Trams in India – Facts and History

Trams in India - Tripinfi

Trams were introduced in India in the Nineteenth Century and the first city to get it installed was Kolkata, (then Calcutta) in the year 1873. Kolkata, the city of joy is the only city in India still enjoying the Tram ride. It is also the oldest operating electric Tramway in entire Asia.

Indian Cities With Tram

Kolkata – The First Tram in India

The first-ever Tram in India was a horse-drawn one that operated between Sealdah and Armenian Ghat Street on 24 February 1873. Later, that year, in the month of November, the service was discontinued.

Calcutta Tramways Company

A few years later, Calcutta Tramways Company, a state-run company was formed and registered in London on 22 December 1880. The formation of the company leads to the launching of meter gauge tracks for horse-drawn trams between Sealdah and Armenian Ghat Street via Bowbazar Street, Dalhousie Square, and Strand Road. The service was resumed and the new tracks were inaugurated by George Robinson, 1st Marquess of Ripon, a British politician on 1 November 1880.

Evolution of Tram in Kolkata, India

Steam Locomotive Tram

The year 1882 witnessed a major evolution in the history of trams when steam locomotives were introduced. By the end of the century, the Calcutta Tram Company held 166 tram cars, 1,000 horses, 7 steam locomotives and 19 miles of track.

Electric Locomotive Tram

On 27 March 1902, Kolkata got its first electric locomotive that ran between Esplanade to Kidderpore. The second operation began between Esplanade to Kalighat. The tracks were also upgraded from meter gauge to standard gauge. By the end of 1943, Kolkata and Howrah were well connected with tram lines.

Nationalization of Calcutta Tramways Company

In the year 1951, Calcutta Tramways Act was passed under which the government of West Bengal came into an agreement with Calcutta Tramways Company that it holds the right to purchase the tramways on 1 January 1972 from the company with a two years notice or at any time thereafter.

The government of West Bengal took over control of the management of the company on 19th July 1967. On 8 November 1976, the act was put into effect and the company was nationalized.

In the year 1990, tram services saw a major downgrade and as a result, most of the tram routes were closed, the rails and wires were removed. Till the end of 2018, one by one all the major routes were closed. The tramway network at the beginning had 25 lines which were reduced to six lines.

Trams in India - Tripinfi

Kolkata not giving up on Trams

The city of Kolkata has a sentimental attachment with Trams and so it won’t give up so soon. WBTC (West Bengal Transport Corporation) had a better gift for the entire country.

The First AC Tram in India

No, the Tram didn’t become a history, Kolkata came up with AC Trams and India got it’s first in the year 2013. WBTC launched two AC Trams for joyrides and named it Charoibeti and Rupashi Bangla.

AC Tram Joyride – Heritage Tour

Charoibeti and Rupashi Bangla were the first AC trams of India. The trams were launched exclusively for heritage tours in North and Central Kolkata. The Trams were lavishly decorated and had Television and Radio installed. The AC Trams used to serve four joyrides daily at a minimum cost of INR 250 per passenger which was inclusive of snacks. Unfortunately, the heritage rides did not become popular as it was expected and therefore had to be called off.

Tram Heritage Cafe and Museum

am Heritage Cafe and Museum - Tripinfi
am Heritage Cafe and Museum

WBTC after the failed heritage tour program launched a cafe cum museum in October 2014. The cafe and museum were made by renovating a wooden tram from the 1930s. The first coach is the cafeteria whereas the second one is the museum. The cafe cum museum was named as ‘Smaranika’ and is located in CTC bus depot Esplanade. The halted tram allows a one hour visit and takes you down the memory lane of the city.

Smaranika Tram Cafe and Museum Timings

  • 1 PM to 8 PM. Thursday Closed.

Smaranika Tram Cafe and Museum Ticket Price

  • INR 20 per person.

