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Old 4th May 2013, 23:37   #1
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Default Kolkata Trams - The Last Bastion Still Alive and Kicking!

Trams were earlier very common in Kolkata and Bombay as far as memories of the present generations go. The first electric tram service was started in Madras in 1895. Electric trams were subsequently introduced in Kolkata (1900), Mumbai (1907), Kanpur (1907) and Delhi (1908).The first to close operations were the tramways in Kanpur (1933) and then in Madras (1953). The Delhi trams were off the roads by 1963. The Bombay trams managed by BEST, also vanished by 31 March 1964, but those in Calcutta remained. The routes were all across the length and breadth of what one knows as the Calcutta of yore.
At a certain stage by the 1960's and 1970's, newer routes were discouraged, as traffic bottlenecks became a nightmare in the crowded "City of Joy".
In the 1970's, the minimum fare for First Class (with cushioned seats sometimes and it had ceiling fans covered by mesh) was 20 paise, while that for Second Class (no fans and wooden furniture) was 15 paise. Sometime earlier, I am told that the fares were increased to these levels by something around two to five paise. Some trams were burnt by protestors then, in the early 1970's.
The trams had and even now have their own clientele in the City of Joy. They are those who are not in a hurry and cherish patient travel by trams, sans any rude jerks or sudden braking etc.Many foreign tourists can be seen having a gala time on these machines.
Of late, many routes have been obliterated from the tram map of Kolkata, but trams still ply and even get many passengers in this fast age, when not many have such time for leisurely intra-city travel.The tram service is managed by Calcutta Tramways Company (CTC)- no they have not become KTC, or Kolkata Tramways Company. CTC has started bus services too these days.
Now after all the criticism for creating traffic hurdles, trams have emerged unscathed and are likely to glide on the rails and do their jobs, though sluggishly for many more years.
Tram pictures from The City of Joy:

Kolkata Trams - The Last Bastion Still Alive and Kicking!-kolkataambazarirallyapr2013-047.jpg

Kolkata Trams - The Last Bastion Still Alive and Kicking!-kolkataambazarirallyapr2013-029.jpg

Kolkata Trams - The Last Bastion Still Alive and Kicking!-kolkataambazarirallyapr2013-030.jpg

Kolkata Trams - The Last Bastion Still Alive and Kicking!-kolkataambazarirallyapr2013-032.jpg

Kolkata Trams - The Last Bastion Still Alive and Kicking!-kolkataambazarirallyapr2013-055.jpg

Last edited by anjan_c2007 : 4th May 2013 at 23:50.
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Old 4th May 2013, 23:47   #2
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Default Re: Kolkata Trams - The Last Bastion Still Alive and Kicking!

Anjan
Hi.
You forgot to mention Delhi.
They too had trams in the 1950 and early 1960s.Dont know when they were phased out. In Bombay they were phased out in 1963(As far as I remember).
A different thing about trams in. From the middle of the road they used to go near the footpaths for their stops,at least in Chandni Chowk whereas the stops in Bombay were in the middle of the road.
Regards
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Old 5th May 2013, 09:21   #3
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Default Re: Kolkata Trams - The Last Bastion Still Alive and Kicking!

Vehicluar traffic is a hurdle to trams, not the other way around. During the 1930s-1950s period a lot of cities around the world saw the disappearance of trams with the onset of cars and cheap gasoline. Trams were a great and cheap way to travel for public, they helped create walkable communities and binded people in localities.

Roads came and destroyed this thin thread of a closely knitted community, pulled out trams, expanded into several lanes and basically erased the concept of a walkable community. Experts say if you cannot hear someone from across the street, as in how wide the streets are and the noise generated from moving traffic, then it's a failed street - a street that no longer cares for the people or the community.

And although Calcutta's trams are mostly rickety boxes with wheels, I still wouldn't want them to disappear. In fact, I'd be willing to lobby for more routes by pulling out lanes meant for cars.

In fact, let me contribute a picture from my visit last year.
Kolkata Trams - The Last Bastion Still Alive and Kicking!-img_2547.jpg

Last edited by hellmet : 5th May 2013 at 09:28.
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Old 5th May 2013, 11:11   #4
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Default Re: Kolkata Trams - The Last Bastion Still Alive and Kicking!

Thank you, anjan_c2007, for starting a thread on a topic that brings back many nostalgic memories. Trams were my usual means of transport to and from school in the '70s and '80s. The only times I hated them was when Kolkata's infamous 'loadshedding' of those days left the trams stranded halfway to/from school!

The first class fare used to be 15 paise in the mid-'70s, rising to 25P in the early '80s, for a distance of about 6 km. The Calcutta Tramways Company changed its name to CTC Limited in 1978. CTC Limited started operating buses in 1992, after the Metro operations took away a large chunk of its custom through the late '80s, and there was serious talk of completely shutting down tram operations.

