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Trams in India were established in the late-19th century. Horse-drawn trams were introduced in Kolkata in 1873; electric trams began in Chennai in 1895, and trams were also introduced in Mumbai, Nashik, Kanpur, Kochi, Patna and Bhavnagar. They were discontinued in all Indian cities between 1930 and 1970, except for Kolkata.
Trams in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), West Bengal are operated by the Calcutta Tramways Company (CTC). It is the only operating tram network in India and the oldest operating electric tram in Asia, running since 1902. There are 257 trams in total, of which 125 run daily on the Kolkata streets. The single-deck articulated cars can carry 200 passengers (60 seated).
The first horse-drawn trams in India ran a 2.4-mile (3.9 km) distance between Sealdah and Armenian Ghat Street on 24 February 1873. The service was discontinued on 20 November of that year. The Calcutta Tramway Company was formed and registered in London on 22 December 1880. Metre-gauge horse-drawn tram tracks were laid from Sealdah to Armenian Ghat via Bowbazar Street, Dalhousie Square and Strand Road. The route was inaugurated by Viceroy Ripon on 1 November 1880. In 1882, steam locomotives were deployed experimentally to haul tram cars. By the end of the 19th century the company owned 166 tram cars, 1000 horses, seven steam locomotives and 19 miles of tram tracks. In 1900, electrification of the tramway and reconstruction of its tracks to 4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) (standard gauge) began. In 1902, the first electric tramcar in India ran from Esplanade to Kidderpore on 27 March and on 14 June from Esplanade to Kalighat.
The idea of a tramway system for Karachi was conceived and a tender for its construction was first made in 1881. On February 8, 1883 a plan for a tramway was drawn up and permission obtained from the government for the use of steam-powered trams. In October 1884 construction was started. John Brunton was the Chief Engineer of the project. The tramway was opened on April 20, 1885 employing steam-powered cars. The opening ceremony took place near St Andrew's Church (Abdullah Haroon Road and Sharah-e-Liaquat).
The steam trams were replaced by horse-drawn ones in 1886. In 1902 the East India Tramways Company Limited was responsible for running the trams in Karachi.
By March 23, 1905 petrol-powered tram were introduced. By 1909 the entire fleet was replaced by petrol-powered trams. Each car had a capacity of 46 passengers and could travel at speeds of up to 18 mph. New tracks had to be re-laid for the petrol driven trams. The trams now ran on inverted U-shaped grooved-bridge rail with a four-foot gauge. The first two petrol-engined tramcars were designed by John Abbott and his son John Dixon Abbott, incorporating the Dixon-Abbott patent gearbox. They were built in England. By 1914, there were 37 petrol-powered tramcars running. 1945 saw the introduction of the first diesel-powered trams. Until 1955 there were still 64 petrol-powered trams in Karachi numbered from 94 to 157. These were single deck 4-wheeled cars with back-to-back cross benches. They had an 8 ft wheel base, and were 28 feet long, and 6 feet 8 inches wide. These cars were built between 1924 and 1948 with Perkins P.4 Diesel Engines and Simplex (Dixon-Abbott) Gearboxes. Cars number 145 to 157 were built as new diesel cars, while the rest of the cars were converted from petrol to diesel.
The tram was a common mode of transport as was the horse-drawn carriage. Only the elite had cars. A few young men owned motorcycles. Both men and women went about on bicycles, for this was the most common type of transport.
The trams in Karachi were closed after partition on April 30, 1975.
A mass public-transport system for Mumbai (then Bombay) was proposed in 1865 by an American company, which applied for a licence to operate a horse-drawn tram system. Although a licence was granted, the project was never realised due to the city's economic depression.
The Bombay Tramway Company was set up in 1873. After a contract was signed between the Bombay Tramway Company, the municipality and the Stearns and Kitteredge company, the Bombay Presidency enacted the Bombay Tramways Act, 1874 licensing the company to run a horsecar tram service in the city. On 9 May 1874 the first horse-drawn carriage made its début in the city, plying the Colaba–Pydhone via Crawford Market, and Bori Bunder to Pydhonie via Kalbadevi routes. The initial fare was three annas (15 paise), and no tickets were issued. As the service became increasingly popular, the fare was reduced to two annas (10 paise). Later that year, tickets were issued to curb increasing ticket-less travel. Stearns and Kitteredge reportedly had a stable of 900 horses when the tram service began.
