World Photography Day: When Trams Criss-crossed Old Delhi

Today is World Photography Day and while looking through my collection of pics clicked by me or collated over the years from various sources, this pic of Delhi from the LIFE Magazine Archives stopped me.

So let me see if I can transport you back in time, to just over a 100 years ago, in the streets of Shajahanabad!

Imagine a ride on the roads of Delhi in an electric, train-like, rickety, single carriage vehicle, which runs so slowly, yet surely on its circuit of iron tracks that you could alight or board the tram at any given point of time, if you had a certain level of minimum fitness! Imagine you gaze at the Red Fort passing by, at horse-drawn carts (Tongas) going their way making the characteristic ‘clip-clop’ noise carrying men and purdah-clad women with their families. The trees lining the central verge of Chandni Chowk pass by your window and Gurudwara Sis Ganj comes into view. The smells and sights of the Jalebis and Kachori-Aloo Sabzee permeates your senses. You are hard-pressed to find any motorised version of transport. And a drop in electricity voltage may just stop the tramcar in its tracks, that important appointment be damned!!! You get down and quickly order a plate of Samosas, and just at that moment the Tramcar Conductor rings the bell to let all know that the electricity is back. You rush to get onboard, the Samosa-vendor trailing you to receive his 1 or 2 Annas for the 2 Samosas and walks along the tram car chatting with you as he brings out the requisite paisas/annas to return back to you…and the Tram rolls on towards the Fatehpuri Masjid and you settle down for the slow-rocking journey to your ultimate destination, the Sadar Bazar.

The year was 1908 and the first Electric Trams were introduced by the English for the population of Chandni Chowk, Jama Masjid, Lal Kuan, Fatehpuri Masjid and Sadar Bazar areas, basically Delhi-6 (Pin Code 110006)

Tram in Delhi _Delhi By Foot

Did you know that Delhi had a robust Electric Tram service in Old Delhi till as late as 1963?
Pic courtesy: Life Magazine Arhives

Kolkata was the first city to get its own Tram Service, as the English were based at Fort Williams and Calcutta was the capital of the Empire. Bombay also had its Tram service before Delhi and both Calcutta and Bombay saw use of Horse-drawn Trams. But Delhi graduated directly to an electric version!!

For almost 55 yrs the trams continued in service of Dilliwallas on 15Kms of track around Delhi6 areas but were ultimately discontinued in the early 1960s due to rising costs of maintenance and to make way for faster means of transportation like motorised vehicles…

I look forward to such a leisurely Tram journey on the streets of Shajahanabad…Do you?

Dr Rajendra Prasad in a horse-drawn cart, but the road has the iron tracks on the road for the Tram Services of Old Delhi
Dr Rajendra Prasad in a horse-drawn cart, but the road has the iron tracks on the road for the Tram Services of Old Delhi