Tramjatra launch Thurs Oct 5 - Melbourne Festival and Minister for Arts & Creative Industries Martin

Posted Sat 14/10/17 by Roberto D'Andrea

Melbourne Australia. On Thursday October 5 the Melbourne Kolkata Tramjatra Tram was launched by the Victorian Government Minister for the Arts Martin Foley, Melbourne Festival Director Jonathan Holloway, Lucknow born artist and designer of the tram Bushra Hasan and Tramjatran Roberto D'Andrea with representatives from Yarra Trams and Public Transport Victoria. A sincere thanks to everyone and there was much media coverage through newspapers, radio, television and on-line. We are a part of the 2017-18 Melbourne Festival Arts Trams which will see another 7 trams launched over the next week. Bushra and I have been working together for over a year and she has designed a beautifully colourful tram that tells the story of 21 years of tramways friendship between our tram-loving cities. Her art is inspired by popular Indian street and tribal art and her inspiration for designing a “Tramjatra” tram comes from a love for Melbourne’s trams that started when visiting her sister in St Kilda where she caught many a tram, and the unique friendship between tram-loving Kolkata and Melbourne. Bushra's design-artwork was the inspiration for the 20th anniversary Tramjatra tram staged in Kolkata in December 2016. Starting out with the screening of Mahadeb's Tramjatra documentary in August as a part of the Indian Film festival Melbourne, we have once again connected with Victoria’s Indian diaspora and continued the collaboration which started back in 1996 when Bimal Maity translated the Phamnton Tram Poet, Malcome Just, tram poerty into Bengali. The tram's design honours relationship between Kolkata and Melbourne. 12 trams have been decorated in Kolkata and now our 6th tram in Melbourne. Bushra, "2016 was the 20th anniversary of Tramjatra with a rich history of friendship, the love of trams and highlighting the environmental benefits of tramways. This work follows in the rich Tramjatra tradition which invites artists from both cities to design a tram". The tram’s design features artworks and themes from past Tramjatra trams in a new colourful form. Snapshots of ‘Bondhu’, ‘Calbourne’, ‘Sundari’, ‘Cricket’, ‘Baccha’, ‘Shared-Lung’, ‘Paribeshbandhu’ and ‘Gitanjali’. Orange-bellied Parrots next to Great Indian Hornbills. The design includes the Victoria Memorial from Kolkata and Flinders Street Station from Melbourne to show our shared British Colonial heritage via architecture. For the next 6 months Melbourne's tram-loving community will be able to ride the Tramjatra tram on the No 11 West Preston and No 86 Bundoora tram lines. In Melbourne City Tramjatra will track along Collins and Bourke Streets and is stationed in the new Preston Depot - Workshops. Tramjatra thanks the Melbourne Festival, Victorian State Government, Yarra Trams and Public Transport Victoria and Andy Miller and Jill Morgan from Multicultural Arts Victoria who introduced Bushra to Tramjatra. Thanks also to our friendly and helpful driver, Kay from Essendon Depot who looked after everything beautifully. We have filmed the launch for the next Mahadeb Shi Tramjatra Documentary. Melbourne B Class Tram 2007 is now in the Tramjatra history books. Tramjatrans Mick Douglas, Phantom Poet Malcome Just, Carmelina Di Guglielmo, Adam Mattaliano, Kevin Tierney and Craig Vesey attended with Peter Krutop filming the event. Photos by Peter Krutop, Adam Mattaliano and 5 by James Morgan from Melbourne Festival (46-HDR-Pano, R7P4772, R7P4739, 1Z6A7373 & R7P4707)....Roberto

