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Old 6th July 2010, 18:28   #1
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Default Early 20th century road infrastructure/bus transport services/automobile traffic

Hello BHP-Members,

I hope this topic allows for a new post here; at least, I couldn't find any other threads dealing with this issue.

I am currently pursuing a PhD in Modern Indian History. My project concerns the emergence of improved road infrastructure, bus transport services and automobile traffic more generally in India in the period between the 1920s and 1950s. Especially the inter-war period saw a massive import of busses, lorries and to some extent of cars, motor-bikes etc into India. Concurrently, these new forms of transport necessitated new approaches to industrial and infrastructural development. Metalled roads were increasingly built and petrol pumps emerged. I am interested in why these developments took place and want to assess the different approaches and interests of the colonial and post-independent Indian government, various institutions in the oil and automotive sector as well as individal entrepreneurs.

This is to ask whether BHP-members know about particular historical records for this topic and period in India on which I could base my research. This could include virtually any form of historical material, whether official or private documents, textual, audio, visual, oral history etc. Governmental archives such as the National Archives in Delhi will probably have a lot material, but they are restricted to certain discussions, which I would like to supplement by unofficial material.

I would be very grateful for any responses and further directions regarding this topic.

Best wishes,
Stefan Tetzlaff
University of Göttingen
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Old 6th July 2010, 22:30   #2
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Hi Stefan, You can contact the WIAA (Western India Automobile association) which maintains some historical publications and periodicals which detail early infrastructure development in Mumbai. More information can also be found at the archives in Mumbai ( I have never been dissapointed). Also do check out the Bombay Gazettes from the early part of the last century (again at the archives)

Many members on this forum have a very good collection of period magazines and publications I am sure they will come ahead and share what they can with you. I also suggest you look at this book "Bombay the cities within" by Rahul Meherotra and Sharda Diwedi it gives very good research material for development of infrastructure in Bombay city in particular.
rgds amol
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Old 7th July 2010, 18:38   #3
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Hello Stefan,

I wonder if in your quest you plan to visit India. If yes, then could suggest where to look and share material. There are many private collections which have good material.
I am doubtful whether WIAA will have info to give, and if they have whether they will give.
There is a museum belonging to Best, the public transport bus service of Mumbai. But you will have to visit them personally. They have some items, but no site, should be worthy contribution for your project. Or you could start by asking specific questions where people could contribute by giving their ideas, knowledge. For a beginning this i feel is the best way to start. As this is a forum with several threads and postingas, you will have to find and gather the info as you go along.

You have posted a nice picture, do you have more? Where did you get it? Car looks like a Fiat, but where was this filling station?

Cheers harit
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Old 7th July 2010, 20:01   #4
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Thanks Amol and Harit for your suggestions, all very interesting indeed!

Both of you point to Bombay as a site of study. I have also thought about focussing on one or two cities, but then I am somehow more interested in connections emerging between cities and (semi-)rural areas, rather than cities alone. During and after the 1920s, bus transport servcies (for short distances, passenger traffic) especially emerged where railways (for long/intermediate distances, bulk goods transport) did not go. These bus transport services were rarely planned centrally or by companies - such as BEST -, but dependent on local entrepreneurs to invest capital into vehicles etc., which gives this topic quite a different dynamic. Sub-questions would be for example: who was able to invest money into these services and why, what background did these entrepreneurs have, did services affect people's mobility and if so to what extent (commuting for work, selling small produce in places hitherto not connected etc.)? Another but interlinked area of interest would be the development of goods transport by lorries: what effects did this have for smaller companies/entrepreneurs, did it lower transaction costs, and if so, were all people able to afford such transport or were some left out?

I will be in India from early November this year for about six months. My initial focus will be on the Hindi-speaking area in Northern India so that I can put to use my still underdeveloped language skills; but that's subject to change in case other areas offer more insights. I would be very happy for any further suggestions in this regard.

@harit: I received the picture from the Royal Dutch-Shell archives, but unfortunately have no further information about where it was taken etc. I do have more visual material, but can't post most of it for copyright reasons. Otherwise I am happy to show them. I will think of more questions and post them here late on.

