Thursday, October 6, 2016

                                                    Trams in Patna

Trams made their appearance in India in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Predictably the Presidency towns of Calcutta, Madras and Bombay were the first to get them.  It all began with trams running as street cars on iron tracks embedded in the ground, literally on horse power. These had one or more coaches and were pulled by as many well groomed horses.  Calcutta’s experiment with horse drawn trams in 1873 had to be abandoned within a few months for lack of ridership. It was revived in 1881 and was wound up only when trams propelled by electricity started operating there in 1902. Bombay (now Mumbai) ran a robust horse-drawn tram service from 1874 and was discontinued in 1907 when replaced by electric one. Madras (now Chennai) never went in for steed power but was the first to launch electric tram service in 1895.  Delhi and Cawnpore (now Kanpur) too ran a tram service for a few years. With public buses and private cars becoming the preferred mode of commuting the trams were taken off the streets by and by. Today Calcutta (now Kolkata) is the only city to boast a tram service but more for its heritage tag.

My first hint of tram cars plying  in Patna towards the close of the nineteenth century came from an order issued by the Superintendent  of Police on the occasion of the visit of the Viceroy to Patna: ‘This road will be closed to traffic at 4 p.m., tram cars will cease running at this hour.’ (District Order No. 360 dated 30 June 1895 of the Superintendent of Police, Patna). Similar arrangements were made during the Viceroy’s visit to Patna In January 1903. This tiny bit of information spurred me to further research. (See my book Raj to Swaraj: Changing Contours of Police, Lancer, Delhi, 1995).
The Patna tram was not electrically powered but drawn by horses. It comprised of two coaches and operated between Chowk in Patna City (eastern fringe of Patna) to down town Bankipur; the western terminus was the open space in front of the St. Joseph’s Convent School.  The distance covered was about nine kilometers through narrow, congested areas along what is today known as Ashok Rajpath, Patna’s longest thoroughfare. From all accounts tram travel never became popular. The poor preferred to walk the distance and the affluent rode horses or buggies; Patna did not have a middle class then. The service was withdrawn in 1903 soon after the Viceroy’s visit. It had a life span of barely ten years. Being in the backwaters of the Bengal Presidency Patna never got an electric tram, then or later.

Sudhir Kumar Jha
20.8.2016

Trams in India
                               A horse drawn tram running on tracks. (Taken from internet)





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