Melbourne Australia : Tramjatra tram “wrap” at Essendon Depot

Melbourne Australia : Tramjatra tram “wrap” at Essendon Depot

Posted Sat 14/10/17 by Roberto D'Andrea

Melbourne Australia : Tramjatra Tram decoration at the Essendon Tram Depot features here. Designed by Bushra Hasan in collaboration with Tramjatra's Mr Roberto we're at the Essendon Tram Depot on Wednesday October 4 for what the Melbourne Festival calls a "tram wrap". For an old time Tramjatran it was like watching a tram being 'sort of painted' and brought back memories of past tramways friendships where there's a number of people busily preparing the tram. The artwork is a story of 21 years of Tramways friendship with all the past Tramjatra trams decorated in Kolkata represented on the new Melbourne Tramjatra Tram. A 21st BIRTHDAY GREATEST HITS TRAMJATRA. Some of the wrap decorators had worked at the Preston Tram Workshops in the days when trams were painted. A summary of the tram. 1996 - Bondhu Tram - Shaking hands through the tram map of India - Australia 1997 - Calbourne Durga tram through Durga's eyes. 2001 / 2016 - Cricket tram and 20th anniversary Tramjatra Tram Kolkata. 2001 - Baccha Tram flowers and peacocks. 1997 / 2001 - Sundari Sunrise tram. 2005 - Shared Lungs "Fus Fus Bondhu'. 2012 - Paribeshbandhu tram birds 2013 - Gitanjali Tram Rabindranath Tagore and peace birds.
 

2017 Melbourne Festival Tramjatra Arts Tram launch

2017 Melbourne Festival Tramjatra Arts Tram launch

Posted Tue 3/10/17 by Roberto D'Andrea

Melbourne Australia : Melbourne Festival Arts Trams. Tramjatra will launch our 6th Melbourne Tram as a part of the Kolkata Melbourne Tramways Friendship on Thursday October 5 in the same location we launched the Melbourne calcutta Friendship Tram 20 years ago. A collaboration between Roberto and Tramjatra with Lucknow born artist Bushra Hasan who is now living in Melbourne. Tramjatra is celebrating 21 years of tramways friendship. Bushra and I will attend the tram wrap at Essendon Tram Depot on Wednesday October 4 before launching at the Dudley Street Tram Reserve in Melbourne City on Thursday morning.

2017 Indian Weekly Magazine Cover Story - IL Globo Italian language paper report Melbourne Tramjatra

2017 Indian Weekly Magazine Cover Story - IL Globo Italian language paper report Melbourne Tramjatra

Posted Thu 28/9/17 by Roberto D'Andrea

Indian Weekly Magazine Melbourne - Cover Story. Italian Language newspaer IL Globo Feature article. IL Globo, "Melbourne is a city that boasts the longest urban tramway in the world and one of the oldest existing outside of Europe. With over 250 kilometres divided into 24 tram routes, the trams carry a average of 200 million per year. The story behind Melbourne's Trams is lively and interesting, especially if we think that trams are enjoying a rebirth, with many cities around the world re-introducing them". If you are a "gunzel" (fanatics of trains or trams) or would like to know more don't miss the opening of the Melbourne Tram Museum at the old Hawthorn Depot as a part of Melbourne Open Day". Indian Weekly, "Today the festival of Tramjatra has completed 20 years. This October, Melbourne will celebrate the 21st birthday of Tramjatra. The Tramjatra tram will run for 6 months between October and April 2018. The  tram's artwork has designs from past tramjatra trams, Sundari and Gitanjali to name a few. It is a big year and what is exciting this year is we have re-engaged with the local Indian community and the artwork of the tram is designed by Lucknow born artist, Bushra Hasan.

2017 Mahadeb visits Melbourne Tram Museum - study to inform Kolkata

2017 Mahadeb visits Melbourne Tram Museum - study to inform Kolkata

Posted Thu 28/9/17 by Roberto D'Andrea

MELBOURNE TRAM MUSEUM TOUR : As a part of the exchange of tramway technology and how Melbourne's presents its unique tramway heritage in the form of a museum, Mahadeb Shi, Tramjatra's documentary filmmaker had a special guided tour by Adam Chandler and Mike Ryan. Mahadeb filmed and documented the Melbourne Tram Museum experience and will take this information in the form of a study and present this to the West Bengal Transport Corporation and the Calcutta Tramways Company. In a interview Mahadeb had with the Indian Weekly magazine in Melbourne he said, "I love the tram system in Melbourne. There are trams everywhere moving on its own, not disturbing anyone, it's so nice, I want to live here and I love Melbourne people. Most Kolkatans have grown up with trams and there is alot of nostalgia and memory associated with them. I look at the tram as a benign friend"

