Around the World in Trams: Kolkata 575

We continue our series of photos from Kolkata, India in this edition of “Around the World in Trams”.

Watgunge Junction was in the south-west of Calcutta, not far from the terminus of route 36 to Kidderpore, and marked the point where route 35 to Behala and route 31 to Kalighat turned off to the south. There was no public service over the west to south curve, branching off to the right in the photo, which would have been used for access to and from Kidderpore depot. Point operation in Kolkata was manual, using traditional point irons. At the time car 575 was one of the latest in the fleet and was one of twenty-seven Sundari cars rebuilt at the CTC’s Nonapuker Works in the mid-1970s from K type six-axle cars dating from the 1930s. Sundari means ‘beautiful’ in Bengali and 575, dating from 1975, is seen here working on route 36, which simply followed Kidderpore Road from its Kidderpore terminus to the city centre Esplanade.

Astonishingly hand-pulled rickshaws still survive in Kolkata today, with estimates of the number in service in 2023 ranging from 500 to 2,500. Most pullers have traditionally migrated to the city from poorer areas, largely in Bihar, and although there is opposition to their continued use, they are regarded by many as a Kolkata tradition, just like the trams. The living conditions of the barefoot pullers in 1978 can only be imagined.

Photograph by Donald Brooks, 23rd November 1978

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