Cheers & thanks again
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Old 7th July 2010, 22:59   #5
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hi stefen you could also get in touch with conti travels in coimbatore in tamilnadu the founder MR G D NAIDU was the first person to start bus service in coimbatore he has the first coal bus in his muesuem and his buses were running on tubeless tyres in 1950 s he and L G balakrishnan would drive the bus when they started and even today the conti is running on the remembrence of the founder even there is an single passenger the bus will ply and no cancellations the best service in india so for more details his son G D gopal is there
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Old 8th July 2010, 00:11   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by harit View Post
You have posted a nice picture, do you have more? Where did you get it? Car looks like a Fiat, but where was this filling station?
Harit the building behind has a distinctive Tudor style, this style of architecture was mostly found in hill stations in the north of the country especially Dalhousie.
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Old 8th July 2010, 13:25   #7
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Halo Stefan,

This is an interetesting subject, we too would like to know more from your studies.

Here are somethings that can be of use to you,

http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/944384-post119.html

http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/1383550-post488.html

http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/1267959-post342.html

And I have a WIAA magazine with some interesting articles on traffic conditions etc, which I can have photographed for you (too large to scan)

http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/1933800-post322.html

Last edited by Rehaan : 14th July 2010 at 18:34. Reason: Link added as per request
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Old 8th July 2010, 14:07   #8
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A unique subject in itself. Another city which can be looked at is Pune (about 180Kms from Bombay) with its city bus transportation dating to 1950. But I am not sure if Pune Municipal Transport has a museum . I am sure there will be organizations or individuals in Old Pune or Camp who will have photos or material on this subject.
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Old 8th July 2010, 19:18   #9
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Well Stefan,

India is a big country and if you go to the interiors in northern India you will have lots of ground to cover. Take care about which places you wish to see. Rustic transport can still be seen in remote areas, but the mainstream areas have all been modernised. And in remote areas one should be careful.
I still strongly suggest that you first come to Mumbai, get inputs and then go rural. That is because you find old material in Mumbai, see the beautiful picture attached below. It tells you a whole lot about rural transport, if you know what to look for in the picture. It is a picture taken somewhere in the countryside, but can be seen in Mumbai only. And there are lots of such pictures. This is early period, mid twenties, and I have of later period also.
BTW, that picture from SHELL, can you read the registration number clearly in your copy? It can be helpful to guess the location.

Cheers harit
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Old 8th July 2010, 20:04   #10
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Harit: thank you, I value your suggestions a lot, and the picture you've posted is truely awesome! You're absolutely right that I should first try to access possible records in cities and then move further. I will definitely include Mumbai in my travelling schedule later this year or early next year.

And the registration number of the car reads 42988. Does this help you?

cheers
stefan
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Old 8th July 2010, 20:23   #11
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I post the picture from above again, some were not able to view it properly!
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Old 8th July 2010, 20:37   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stefan Tetzlaff View Post
And the registration number of the car reads 42988. Does this help you?
That is an early series in Calcutta or nearabouts if I'm not mistaken. So maybe the picture was shot in Darjeeling?
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Old 8th July 2010, 23:04   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stefan Tetzlaff View Post
Harit: thank you, I value your suggestions a lot, and the picture you've posted is truely awesome! You're absolutely right that I should first try to access possible records in cities and then move further. I will definitely include Mumbai in my travelling schedule later this year or early next year.

And the registration number of the car reads 42988. Does this help you?

cheers
stefan
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Originally Posted by karlosdeville View Post
That is an early series in Calcutta or nearabouts if I'm not mistaken. So maybe the picture was shot in Darjeeling?
Yes it does, this is a registration from the Calcutta Cantonment region before there was a municipality. This series was changed to BLB etc. in around 1940 or so, we still have to determine the year.
This need not be Darjeeling at all, it could be even proper Calcutta. I have pictures of a service station cum workshop in Calcutta in a similar colonial style building.

Cheers harit

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Old 9th July 2010, 18:23   #14
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Another picture on rural transport.
Sourced in Mumbai. Even the photo corners are there.

Cheers harit
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Old 10th July 2010, 16:50   #15
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And another picture on rural transport. One could write a small eassy looking at my last three pictures on this subject.

Cheers harit
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