2017 Melbourne Festival Arts Tram launch Bushra Hasan designed Tramjatra tram

2017 Melbourne Festival Arts Tram launch Bushra Hasan designed Tramjatra tram

Posted Wed 27/9/17 by Roberto D'Andrea

BUSHRA HASAN - TRAMJATRA tram designer, artist statement : My name is Bushra Hasan and I’m an artist and graphic designer. I have done a variety of work in India and Australia and my art is inspired by popular Indian street and tribal art. My inspiration for designing a “Tramjatra” tram comes from my love for Melbourne’s trams and the unique friendship between the tram-loving communities of Kolkata (India) and Melbourne and partnership with Melbourne trammie, Roberto D’Andrea. Tramjatra works in partnership with the Calcutta Tramways Company and Government of West Bengal. Tramjatra has a rich history of engaging Victoria’s Indian diaspora reflecting years of collaboration between Melbourne and Kolkata. This tram design honours the tramways relationship betweenKolkata and Melbourne. The first friendship tram was launched from Belgatchia Depot in October 1996. 12 trams have since been decorated in Kolkata. 2016 was the 20th anniversary of Tramjatra with a rich history of friendship, the love of trams and highlighting the environmental benefits of tramways. So, this work follows in the rich Tramjatra tradition which invites artists from both cities to design a tram. This tram’s design features some artwork from past Tramjatra trams in a new colourful form. Snapshots of ‘Bondhu’, ‘Calbourne’, ‘Sundari’, ‘Cricket’, ‘Baccha’, ‘Shared-Lung’, ‘Paribeshbandhu’ and ‘Gitanjali’. Orange-bellied Parrots next to Great Indian Hornbills. I believe that the Indian diaspora of greater Melbourne will respond very positively to the messages conveyed through this design. I’m excited by the prospect of inviting peoples from our culturally diverse communities to come together onboard a Melbourne Festival Tramjatra tram.

2017 Kolkata Times of India Bengali language “El Samay” on Tramjatra Melbourne

2017 Kolkata Times of India Bengali language “El Samay” on Tramjatra Melbourne

Posted Wed 27/9/17 by Roberto D'Andrea

Times of India Bengali language newspaper the El Samay writes about Tramjatra melbourne. BENGALI to ENGLISH TRANSLATION : "While tram routes in the city are being closed down under the pretext of developmental work, the celebration of this heritage and environment-friendly mode of transport took place far away in Melbourne. The ocassion was the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne. On August 22, the closing day of this two-week long festival, Melbourne Central Theatre screened the documentary film "Tramajatra" directed by Mahadev Shi. The film is his tribute to 'Tramjatra', a symbol of solidarity between Calcutta and Melbourne which has is now in its 20th year. Mahadev is involved with this popular project since 1996. He has recently formed the Calcutta Tram Users Association along with other gunzels of the city. Roberto D'Andrea, former Melbourne conductor is present in each and every frame of the film. He was the center of attraction in every Tramjatra, held in the city: 1996, 1997, 2001, 2005, 2012, 2013 and 2016. The documentary also received praise from the non resident Indians in the audience. On a different note, this screening event also took the form of a reunion. Some Australians who had come to see the film have a deep emotional connect with the Calcutta Tramways. One such person is Mick Douglas who in 1997, decorated the Tramjatra tram with Roberto in Belgatchia Depot. In 2005 he designed the "fusfus bondhu [friend of lungs]" T-shirt to promote that year's Tramjatra. He also edited the book 'Tramajatra' published in the same year. Craig Allen, who accompanied Roberto for the "Poribeshbondhu [Friend of the Environment]" Tramjatra in 2012; Malcolm Just whose tram poetry was translated in Bengali for use in the Tramjatras of 1996 and 1997; Andy Miller, who was in Calcutta for the 2001 "Bachcha (Children)" Tramjatra. The association doesn't end here. Roberto and Mahadev are decorating a Melbourne tram with Bashra Hassan. The appropriately named 'Tramjatra' tram (see design above) will begin its journey from October 5 in central Melbourne and move around the city for the next six months. Mahadeb has also been busy capturing the different details and intricacies of Melbourne's tram transportation system in his video camera. He has visited the tram museum and super stops for this purpose. He hopes the Melbourne model can help rejenuvate the tramways of Calcutta". Roberto

