (Sep-Nov 2017)Heritage Transport Museum

The CTC tram from 1940s displayed amidst the period set up of a tram station.

It measures 57 feet in length and 7 feet in width, and weighs almost 18 tons. The stop signs are rare and highly collectible today. The old cast iron lamp post and the wooden bench adds on life to the vintage flavor of this period setting.

Apart from being the means of travel, trams also served as a medium of marketing of various consumer goods.

Interior of Tram Car (Sep-Nov 2017)Heritage Transport Museum

The tram consists of two articulated cariages, First & Second Class, with the seating for 61 passengers.The two major tram building firms to emerge locally were Burn of Howrah and Jessop & Company from Calcutta.

Plush interiors of the tram allowed passengers to get the taste of city's heritage. The carriages had comfortable seats and the real privilege were the ceiling fans which were very important during summers.

Barrier for safety (Sep-Nov 2017)Heritage Transport Museum

The barriers between the two tram cars were built in order to ensure the safety of passengers.

Tram Tickets (Sep-Nov 2017)Heritage Transport Museum

The tram tickets are amongst a few surviving memorabilia have acclaimed the status of being artefacts.

Tram Statistics - 1921 (Sep-Nov 2017)Heritage Transport Museum

Electric Railway Journal with statistics of Trams operating in India and Ceylon 1921.

Enamel Boards on tram (Sep-Nov 2017)Heritage Transport Museum

The tram traces the uphill journey from the rebellious Calcutta to the peaceful Kolkata. There was a time when tram was part of the glory of other Indian cities too, but Kolkata is the only place in India to preserve and revive this heritage. Lots of measures are being taken by the West Bengal Tourism Dept. to resurrect the old glory of trams.

chassis Of Tram (Sep-Nov 2017)Heritage Transport Museum

How a tram works - the mechanism

The electric trams are powered by electric motors placed under the tram between the wheels. The trolley pole on top of the tram is connected to overhead wires which in turn transfers electricity to motors.

The Accelerator within the cab (Sep-Nov 2017)Heritage Transport Museum

The controller in the cab helps to regulate the traction voltage to the motors.This is Type CDB2 manufactured by English Electric Co. Ltd. London. The trams run on D.C power supply.

Technical components in Driver's Cab (Sep-Nov 2017)Heritage Transport Museum

The electric trams consists of mainly three types of brakes: electrical brakes, air brakes and hand brakes. The brake system here is manually operated. Now the compressed brakes have replaced these ones.

Driver's cab with Switches, Sep-Nov 2017, From the collection of: Heritage Transport Museum
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The toggle switches have been restored, and are fixed inside the cab to operate the electric fans and lights of the cars.

Pantograph over the Tram (Sep-Nov 2017)Heritage Transport Museum

The tram runs through the 550 DC Volt overhead wires spread throughout the route which is connected by trolley pole or pantograph. It transfers the electricity to the motors.

Tram chassis (Sep-Nov 2017)Heritage Transport Museum

Trams run on tracks and anyone hit by a tram is considered a a trespasser - the driver is never at fault. Moreover, the derailment of tram from tracks is considered to be a mechanical fault.

A tram has a bell which is operated by conductor. The bell rung once by conductor indicates the driver to stop the tram at a station. If the bell rings twice it gives the signal to carry on.

Tram Station (Sep-Nov 2017)Heritage Transport Museum

Tram 204 represents a fine specimen of the industrial and mechanical heritage.

Amongst a very few surviving wooden bodied Trams in the country, it is synonymous with the living heritage of our country.

Credits: Story

Mr. Tarun Thakral
Mr. Vivek Seth
Ms. Ragini Bhat

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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