Library on wheels: The Tram makeover in Kolkata

Aditi Ray Chowdhury / Kolkata

The kaleidoscopic mosaic of tradition and modernity remains the most enticing hallmark of Kolkata. Among many of the fascinating things that the city has one of the oldest and distinct are the Trams. Started in the 19th century by the British, Kolkata is the only city in the country and perhaps even in entire Asia to have the public transportation of Trams till now. For those who enjoy the journey of Trams in the busting lanes of Kolkata, a new attraction has been the Tram Library, which was opened recently by the Calcutta Tramways Company (CTC) and the West Bengal Transport Corporation (WBTC).

The Tram library covers one of the premier routes of North Calcutta from Shyambazar to Esplanade. It is an air-conditioned tram and with a seating capacity for nearly 32 to 36 people and serves as a moving library in the heart of the city. One can enjoy reading a book while traveling through the iconic College street, famously known as ‘Boi Para’ or the only market in Asia that is exclusively for the ‘book lovers’. It also covers several famous schools and colleges of Kolkata including The Hindu School, The Hare School, The Scottish Church Collegiate School, The Calcutta Medical College and The Presidency College, as well as the historic ‘Coffee House’. In the Library, one can find novels, books on fiction and nonfiction as well as books for competitive examinations like the GRE, WBCS and even the civil services exam.

Passengers are finding this idea quite innovative and are loving the whole experience. “I travel very often via trams in this route for official purpose but this is my first time in this air conditioned tram library, it gives a very soothing experience in between our hectic schedule and that too at a very reasonable price”, said a lady travelling in the tram. The tram library costs Rs 20 for each passenger which however is more than the regular tram fare yet affordable as compared to other modes of public transport. Also, the fare remains the same regardless of the number of stopages that one wishes to travel to. Currently, the number of boarders for this specific tram are not majorly book readers but mostly daily passengers keen to travel in the comfort of the AC. However, with time it will hopefully gather more readers and book lovers.

The tramcar also provides Free Wi-Fi to the travellers and plans to soon launch the services of ‘online library’. As the winter season is about to come, the season when most of the book fairs, literary festivals and music festivals are held, the authorities also plan for such literary events and book reading sessions in the near future, once Covid situation improves. Being India’s first tramcar library, it has incorporated all the necessary precautions and steps as it was launched amidst a global pandemic. The entire coach tramcar is well cleaned and sanitized to ensure safety of the passengers.

Speaking of the technology that is used behind trams the officials at the Shyambazaar Tram Depot told that the controllers used for the trams to operate are still manufactured and sent from England ( The Cam Controller) and Japan (The Fuji Controller). The Fuji Controller from Japan is the most modern. Tram remains one of the most iconic features of life in Kolkata, which despite its slow speed, continue to occupy a permanent seat in the hearts of people. Do check out the Tram Library on your next visit to the beautiful city of Kolkata.

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