2017 Tramjatra Documentary Indian Film Festival Melbourne

2017 Tramjatra Documentary Indian Film Festival Melbourne

Posted Wed 2/8/17 by Roberto D'Andrea

TRAMJATRA DOCUMENTARY - INDIAN FILM FESTIVAL MELBOURNE - WORLD PREMIER

Tuesday, August 22, 07.30PM | HOYTS Melbourne Central. Closing Night. 2017 is a big year for Tramjatra in Melbourne. First up we have the screening of the Tramjatra Documentary directed by long time Tramjatran Mahadeb Shi. Tramjatra details the unexpected and incredible relationship struck between Melbournian tram conductor Roberto D’Andrea and the CTC Trammie community of Kolkata, India. When India’s Minister of Transport deems Kolkata’s tram lines to be obsolete, D’Andrea finds himself unexpectedly thrust into advocacy - not just for old tram lines, but for a people’s history, culture, and art. Much loved Roberto will be in attendance with director Mahadeb Shi to present the film. Director Mahadeb Shi. Cast Roberto D'Andrea, Mick Douglas, Dr Debasish Bhattacharya, Jayanta Basu, Craig Allen, Kolkata Tramway Workers, Whole 9 Yards, the Tram-loving Citizens of Kolkata and a cast of thousands.

Short Synopsis / Logline: A group of artists, activists, tramways workers and enthusiasts have departed Melbourne and Kolkata to be aboard a ‘tramjatra’ since 1996. Roberto D’Andrea, a retired Melbourne conductor - driver who is still connie-ing, is one of the central characters who has fallen in love with Kolkata, its people and tramways. The film takes a metaphoric journey and explores how new linkages can be made through a public arts practice and inter-cultural collaboration. The film celebrates 20 years of tramways friendship between Kolkata and Melbourne through a unique journey called ‘tramjatra’.

LONG SYNOPSIS: Kolkata and Melbourne are two very different cities from different hemispheres that are connected by rare surviving tramways and British colonial influences. From the early 1990's, Kolkata started loosing parts of their much-loved tramways before a filmmaker, trammies and gunzels started the fight against any further closures. Melbourne has a confident tramways and had an eccentric tribe of ticket selling tram conductors affectionately called 'Connies'. In the 1990's, against public sentiment, Melbourne's Connies were replaced by automated ticket machines and Roberto was active trying to save the Connies from extinction. As it's often said crisis brings people together and that is exactly what happened between Melbourne and Kolkata! Roberto the Melbourne connie says; “I introduced myself with a bit of tram theatre and got hijacked by a group of Calcutta trammies.”
 
Roberto was a Melbourne tram conductor and driver when he visited Kolkata (used to be known as Calcutta) for the first time in 1994. He fell in love with the city, its people and tramways. His new trammie friends from the Belgatchia Tram Depot told him that their tramways was under threat of full closure. At the same time another pro tram activist, Calcutta based scientist Dr. Debasish Bhattacharrya, was writing Save Our Tramways letters to pro-public transport organisations around the world. Roberto extended his support to Calcutta trammies in solidarity and joined them in the fight to save their trams. A new friendship was born between the tramways of Melbourne and Calcutta.
 
Roberto came back home and met Michael Douglas, a designer professor from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. Michael was working on an arts project- “Tramtactics”, which was exploring Melbourne's tramways; Mick came across the Save our Tramways letter that Debasish had written to the Public Transport Users Association in Victoria. Since then Roberto and Michael have helped organise a uniquely inter-cultural arts project called ‘Tramjatra”. In Bengali to ‘Jatra’ is to journey. The journey can be physical or a journey of the heart. The Melbourne Kolkata Tramways Friendship has brought together artists and the tramway loving communities of Melbourne and Kolkata. Together they have made several ‘tramjatras' and have decorated trams in both cities. Tramjatra explores the idea that an urban transport system is not simply a mechanical means of ferrying its citizens, it's also a environmentally friendly people mixer, a means of urban bonding and active ingredient in the cultural life of our communities. Roberto was last in Kolkata for the 20th anniversary of Tramjatra in December 2016. The film celebrates 20 years of tramways friendship.

