The tramways in Calcutta carry an unprecedented characteristic that very few cities have- it is running for a good 140 years without applying the brakes. It survived the impact of the two world wars, closely followed by India’s independence struggle, riots, political turmoil and a rather uneasy takeover by the government from the original owners.
Naturally, over the years the tramways remained a bare, mute witness to multitude of social, political, cultural and operational diaspora. And with tram cars built in 1940s still standing, there are literally multiple rolling stock with history etched on them.
Unfortunately, the sense of history and heritage often dies an immature death in the hands of modernization hyphenated with poor planning and lust for profit. The older rolling stocks of the trams in Calcutta are no exception. In a city which oozes deep sense of heritage with every breath, the trams play an immense role.
“However, with every passing day, we, with a heavy heart, come to know of the condemnation of a historical rolling stock- often modified to suit Calcutta Police’s outlandish idea of turning all trams to single cars to reduce traffic snarls (does traffic on tram free roads cruise at 60kmph?), while others are simply cannibalised and/or sold as scrap.”said the spokesperson.
Calcutta tramways had various types of rolling stocks classified with an alphabetical system throughout its 140 years old history. Although we do not have the first few tram cars preserved anywhere, part of the shunted stocks at various depots at present dates back to the time of the independence and plays a major role in the history of the development of the tram- ways network in Calcutta and Howrah. They represent the era they were built in and pose as a step in the historical advancement of trams.
Unfortunately, while every city is busy developing their heritage and culture through preservation and restoration of their transport system, Calcutta is walking away from it. Instead of saving and restoring and running their historical rolling stock as heritage specials and saving some from each class by setting up a proper tram museum, the Transport Department is busy scrapping them off as a complete write-off while some are making their way as new single coach tram cars with nothing but the chassis as the only thing from the original make.
CTUA strongly condemns such act and demands for proper preservation of historical tram stocks by setting up a dedicated tram museum at a depot like Kalighat with at least one tram kept their in working order; while other historical rolling stocks can be kept to be used as heritage specials.
“We also demand to save the very first from each class to be preserved for posterity. This is how the world over transport vehicles are preserved. Walking away from it by destroying a chunk of heritage like this will only create a void in the under- standing of the history, heritage and socio-cultural diaspora of the transport system of the city and it can never be undone!” said the spokesperson.