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Tram Parade of Kolkata showcased century-old trams of the city

27 February, 2023 17:07:21
Tram Parade of Kolkata showcased century-old trams of the city

The place looks like the eerie front courtyard of a haunted house. The dark, dimly lit tram shed of Nonapukur Tram Depot is a story just opposite to the bustling locality of Gariahat around. But this Sunday it was abuzz with activities as one after the other century old trams rolled out of the tram depot to adorn the streets and remaining tram lines of Kolkata as part of the ‘Tram Parade’ held in commemoration of 150 years of Kolkata’s trams. Incidentally, Kolkata was the first city in Asia to get trams. The old and rusty trams that lie in abandon most of the year at Nonapukur have got a fresh paint and have been decorated to bring forth the history and heritage of the city’s trams, that are fast vanishing from most routes, yet they are steeped in significance. A young tram enthusiast Sakya Laha who was waiting at Gariahat to see the trams roll by said: “This is indeed a historic moment. Can you imagine one will get to see the ‘Gitanjali’, the ‘Patrani’ and even the 258 route and 604 route trams of which I heard from my grandmother. Sakya is a college student and many like him who never got a chance to ride Kolkata’s trams were seen to be quite enthusiastic about the tram history of their city at the Tram Parade.

Someone from the crowd had pointed out a tram built by Burn & Standard in the late 1980s and a cream-and-pink tram of the 1930s that had special K-class and L-class and some trams of that era were known as ‘Hathi Gari’ as their shapes were like elephants. Over the years trams have been used in many Bollywood and Tollywood movies drawing the younger generation to them. Even some Nonapukur trams have got names like Byomkesh trams as they were used in Dibakar Banerjee’s film  Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! 

The Calcutta Tram Users Association (CTUA) has also been involved with Sunday’s Tram Parade as part of the week long celebration or Tramjatra. The first tram service started in Kolkata on February 24, 1873 when a horse drawn carriage pulled tram cars from Sealdah to Armenian Street. Two old wooden trams named ‘Gitanjali’ and ‘Chaitali’, decorated at the Nonapukur Tram Depot, chugged all the way to the Esplanade Tram Depot. At present, there are only three operational tram routes in the city — Gariahat to Esplanade, Tollygunge to Ballygunge, and the recently re-introduced Esplanade to Shyambazaar routes. The State government is of the view that tram routes should be limited to four, adding Esplanade to Kidderpore to the existing routes. 


Mahadeb Shee, Art Director of Tramjatra said: “Through the Tram Parade we are trying to show the evolution of trams in Kolkata. Eight special heritage trams trundles along the city’s streets today. As you all know Kolkata was the first city of Asia where trams started way back in 1930s.’ Indeed in Kolkata the first trams that started to roll were known as ‘Jol er Gari’ as they were meant to reach drinking water to the traffic policemen. Then in 1873 trams drawn by horses were made a part of the city. In 1902 came the first electric tram and in 2019 came the first AC tram. There is a special tram route inaugurated by the state government recently to cater to foreign tourists, this route is from Dharmatala to Victoria.

From horse-driven carriages in 1873 to metre gauge trams in 1880 to steam engine cars in 1882 to electric-powered trams in 1902 and air-conditioned trams in 2013, the history of trams is synonymous with the history of Kolkata.

The trams that were seen at the Tram Parade were the 1948 tram called the ‘Gitanjali,’ the 1975 tram ‘Patrani,’ that was later restored in 2002, the 1982 tram route of 258, the 604 route tram of 1983, the 705 route tram of 1988 and the 615 route tram of 2019. Many of these trams that were happily trudging down the roads of Kolkata from Gariahat to Esplanade are 100 years old and have been restored for the Tram Parade. Two more trams, the 1924 HWC tram and the 1918 Balaka tram restored in 2005 were also part of the parade.

As 60-year-old Naresh Gupta said: “Such parades will indeed help to create awareness about these non-polluting vehicles of the city specially among the younger generation and will help to restore the heritage in the years to come.”

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