1996 to 2016 Kolkata 20th anniversary Tramjatra short film promo

1996 to 2016 Kolkata 20th anniversary Tramjatra short film promo

Posted Wed 31/5/17 by Roberto D'Andrea

Tramjatra's film maker Mahadeb Shi has edited a fresh a short 4.20 promo which includes for the first time footage from the 20th anniversary Tramjatra in Kolkata - India in December 2016.
Melbourne - Australia and Kolkata - India are 2 of the rare surviving tramways of continuous use outside of Europe. Since 1994, a group of artists, activists, tramway workers and enthusiasts have departed Melbourne and Kolkata on a ‘Tramjatra’. Roberto D’Andrea, a retired Melbourne conductor - driver who is still connie-ing, is one of the central characters who has fallen in love with Kolkata, its people and tramways. The film takes a metaphoric journey and explores how we became connected in friendship through the shared artistic tradition of 'decorating and performing on trams'. The film celebrates 20 years of tramways friendship between Kolkata and Melbourne. Tramjatra is a journey and friendship that connects people, our cities and the natural world with tramway tradition.
 
Kolkata and Melbourne are two very different cities from different hemispheres that are connected by rare surviving tramways and British colonial influences. From the early 1990's, Kolkata started loosing parts of their much-loved tramways before a filmmaker, trammies and gunzels started the fight against any further closures. Melbourne has a confident tramways and had an eccentric tribe of ticket selling tram conductors  affectionately called 'Connies'. In the 1990's, against public sentiment, Melbourne's  Connies were replaced by automated ticket machines and Roberto was active trying to save the Connies from extinction. As it's often said crisis brings people together and that is exactly what happened between Melbourne and Kolkata! Roberto the Melbourne connie says; “I introduced myself with a bit of tram theatre and got hijacked by a group of Calcutta trammies.”
 
Roberto was a Melbourne tram conductor and driver when he visited Calcutta for the first time in 1994. He fell in love with the city, its people and tramways. His new trammie friends from the Belgatchia Tram Depot told him that their tramways was under threat of full closure while Dr Debasish Bhattacharrya was writing Save Our Tramways letters to pro-public transport organisations around the world. Since then he has helped organise a uniquely inter-cultural arts project called ‘Tramjatra”. In Bengali to ‘Jatra’ is to journey. The journey can be physical or a journey of the heart. The Melbourne Kolkata Tramways Friendship has brought together artists and the tramway loving communities of Melbourne and Kolkata. Together we jatra and journey through the medium of tramways. We decorate trams in both cities and explore the idea that an urban transport system is not simply a mechanical means of ferrying its citizens, it's also a environmentally friendly people mixer, a means of urban bonding and active ingredient in the cultural life of our communities. Roberto was last in Kolkata for the 20th anniversary of Tramjatra in December 2016. The film celebrates 20 years of tramways friendship.
 

2016 Tramjatra 20th anniversary - Storming Kolkata by Tram - tram theatre by Whole 9 Yards

2016 Tramjatra 20th anniversary - Storming Kolkata by Tram - tram theatre by Whole 9 Yards

Posted Wed 31/5/17 by Roberto D'Andrea

For the 20th anniversary Tramjatra we wanted to share another piece of Melbourne's artistic tram history and celebrate tram theatre. Enter Storming Kolkata by Tram! Inspired by 2 Melbourne Tram plays called Storming Mont Albert and Storming St Kilda by Tram from the 1980's and early 90's. I saw both these plays in Melbourne and loved them both. A tram-street play on the environmental benefits of tramways to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Tramjatra between Kolkata and Melbourne. Written and Directed by Abhrajit Sen for the 20th anniversary of Tramjatra. Cast : Sayantan Banerjee, Soumyajit Dey, Suhotra Mukhopadhyay, Tanika Basu, Monomita Chaudhury, Prosun Saha and Meghatithi Banerjee. Abhrajit's writing notes say that the play will be colloquial, modern, contemporary and funny. Humour is essential to keep the audience entertained while we psychologically enter the mind of the spectators. Thunderous energy from actors and musicians. The Storming Kolkata by Tram play travelled on board the 20th anniversary tram and spontaneously broke out into song. Connie Roberto joined in and the play was performed at terminuses, goomptys and depots across Kolkata. Tramjatra loves tram tradition so for the 20th anniversary Tramjatra we wanted to prepare a tram play that had links to two great Melbourne tram plays called Storming Mont Albert and Storming St Kilda by Tram. Before heading to Kolkata in mid 2016, Mahadeb Shi and I talked about a producing a play we would like to call "Storming Kolkata by Tram". We wanted performers to be 'embedded passengers' just like the Storming Mont Albert and St Kilda by Tram plays. Mahadeb engaged a Kolkata performance troupe called Whole 9 Yards who are a lovely young and enthusiastic performance troupe. The play was based on Mahadeb's 20th anniversary short film which had screened at the 2016 Kolkata International Film Festival. A street play on the environmental benefits of tramways celebrating the 20th anniversary of Tramjatra and the friendship between Kolkata and melbourne. Here's some pics from the rehersal phase at the Nonapukur Tram Workshops. So while the tram was being painted and decorated.

