Mumbai: 87-year-old tram tracks unearthed at Tardeo

Updated: Mar 15, 2018, 18:48 IST | Rajendra B Aklekar

The 87-yr-old grooves suggest the tracks were used to run the early trams in Mumbai, New York and Paris

More of Mumbai's lost trams tracks have resurfaced, this time along RS Nimkar Marg at Tardeo Circle. While the tram has been obsolete for over half a century, these newly uncovered tracks - called Loubat tracks - were the latest technology at the time, designed to keep trams from slipping off the rails.

These Loubat tram tracks can be identified by their grooves, designed to keep the tram cars from slipping off the rails
These Loubat tram tracks can be identified by their grooves, designed to keep the tram cars from slipping off the rails

The tram tracks were discovered by road engineers working on strengthening RS Nimkar Marg at Tardeo Circle. While concretising the stretch outside the Tardeo bus depot, the workers unearthed the rails, complete with points and crossovers. The unique tracks were identified by their grooves - invented by Alphonse Loubat in 1852 as a way to keep the tram cars from slipping off the rails.

This particular stretch of tracks is at least 87 years old, if not older. The last major upgrade in the tram tracks was made in the early 1930s, so these tracks were either laid then or even earlier. In later years, only regular maintenance work was done and no new tracks were laid. "This is Mumbai's treasure buried under. It keeps up coming up; a few years ago, tracks were uncovered at Fort and, now, here again. Trams were always a pleasure to travel in, and such small moments keep us reminding of those golden years," said Deepak Rao, a Mumbai historian who used to travel in trams.

Glorious history
Trams were once synonymous with Mumbai's public transport; from its inception in 1874 till the time it was shut down in 1964, the tram network was the preferred way to commute for the common man. The tram cars used to run in the city when there was little to no traffic, way before motorised vehicles came. Trams went from being horse-drawn to electrified in 1907.

In fact, they were the first electric public transport of Mumbai. Here's another little known fact - the BEST Undertaking originally stood for Bombay Electric Supply and Tramways Company, the predecessor to today's Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking.

Common man's transport
"Trams once served crowded areas of Tardeo, Kalbadevi and Pydhonie, and were a major and cheaper mode of public transport in the city. They were slow, sturdy and had their own charm. As the number of private vehicles grew, it became difficult for tramways to operate, and they became more of a nuisance than help, so BEST decided to discontinue them," said Kunal Tripathi, who runs the Mumbai Heritage Project, an initiative to preserve history through social media.

As the trams were phased out, the authorities began to introduce the now familiar red buses on the same routes, giving rise to the BEST Undertaking we know today. BEST officials have promised to save the historic tram relics and move them to the transport museum at Anik depot. "Tram cars have been a part of Mumbai's rich legacy and it is indeed good news that we have found a few old remains. We shall get them inspected and move them to our transport museum," BEST chairman Anil Kokil told mid-day. The Loubat tracks represent a unique technology, and while the tracks have now been uprooted, they can be assembled again at the museum's open space.

1874
Year in which tram network was set up

1852
Year in which Loubat track was invented by Alphonse Loubat

87yrs
Minimum age of the tracks that have been unearthed

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