Mumbai: Tram in ruins, but BEST now wants to preserve tracks

After the lost tram tracks resurfaced recently, the BEST Undertaking promised to preserve them at its museum, where this coach has been lying in disrepair for decades

As Mumbai's lost tram tracks resurfaced near Flora Fountain a few days ago, people reminisced about the days when this 109-year-old chugged through the city called Bombay.

BEST’s tram stamp: Far from being restored to its former glory, this tram coach has been sitting in neglect at the museum compound, like an unwanted tattoo. pic/ATUL KAMBLE
BEST’s tram stamp: Far from being restored to its former glory, this tram coach has been sitting in neglect at the museum compound, like an unwanted tattoo. Pic/Atul Kamble

It was this nostalgia that the Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) Undertaking promised to preserve, by restoring part of the tracks and keeping them on display at its museum at Anik depot.

The tracks were rediscovered under the road at Flora Fountain on February 18, after which BEST said it would preserve them at its museum at Anik depot. The authorities are now extracting the tracks from the layers of asphalt. PIC/SURESH KK
The tracks were rediscovered under the road at Flora Fountain on February 18, after which BEST said it would preserve them at its museum at Anik depot. The authorities are now extracting the tracks from the layers of asphalt. Pic/Suresh KK

But not many will know that BEST already has a piece of this history in its possession – a single-deck tram coach that is also housed at the same museum that holds historical artefacts from the city's evolving transportation systems.

But far from occupying the place of pride, this tram coach has been kept in the compound outside the building, where it is in absolute shambles. There it has sat since March 1964, when BEST stopped the tram services. But without any restoration work, every bit of its metal frame has rusted, its tyres are punctured and the overhead equipment and cables are in tatters.

With the frame having collapsed entirely, there is an unobstructed view of the car's interiors, the uniquely large steering wheel and a vestibule-like section connecting the two halves of the coach.

Within the museum, BEST has kept the history of the tram alive with several photos, tickets, route maps and a model tram system. But the coach itself was nearly sold as scrap for a mere Rs 4.9 lakh last year, until the Undertaking decided against it. Even now though, it is in no better condition.

And now, BEST has taken responsibility for preserving the tracks.

"Flora Fountain, where the tracks have been found, was the last and the 29th station of the tram service. The first station was Sassoon Dock," said a BEST official.

When asked why the coach was lying in disrepair, he said, "The coach is beyond restoration."

1964
The year since when the coach has been lying at the museum

Tracks discovered
The tracks resurfaced on February 18, while roadwork was on at Flora Fountain. 

JCB machines digging up the road stumbled upon the metal tracks and over the next two days, the authorities found four 100-metre tracks buried deep under several layers of concrete, sand and asphalt laid over the years.

"We will be restoring part of the track in our museum at Anik depot," said H Gophane, spokesperson, Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport.

History
>> The tram service was introduced in 1874
>> Electric engines replaced horses in 1907
>> Fare was 10 Annas
>> Colaba corner was the main junction of the network that would run to Pydhonie via Crawford Market
>> The last tram ran between Bori Bunder (now CST) and Khodadad Tram Terminus (now Dadar TT) at 10 pm on March 31, 1964  

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