Kolkata’s trams – A ride through history

The Oldest Running Trams in Asia – Kolkata Tramways.

Kolkata is the only Indian City, having an operational tram network. The first Electric tram in Asia ran in Kolkata in 1902, between Esplanade and Kidderpore. The history of trams, one of the cleanest and most environment friendly modes of transport, goes back to 1807 when  the first horse driven trams started running in the U.K.

In India, the first attempt to run a 2.4-mile (3.9 km) tramway service between Sealdah and Armenian Ghat Street , was made in 1873. The services were stopped during the same year due to lack of patrons and remained discontinued for the next seven years. The service resumed again in 1880. Steam locomotives were deployed experimentally in 1882 to haul tram cars. Two decades later, the induction of electricity driven tram in 1902 came as a revolution and since then trams have been in service in the city of Kolkata.

horse drawn

A horse drawn tram carriage

Trams have been intimately associated with the history and lifestyle of Kolkata and have been portrayed time and again in popular culture.

CTC(The Calcutta Tramways Company Limited), which was registered in 1880 as a company in London, was taken over by Government of West Bengal in 1967. Modern day trams are the outcome of development of technology and design. The cars gradually evolved with time. In 2013, CTC  brought in air-conditioned tram cars.

One of the newer modern trams introduced in Kolkata

One of the newer modern trams introduced in Kolkata

The two coaches in the trams were divided into 2 separate classes – 1st Class and 2nd  Class. Since 15th August, 2013 trams have been made class-less, and the 2nd class has been removed. CTC has 269 standard double bogie tram cars including 25 tram cars renovated with innovative outlook.


A tram running in central Kolkata

Tollygune Tram Depot

Tollygunge Tram Depot. Photography : CultureBowl


Inside a tram

Inside A Tram . Photography : CultureBowl

The Tram Museum – Esplanade

The government inaugurated the Tram museum named Smaranika, on 29th September, 2014 at the Esplanade. CTC (The Calcutta Tramways Company Limited) has renovated and converted a 1938 built tram car which is still operational, into tram museum.


Smaranika- The refurbished antique tram that has been beautifully transformed into a museum. (Photo: CultureBowl)


The Esplanade tram depot, from where the first electric tram car in Asia was run, has become the permanent home to the Tram museum. The Tram museum serves as a destination for History enthusiasts as well as casual tourists.


Display of various artifacts in Smaranika, the tram museum


The Smaranika tram museum houses photographs of different kinds of trams in history, old archives, replicas of horse-driven car, and various tram cars in history, tram tickets and passes, badges, caps and others apparels worn by the conductors and drivers, along with different kinds of equipments like controller, etc .There is information relating to lineage of tram service and tram cars in Kolkata.

The heritage tram coach also houses a cafe. One can sip a cup of coffee/tea along with some snacks in the small cafeteria over a session of adda.



The trams have preserved their romantic, old-world charm, adding to the beautiful character of the city of joy.  Dedicated tramlines ensure that trams run smoothly and reach the destinations faster, thus making the mode more viable.  We hope to see the tramways as a potential and sustainable mode of alternative transport in the coming years in Kolkata to gift our children a pollution free world. A little effort from the government in the form of investment and policies and an extra effort from the common man can together make this possible!


Author: Alolika Bhunia, Cult Crew member, is an architect who occasionally writes on travel, films and culture. She is a trained dancer and a theatre enthusiast.