2016 Tramjatra - 20th anniversary performance tram conducting - connie-ing Kolkata

2016 Tramjatra - 20th anniversary performance tram conducting - connie-ing Kolkata

Posted Wed 31/5/17 by Roberto D'Andrea

20th anniversary connie-ing and tram conducting Kolkata. Images of Tramjatra's Roberto D'Andrea conducting Kolkata with a new series of pro-tram tramcards, freindship tickets and a series of native animal flora and species cards to link trams to a healthy environment and clean air. 20th anniversary Tramjatra had Whole 9 Yards performing the "Storming Kolkata by Tram" play and Roberto as a performing connie. A 20th anniversary exhibition was mounted inside the the decorated tram in the advertising racks. We tracked Kolkata on all routes except B.B. Ganguly Street which is closed to trams. Roberto reflecting on 20 years of tramways friendship : Tramjatra "zindabhad zindabhad". Kolkata I've fallen into your loving arms, been magnetised by your friendship and enjoyed riding with you on your rare surviving tramcars. We've celebrated rare surviving tram tradition and decorated many a tramcar together. From Belgatchia to Brunswick, Ballygunge to Box Hill, Shambazzar to St Kilda Beach and Richmond to Rajabazzar I've loved being with you. You've harboured a critically endangered Melbourne tram conductor, given the keys to the city and allowed me to connie amongst you dressed in "toopi", tram shirt, shorts and long socks. A privilege of the highest order and how we laugh together when I try speaking in Australian accented Bengali!! I hope the collaboration and friendship helps to clear the air and give you back some blue sky. After all it's the shared love of trams, people and a healthy environment that has magnetised tramjatrans from Melbourne to join you on many a jatra. In 2016, as a part of the 20th anniversary tramjatra, Mahadeb and I started passing the Tramjatra batton onto a new and younger generation as we're getting grey and a little 'long in the tooth'. So before the final handover I reckon I've got one more tramjatra left in me, especially if we achieve what would be the greatest tramjatra tribute to the many years we've been mates by swapping trams. Yes indeed, A Melbourne Tram in Kolkata and a Kolkata Tram in Melbourne. A nice gift from Melbourne on our 25th birthday? Thanks Kolkata. Dhandabhad and Zindabhad!

2016 Kolkata 20th Anniversary Tramjatra media - Bengali Newspapers

2016 Kolkata 20th Anniversary Tramjatra media - Bengali Newspapers

Posted Fri 26/5/17 by Roberto D'Andrea

Media coverage from the launch of the 20th anniversary Tramjatra in the Esplanade on Saturday December 10. This time mostly in the Bengali language press. Covered extensively by the El Samaj (Times of India Bengali edition). Translations to follow

2016 Kolkata India 20th Anniversary Tramjatra launch / Saturday December 10

2016 Kolkata India 20th Anniversary Tramjatra launch / Saturday December 10

Posted Fri 26/5/17 by Roberto D'Andrea

20th Anniversary Tramjatra launch on Saturday December 10. Tramjatra launches are colourful affairs with the Tramjatra tram tracking into the central Kolata early to have garlands of flowers placed inside and out. A stage is set up and chairs for the audience. The media comes along for the ride and this time around we have Whole 9 Yards set to perform Storming Kolkata by Tram. This time around for the 20th anniversary Tramjatra we've had a screening of the Tramjatra short doco in the Kolkata International Film Festival in November 2016. Here's a few pics from the launch which was held in central Kolkata in the Esplanade precinct near the CTCs Fleet Operation headquarters.