In 1899, the Bombay Tramway Company applied to the municipality to operate electric trams. In 1904, the British Electric Traction Company applied for a license to supply electricity to the city with the Brush Electrical Engineering Company its agent. It received the Bombay electric license on 31 July 1905, signed by Bombay Tramways Company, the Bombay Municipality and the Brush Electrical Company. In 1905, the Bombay Electric Supply and Tramway Company (BEST) was formed. BEST received a monopoly on electric supply and an electric tram service in the city, and bought the Bombay Tramway Company's assets for ₹9,850,000. Two years later, the first electric tram debuted in the city. Later that year, a 4,300 kilowatts (5,800 hp) steam power generator was commissioned at Wari Bunder. In 1916 a power purchase from Tata Power (a private company) began, and by 1925 all power generation was outsourced from Tata. To ease rush-hour traffic, double-decker trams were introduced in September 1920. The trams met travellers' needs until the betterment of the city's train network, and the service closed on 31 March 1964.
Trams in Nashik (then Nasik) were built in 1889 as 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) narrow gauge. The consulting engineer was Everard Calthrop, later known with the Barsi Light Railway. Originally, the tram used two carriages pulled by four horses. It ran from the present Old Municipal Corporation building on Main Road to the Nasik Road railway station, a distance of 8 to 10 kilometres (5.0 to 6.2 mi). The stretch between Nashik and Nashik Road was jungle-covered, and the only mode of transport from the station to the city was horse-drawn carriage or one of two taxis. The tram ceased operations between 1931 and 1933.
Trams in Chennai (then Madras) operated between the docks and the inland areas, carrying goods and passengers. When the system began on 7 May 1895, it was India's first electric tram system. The original conduit system was replaced by a conventional overhead wire system after a series of destructive monsoons. The trams could carry heavy loads and were popular, with thousands of riders daily. The route included Mount Road, Parry's Corner, Poonamallee Road and the Ripon Building. At its height in 1921, 97 cars ran on 24 kilometres (15 mi) of track. The tram company went bankrupt about 1950, and the system closed on 12 April 1953.
In June 1907, trams were introduced in Kanpur (then Cawnpore). There were 4 miles (6.4 km) of track and 20 single-deck open trams. The single-track line connected the railway station with Sirsaya Ghat on the banks of the Ganges. Photographs of Cawnpore trams are rare. The introductory stock was electric-traction single-coach; single-coach trams were also used in Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai. The service was discontinued on 16 May 1933.
The Cochin State Forest Tramway was a 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 3⁄8 in) metre gauge forest tramway running from the Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary in Palakkad district to Chalakudy in Thrissur district. Operating from 1907 to 1963, it served the then Cochin region (now Kochi region) and brought teak and rosewood from forests for global shipment.
Trams in Delhi began operation on 6 March 1908. At its zenith in 1921, there were 24 open cars on 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) of track. Jama Masjid, Chandni Chowk, Chawri Bazaar, Katra Badiyan, Lal Kuan and Fatehpuri were linked with Sabzi Mandi, Sadar Bazar, Paharganj, Ajmeri Gate, Bara Hindu Rao and Tis Hazari. The system closed in 1963 due to urban congestion.
Patna had horse-drawn trams as urban transport The tram in Patna ran in the populated area of Ashok Rajpath, from Patna City to Bankipore, with its western terminus at Sabzibagh (opposite the Pirbahore police station). It was discontinued in 1903 due to low ridership, and plans to extend the route westward never materialised.
Bhavnagar had a 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) narrow-gauge tram built by Bhavnagar State. The first section was built in 1926 from Bhavnagar south to Talaja, and was extended to Mahuva in 1938. The total length of the tramway was 67.5 miles (108.6 km). The tramway used small 4-8-0 locomotives later classified as T-class. In 1947 the tramway was taken over by the Saurashtra Railway, and later by the Western Railway. It was closed during the 1960s.
The trams have a direct current power supply from overhead lines, which replaced the original conduit after a series of monsoons. Power is obtained from a trolley pole, a current collector mounted on top of the tram. The track rails are the return path for the DC current. DC power is supplied by mercury-arc rectifier (converter) stations, located throughout the city.
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