The Calcutta Tramways Corporation, or CTC has come up with a unique initiative to showcase its 140 year heritage in the form of Smaranika (literally meaning memorabilia), a tram museum housed inside an actual tram, stationed at the Esplanade Tram Depot. Although tram services were introduced in Bombay (Mumbai), Madras (Chennai), Nashik, Delhi, Patna and Kanpur, Calcutta (Kolkata) remains the only city in India with an operational tram service. The first tram service in Calcutta (Kolkata) was on the 24th of February of 1873, with a horse drawn tram running between Sealdah and Armenian Ghat Street. Madras was the first city to have electric trams, in May of 1895, and the electric tram made its debut in Calcutta (Kolkata) 5 years later. The Smaranika tramcar, officially designated CTC-142, was built in 1938, and has been renovated and modified to accommodate a cafeteria in the 1st class compartment, and a tram museum in the rear, 2nd class compartment.
What is the difference between 1st and 2nd class you ask? 1st class has fans and more space to sit. 2nd class is missing the fans, has fewer seats, and therefore more space to accommodate standing passengers. But in its current avatar, the Smaranika tramcar is completely air conditioned; no class-divide! The cafeteria serves basic tea and coffee; don’t expect your fancy lattes and green teas here. Along with that there are soft drinks and various chips and crisps which are sold at MRP. It’s a great place for a long, relaxed Calcutta-style “adda” or chat and the staff tells me that on weekdays a place to sit may be difficult to find. I can imagine myself working in an office in Dalhousie Square, popping over at the end of a long day, perhaps with a little chess-set and a friend, and sitting here in air conditioned comfort, playing a game while discussing life, economics and family problems!
The tram museum housed in the rear compartment of Smaranika is cute and fascinating in equal measure. On display are interesting equipment and gadgets used by the Calcutta Tramways Corporation over the years. Among them is a Coin Exchanger with Punch and Ticket Pockets used in the 1950s by Conductor for giving change of correct denominations to passengers. There are also a large number of tram models such as the Byomkesh Bakshi Tram Car. A double-bogie wooden tram car #567 of the year 1931 was specially modified at CTC Nonapukur Workshop in the year 2013 for shooting of the Hindi film 'Detective Byomkesh Bakshi' directed by Dibakar Banerjee. CTC recreated the look, features, painting and even advertisements on the exteriors of the tram.
For those who want to visit the Smaranika tram museum, and need directions, it is located inside the Esplanade Tram Depot. Get to Dharmatala crossing, (nearest Metro station is Esplanade) turn left from the KC Das sweet-shop, and simply follow the tram lines. Here’s what theplace looks like in Google Maps. Smaranika tram museum is open to the public from 3.00 pm to 8.00 pm on all days except Thursdays with an Entry Fee of Rs. 5/- only. The CTC plans to introduce more such trams at tram depots across Calcutta.
- by Deepanjan Ghosh