Kolkata Trams - The Last Bastion Still Alive and Kicking!-tram.jpg

It is interesting to look at the renovated bogies of the tram in your first photograph, as opposed to the old-style bogies. These were built by Jessop till the mid-'80s (and some by Burn Standard earlier on). I now look forward to taking a ride in the new single-bogie trams that have been introduced at the end of last year, which are being used for heritage trips around the city.

Name:  tramnew.jpg
Views: 9736
Size:  62.4 KB

More information about these single-bogie air-conditioned trams can be found at this link. The image above is from that link itself.

Last edited by SS-Traveller : 5th May 2013 at 11:15.
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Old 5th May 2013, 13:15   #5
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Default Re: Kolkata Trams - The Last Bastion Still Alive and Kicking!

When I visited kolkata last year, I was simply not able to hop in any of them. The trams were jam packed and so were the streets. The trams slowed down but not to an extent that i could hop into. An i20 almost missed me by an inch while I was chasing one of the trams and after that I lost hope and walked! There was a mad rush in buses too.

May be I am spoilt by small town crowd or I was not competent enough to board the tram, but I seriously hope that It continues plying and its taken care of. On the side note, the city seriously needs an alternative high speed local transportation service!
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Old 5th May 2013, 13:31   #6
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Default Re: Kolkata Trams - The Last Bastion Still Alive and Kicking!

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Originally Posted by Blow Horn Ok View Post
On the side note, the city seriously needs an alternative high speed local transportation service!
The city has an alternative high speed transportation service in certain areas, namely the Kolkata Metro, which happens to be the oldest Metro Rail system in India. It now runs from Dumdum to Garia, which covers the main north and south route of the city.

There are local trains too, in some other parts. With the city coming up with two more Metro routes, Kolkata might have some of it's traffic problems solved in another five year's time.
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Old 5th May 2013, 20:07   #7
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Default Re: Kolkata Trams - The Last Bastion Still Alive and Kicking!

Quote:
Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
Thank you, anjan_c2007, for starting a thread on a topic that brings back many nostalgic memories. Trams were my usual means of transport to and from school in the '70s and '80s. The only times I hated them was when Kolkata's infamous 'load shedding' of those days left the trams stranded halfway to/from school!
True, during load-sheddings, several trams would be stranded and would form a queue, waiting to move, courtesy Calcutta Electric Supply Company. And the derailments also would also be a nightmare. If one derailed, the entire tram traffic would be thrown into a state of disarray. Office goers in a hurry would abandon the tram for buses in many cases. But that would be no easy job, as even buses would be crowded (pre-Metro days) with at least 15 to 20 people on the footboard plus the exit gates, not to speak of the interiors.
While many people with plenty of time at their disposal would remain seated in the trams or wait outside lighting a cigarette, waiting for things to only get better!
The Rash Behari Avenue, stretches of the S.P. Mukherjee Road, Chowrighee Road, Howrah, Ballygunge to Gariahat tram lines have all been done away with, while Esplanade still remains the nerve centre of all the tram related movements.
The earlier route from Ballygunge/ Tolllygunge / Kalighat to Howrah Railway Station routes attracted some senior citizens who would just occupy a seat in the late evenings and say, "ami Gangar hawa khete jaachi" meaning I am going to have a whiff of the Ganges breeze.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
It is interesting to look at the renovated bogies of the tram in your first photograph, as opposed to the old-style bogies. These were built by Jessop till the mid-'80s (and some by Burn Standard earlier on). I now look forward to taking a ride in the new single-bogie trams that have been introduced at the end of last year, which are being used for heritage trips around the city.
The driver's cabin in olden trams had a lot of brass levers and so on. I had once read "ekhane thuthu pheliben na" (meaning, do not spit here) painted in red on the cream background in the driver's cabin of a tram.

Quote:
Originally Posted by faustus77 View Post
Anjan
Hi.
You forgot to mention Delhi.
They too had trams in the 1950 and early 1960s.Dont know when they were phased out. In Bombay they were phased out in 1963(As far as I remember).
A different thing about trams in. From the middle of the road they used to go near the footpaths for their stops,at least in Chandni Chowk whereas the stops in Bombay were in the middle of the road.
Regards
Thanks faustus, I was editing the post and have posted more facts now.

Last edited by anjan_c2007 : 5th May 2013 at 20:17.
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Old 5th May 2013, 20:20   #8
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Default Re: Kolkata Trams - The Last Bastion Still Alive and Kicking!

