Friday, April 17, 2009

Karachi Tramway of Yesteryears

There was a time when citizens of Pakistan were accustomed to seeing Trams running all over the Karachi City center. It was one of the most popular means of conveyance in the city center.

If you talk to any body who has seen Karachi up to 1975, they will talk about the tramways in nostalgic terms. The network was closed down in 1975 after traffic congestion in Saddar area was causing lots of traffic accidents involving. Trams as well as older trams were proving difficult to maintain. What happened to the rolling stock and infrastructure is anybody’s guess. I couldn’t find any information on it. Growing up in Karachi however, I remember taking rides in Trams with my father as well as seeing the left over tram tracks which were left to rust in Saddar roads until 1980s.

The history of Karachi tramway spans 90 years (1885-1975). It owes it origin to the Municipal Secretary and Engineer, James Strachan who first conceived the idea for a Karachi Tramway. In 1881, Mr. Edward Mathews of London submitted the tender for building this tramway network. It took until 1883 to complete all the formalities and to get Government’s permission to use Steam as the locomotive power for the trams. Actual construction work started in October 1884.
Steam Locomotion got Replaced with Horses:

The photo below shows a section of the tram tracks laid on Bundar Road (now called Mohammad Ali Jinnah Road) near Max Denso Hall area. This photo is circa 1900

Chronology of Karachi Tramway
1879: John Brunton devised a special grooved bridge rail of inverted U-shape for four foot gauge horse to be later used in the tramways in Karachi.
1881: Karachi’s Municipal Secretary and Engineer, Mr. James Strachan conceived the idea of Karachi Tramway around this year and Mr Edward Mathews, of London tendered for the construction of the line in 1881.
February 8, 1883: Detailed plan for Karachi Tramway is made and settled. Permission is obtained from the Government for the use of steam powered trams in Karachi.
October 1884: Work starts on the construction of Karachi Tramway. Gauge of the track was 4 feet. John Brunton, formerly Chief Engineer of the Sind-Punjab and Delhi Railway, and engineer to the city of Oxford Tramways becomes the Chief Engineer of Karachi Tramway Project.
April 20, 1885: Steam Tramway was opened in Karachi. There was a ceremonial opening of the Main Line from Scots Kirk neat St Andrew’s Church (located on present day Abdullah Haroon Road and Shara-e-Liaqat intersection) to Kiamari. Goods line between McLeod Road (now I.I. Chundrigar Road) and Native Jetty were also completed. Steam traction with Kitson Locomotives was used for all traffic.
1886: Steam tramway of Karachi got replaced by horse-drawn tramway for both passenger and goods service.
1891-1900: During this period the Lawrence Road (now called Nishtar Road) route was opened. Also a short extension from Scots Kirk to Empress Market was opened. Exact dates are unknown.

The above photo is circa 1900 and it shows a tram near Max Denso Hall on then Bandar (now M.A.Jinnah) Road.

1902: East India Tramway Co (E.I.T.C) Limited which was running trams in Karachi got re-organized with John Abbot as Chairman.
circa 1904: Light Steel-framed horse carts were introduced on the tramway.
March 23, 1905: Petrol Tram was inaugurated in Karachi.
1907: John Dixon was appointed as an Experimental Engineer on the Tramway.
1909: Horse drawn tramway of Karachi got shut down and was replaced by Petrol driven trams. Petrol trams had a capacity of 46 passengers each and could run up to speeds of 18 mph. Tracks were re laid for petrol driven trams.
The First two petrol-engined tramcars were built and tested in England and entered service in Karachi. These cars were the joint design of John Abbott and his son John Dixon Abbott, incorporating the Dixon-Abbott patent gearbox.
1911: Mainline Tracks were doubled.
September 30, 1911: Frere Street (now called Dr Daud Pota Road) Route was Opened.
February 1912: Horse traction was completely suspended by the petrol motor cars
1913: By the end of this year, the number of Petrol run trams in Karachi was 37
February 17, 1916: Soldier Bazaar Route was inaugurated via Mansfield Street (now called Syedna Burhanuddin Road).
1928: Kerbside loading introduced at the Boulton Market.
October 22, 1928: Chakiwara Route was opened.
1929: Soldier Bazaar route diverted from Mansfield Street (now called Syedna Burhanuddin Raod) to Bunder Road (now M.A. Jinnah Road)
1931: Temporary Extension was made Eastward from Soldier Bazaar, especially for the Indian Nationalist Congress meeting. The Rails were removed after the meeting ended.
1945: First New-Built Diesel cars were introduced. Diesel engines were introduced into some existing cars before 1939.
1949: Transfer of the whole system from the East India Tramways Company Limited to the Mohamedali Tramways Company (MTC). The tram company was bought by a Karachi resident Mr. Sheikh Mohammad Ali. MTC continued to operate the trams until its final closure in 1975.
April 30, 1953: This news appeared in the daily Hindu about a strike at MTC:
A large number of workers of the Karachi Tramways in Pakistan had gone on strike to protest against what they called “the management’s policy of retrenchment and victimization.” About 700 striking employees were taken into custody. Labour leaders claimed that all but 80 employees had joined the strike. Only a few of the green and white painted trams were running in the capital city. Police lathi charged a large group of 800 employees who were picketing outside the gate of the premises of the Tramway Company.
1955: The number of Petrol Run Trams in Karachi had risen up to 64. These 64 cars were numbered from 94 to 157.
These were single deck 4-wheeled back-to-back cross bench cars.
These cars had 8 ft wheel base,
they were 28 feet long,
and 6 feet 8 inches wide.
These cars were built between 1924 and 1948. They were equipped with Perkins P.4 Diesel Engines and Simplex (Dixon-Abbott) Gearboxes.
Cars Number 145 to 157 were built as new Diesel Cars; The remained were converted from Petrol cars to Diesel Cars.
April 30, 1975: Karachi Tramway got closed down.

Following two photos are circa 1900 and showa glimpse of Karachi trams. First photo is near Max Denso Hall.

The following photo is courtesy of Zain Yoonas. It shows a tram on Bandar Road (now M.A.Jinnah Road) in 1933.

Following photo is courtesy of PPL and published by Dawn in their ‘all about Lifestyle’ series. It shows Saddar area circa 1950s and towards left, one can see atleast two trams. The signboard towards top right corner of the photo reads ‘Nishat Hotel’.

Any reader who is familiar with Saddar of 50s and this Nishat Hotel locality should enlighten us more about this photo.

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