If you lived in Patna 118 years ago, you just might have caught the last tram before it trotted into the pages of history.
Patna had a brush with trams in the late 19th century but, possibly because it was short-lived and left no trace of its existence, it’s a little-known feature of the city’s past.
India’s tram journey began in Calcutta, the first city to introduce trams, in 1873. This was followed by Madras, Kanpur, Delhi and Bombay. While Calcutta’s trams were still being driven by horses, Madras was the first city in India to use electric trams, in 1885.
Patna was really slow off the blocks – the tram debuted here in 1886 and it was not the electric version. These horse-driven wonders connected Patna City (Old Patna) to the fledging British township of Bankipore, 3 km north-east, near present-day Gandhi Maidan. The journey was a quick half-hour trot.
Tracks were laid from the present-day Patna City Railway Station along the Ganges, before they turned north to terminate at the Subzibagh Tram Station, not far from present-day Gandhi Maidan. At the time, Patna City Railway Station was a major railhead and trams made it so much easier to travel to and from Bankipore and the railway station.
The original plan was to expand the tram service to Danapur on the banks of the Ganga and Son Rivers, so that traders could travel easily between the markets of Chapra and Ara, on the opposite banks of the rivers, to the markets of Patna.
Although Patna’s trams were a huge hit, their success was short-lived. Soon enough, the tonga, or horse-drawn carriage, started dominating Patna’s streets. In 1903, just 17 years after it had been introduced, the city’s tram service ground to a halt.
Cover Image: Life-size model of a horse-drawn tram at the City Centre arcade, Trams in Kolkata (The Patna Tram was identical to the one which ran in Kolkata)