Chug down memory lane with Kolkata’s museum tram

Visitors at the museum on wheels in Kolkata.  

Kolkata is the only city in India where trams, the slow-moving archaic mode of urban transport, continue to operate, preserving the romantic, old-world charm in a rapidly changing modern city.

In its 140-year-old history (starting from February 1873), the tram has seen innumerable changes, and in the process, has changed itself many times — from the horse-drawn carriages of the late 19th century, to the steam-driven cars, and finally the electric trams.

The long and interesting history of this historic mode of transport is being presented in a unique fashion in the city. The Calcutta Tramways Company has come up with a singular concept — a mobile museum tram, christened Smaranika (memorablia).

The Smaranika houses photographs of different kinds of trams down the ages, different tram tickets, badges, caps and others apparels worn by the conductors, along with different kinds of equipment that have been used from the bygone times.

A section of this intriguing museum on wheels contains various references of the tram in Bengal’s literary and cultural scene. The references include the writings of Rabindranath Tagore, Sunil Gangopadhyay, Sharadindu Bandopadhyay and Bibhutibhusan Bandyopadhayay.

Visitors can also sit and sip tea at a counter inside the tram, which mostly stands at the Esplanade depot of the CTC in central Kolkata.

The Smaranika itself is an antique piece built in 1938, and renovated in the workshop of CTC. It is still operational. “This is the only archive depicting the history of an urban mode of transport. There are railway museums, but nothing like this can be found anywhere else in the country,” said Nilanjan Sandilya, managing director of the Calcutta Tramways Company.

Mr. Sandilya argues that though trams are not the most preferred form of transport today, mainly due to its inherent slowness, it still remains the most clean and environment-friendly mode of mass transport. “We have about 269 trams at present, of which 90-100 are operated every day. The CTC cannot operate all the trams as some of the routes have been truncated and in many routes repair work is going on,” said Mr. Sandilya.

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Printable version | Apr 18, 2021 9:32:46 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kolkata/chug-down-memory-lane-with-kolkatas-museum-tram/article6482369.ece

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