Restaurant on Wheel – AC Tram – Victoria Tramcar Restaurant

WBTC launched another Restaurant on Wheel in association with a Kolkata based event management company on 13th October 2018. The tram runs between Shahid Minar in central Kolkata to Kidderpore and is named as ‘Victoria Tramcar Restaurant’. The on-wheel restaurant offers four rides, two during the lunch hours and two during the dinner hours. The two hours ride, makes you experience the cultural city of Kolkata like never before.

Victoria Tramcar Restauran - Tripinfi
Victoria Tramcar Restaurant

Victoria Tramcar Restaurant Packages

  • Non Veg: INR 1040 per person.
  • Veg: INR 840 per person.

Victoria Tramcar Restaurant Time

  • Lunch: 12 Noon to 2 PM and 2 PM to 4 PM.
  • Dinner: 7 PM to 9 PM and 9 PM to 11 PM.

Mumbai

The Bombay Tramway Company was established in 1873, though the license to run a horse-drawn tram was obtained in the year 1865 by an American company. Due to the poor economic condition of the city, the project was delayed. On 9th May 1874, Mumbai (then Bombay) got its first horse-drawn tram running between Colaba and Pydhone via Crawford Market and from Bori Bunder to Pydhonie via Kalbadevi. 

Bombay Electric Supply and Tramway Company (BEST) and The First Electric Tram in Mumbai

In the year 1905, the Bombay Electric Supply and Tramway Company (BEST) was established and in 1907, Bombay got its first electric tram.

Tata Power

Later in the year 1961, BEST started purchasing power from Tata Power and by 1925, BEST outsourced the entire power supply from Tata.

Double Decker Tram in Mumbai

In September 1920, to tackle the rush hours, double-decker trams were introduced.

Double Decker Tram in Mumbai - Tripinfi
Double Decker Tram – Mumbai

The Closure – Why trams service close down in Mumbai?

The Trams continued to serve the city until local train networks were launched. The local trains were more preferred by travelers then the trams and eventually, the tram service was closed on 31 March 1964.

Nasik

Trams in Nasik started operation in 1889 with horse-drawn carriages between Old Municipal Corporation building to the Nasik Road railway station. However, Tram services were closed between 1931 to 1933.

Chennai – India’s First Electric Tram

The tram services started in Chennai on 7 May 1895 and it was India’s first electric tram. The trams carried many passengers and goods from the docs to the city daily. The tram routes in Chennai included Mount Road, Parry’s Corner, Poonamallee Road, and the Ripon Building. Later, on 12 April 1953, the tram services were closed as the tram company went bankrupt.

Kanpur

Trams were launched in Kanpur in June 1907 which were the Electric Single Coach Trams. However, the service was closed on 16 May 1933.

Kochi – India’s Forest Tramway

The Cochin (then Kochi) forest Tramway was inaugurated in 1907 and ran between Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary in Palakkad district to Chalakudy in Thrissur district. The trams were introduced mainly to bring teak and rosewood from the forest region of Kochi for export purposes. The service was discontinued in the year 1963.

Delhi

Trams were introduced in Delhi on 6 March 1908 but were discontinued in the year 1963 due to traffic congestion.

Patna

Patna had horse-drawn trams but the services were discontinued due to 1903, due to low passenger count.

Bhavnagar

Trams were installed in Bhavnagar in the year 1926 and were taken over by Saurashtra Railway in 1947 and later by Western Railways. However, the service was closed during the 1960s.

Trams in India has seen a lot of ups and downs, but Kolkata is brave enough to still keep the heritage alive. So, don’t worry if you did not have a tram ride yet. All you have to do is to visit the City of Joy, Kolkata.

Monalisa Bose Roy

A travel blogger cum financial expert with a vision to encourage tourism in Eastern India. Bose was born and brought up in the steel city of Jamshedpur, located in the Indian state of Jharkhand. Being born in the Eastern region, Bose has visited a lot of lesser-known places in the region. By her writing, she tries to spread awareness about those undiscovered gems of Eastern India.

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