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Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
The first class fare used to be 15 paise in the mid-'70s, rising to 25P in the early '80s, for a distance of about 6 km.
Paid this amount during my school days. Route number 29 and 24. Your second picture looks like Park Street/Mallick Bazaar area. That place (along with many other places) was notorious for tyre cuts. Tram rail was sharp as knife protruding out from granite blocks.
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Old 5th May 2013, 22:15   #9
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...notorious for tyre cuts. Tram rail was sharp as knife protruding out from granite blocks.
In the early days, tramlines ran on their own stretch of unpaved road, and tyred vehicles didn't have to drive on the rails. Then came the era of road widening, and trams and cars/buses shared the same tarred road surface. If one could avoid getting their tyres slashed on tramlines with surgical precision, one was a great driver. Learned to watch the lines for sharp edges, and cross as close to 90* with relation to the tracks as possible. This was especially true of rails embedded in regular tar roads, where the vibration of the 20+ tonne bogies broke up the road, leaving the rails exposed.

Granite sett blocks (also referred to as cobblestones) started being used in the late '70s to prevent the breakage of roads, but what they did to our cars' suspensions was quite unpardonable - I remember our Ambys used to need a set of suspension bushes every 10,000 km or so. Nowadays of course tramlines are mostly embedded in concrete, with the road suffering less damage due to vibrations, as well as being more tyre-friendly.
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Old 6th May 2013, 01:47   #10
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Default Re: Kolkata Trams - The Last Bastion Still Alive and Kicking!

Slightly OT, what is the official overtaking rule for trams in India for -

a) Lane traffic in only one direction
b) Lane traffic in both directions

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Old 6th May 2013, 11:06   #11
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Default Re: Kolkata Trams - The Last Bastion Still Alive and Kicking!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rudra Sen View Post
That place (along with many other places) was notorious for tyre cuts. Tram rail was sharp as knife protruding out from granite blocks.
Another issue with tram tracks are bike accidents. If the front tyre falls in between the rails, you are bound to fall since you wont be able to steer. I always make sure I approach them at an angle. I remember being jittery every single day going down College Street as a student of Presidency. I guess I still get jittery even today
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Old 6th May 2013, 11:28   #12
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Originally Posted by SPIKE ARRESTOR View Post
Slightly OT, what is the official overtaking rule for trams in India for -
a) Lane traffic in only one direction
b) Lane traffic in both directions
Calcutta had experimented with alignment of tramlines in a variety of manners. From having the lines in the centre of the road (so one overtakes from the left of the trams) with raised platforms at stops, to separate central verges exclusively for running of trams only (cars encroached this verge in the event of traffic jams which are/were extremely common in the city), to aligning the tracks to the extreme left and right of the roads to prevent parking of vehicles on either side, so overtaking happened from the right of the tramcars (resourceful people parked in the middle of the road, with traffic flowing on either side). In case of one-way roads, trams still run both ways, and cars have to watch out for approaching trams from the 'wrong' side.

The onus of course lies with the car driver to get out of the way of trams, because tram drivers are quite merciless about nudging cars that block their way, and traffic police are known to say that the tram driver always has right of way. So, at least in Calcutta, overtake from whichever side of the tram that you please, as long as you don't manage to get scraped by the 20-tonne iron box on rails!
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Old 6th May 2013, 12:38   #13
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Default Re: Kolkata Trams - The Last Bastion Still Alive and Kicking!

Nice topic. I have been to Kolkata many times, sometimes for some exams, sometimes for travelling and exploring, sometimes just as a weekend getaway as its overnight journey for us and sometimes just to buy vinyl records near the lenin sarani etc (I am a vinyl head)!

I find the city quite different from other metros and bigger cities. On one side, you have the new big malls, IT parks and all, & then there is another side which has old big traditional houses of rich erstwhile bengali families. Its always a cultural treat to visit Kolkata and IMO, its a perfect blend of culture, tradition and modernity. The food is really awesome.

I make it a point to travel in the Tram at least once I am in Kolkata. I am glad that the authorities are keen enough to keep it up & running, however, it is sometimes scary while travelling in taxis with the trams running close behind!
Also, its great to have some public transport which is greener (if we leave the production end of electricity) & cleaner and being so old just adds to the experience & nostalgia.

Regards,
Saket
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Old 6th May 2013, 20:58   #14
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Default Re: Kolkata Trams - The Last Bastion Still Alive and Kicking!

Some more tram pictures from The City of Joy

Kolkata Trams - The Last Bastion Still Alive and Kicking!-dsc02425.jpg

Kolkata Trams - The Last Bastion Still Alive and Kicking!-dsc02424.jpg

Kolkata Trams - The Last Bastion Still Alive and Kicking!-dsc02426.jpg

Kolkata Trams - The Last Bastion Still Alive and Kicking!-dsc02427.jpg
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Old 6th May 2013, 21:52   #15
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Default Re: Kolkata Trams - The Last Bastion Still Alive and Kicking!

Hi everybody.
In Bombay we used to pay 6 paise from Sassoon Docks to King's Circle roughly 17 kms. This was in 1963 when the trams were phased out.
On most of the road the trams used to run cheek by jowl with cars and there never was an issue tyres being cut. The roads were smoothly paved.
A query: Do the trams still run on the Howrah Bridge?
Regards
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