20th Anniversary Tramjatra “Storming Kolkata by Tram” Nonapukur Rehersals by Whole 9 Yards

20th Anniversary Tramjatra “Storming Kolkata by Tram” Nonapukur Rehersals by Whole 9 Yards

Posted Wed 24/5/17 by Roberto D'Andrea

Tramjatra loves tram tradition so for the 20th anniversary Tramjatra we wanted to prepare a tram play that had links to two great Melbourne tram plays called Storming Mont Albert and Storming St Kilda by Tram. Before heading to Kolkata in mid 2016, Mahadeb Shi and I talked about a producing a play we would like to call "Storming Kolkata by Tram". We wanted performers to be 'embedded passengers' just like the Storming Mont Albert and St Kilda by Tram plays. Mahadeb engaged a Kolkata performance troupe called Whole 9 Yards who are a lovely young and enthusiastic performance troupe. The play was based on Mahadeb's 20th anniversary short film which had screened at the 2016 Kolkata International Film Festival. A street play on the environmental benefits of tramways celebrating the 20th anniversary of Tramjatra and the friendship between Kolkata and melbourne. Here's some pics from the rehersal phase at the Nonapukur Tram Workshops. So while the tram was being painted and decorated. Written and Directed by Abhrajit Sen.

20th Anniversary Tramjatra Tram decoration at the Nonapukur Workshops Kolkata

20th Anniversary Tramjatra Tram decoration at the Nonapukur Workshops Kolkata

Posted Wed 24/5/17 by Roberto D'Andrea

This post covers the decoration of the 20th anniversary Tramjatra tram at the Nonapukur Tram Workshops. It's the first week in December 2016 and Tramjatra for the first time in it's history has kept a active and up to date social media presence via facebook. To our surprise thanks to Craig Pico Allen who was here as a Connie in 2012 and Souroshanka Maji we connect with many tram enthusiasts, artists and tram activists. The 20th anniversary tram has Nonapukur Workshops staff like artist-trammie Ujjal Dhar joined by artists Priyanka and Bipro and enthusiats like Souroshanka, Anurag and Raunak designing and painting the tram. The design is inspired by Bushra and Roberto's art and has a mix of past designs to celebrate 20 years of tramways friendship. It's in effect out greatest hits tram. We had around 20 different people painting the tram.

20th Anniversary Tramjatra - decorating CTC - WBTC tram 247 at the Nonapukur Workshops

20th Anniversary Tramjatra - decorating CTC - WBTC tram 247 at the Nonapukur Workshops

Posted Wed 17/5/17 by Roberto D'Andrea

In traditional fashion after arriving in Kolkata for a new Melbourne - Kolkata Tramjatra we head to the  head office of the Calcutta Tramways Company (CTC) at their in central Kolkata near BBD Bagh. Mahadeb is due to arrive tommorrow so I head in to meet with Shri Nilanjan Sandilya, Managing Director of the CTC which has joined with the government run buses and is now called the West Bengal Transport Corporation (WBTC). Presenting what we'd like to do for the 20th anniversary Tramjatra through December and updates on what is happening with trams in Melbourne, Super Stops, Preston Workshops expansion and the local building of E Class Trams in Dandenong. After long discussions with a couple of servings of sweet Chai tea it's time to head to the Nonapukur Workshops to meet Works Manager Mr Ghosh and our long time tramjatra friend and head of operations Mr Rama Pada Chatterjee. We select Park Circus Tram 247 and asap will start decorating the tram at the Nonapukur Tram Workshops. 

Mr Sandilya is now the Joint Managing Director and head of the Tram Division. Love going to the CTC Head Offices in it's original central city location and reminds me of when Melbourne's Trams were run by the Melbourne and Metropolitamn Tramways Board with it's headquarters in a art deco buildinmg at 616 Little Collins Street. 

For the 1st time this Tramjatra has a social media presence via facebook I'm quite amazed how quickly the news of a 20th anniversary tramjatra spreads amongst Kolkata's tram enthusiasts. So we invite everyone to the Nonapukur Workshops to help decorate the tram 247. Men and women artists and enthusiasts like Souroshanka Maji, Anurag Mitra, Priyanaka, Bipro, Ashis Mitra, Udit Gupta, Himanshu Dutta and many others join with legendary Tramjatra artist Ujjal Dhar to start decorating tram 247 with Mahadeb and I.

20th Anniversary Tramjatra December 2016

20th Anniversary Tramjatra December 2016

Posted Tue 9/5/17 by Roberto D'Andrea

Friday December 2 - 2016 : Great to be back in West Bengal and Kolkata for the 20th anniversary of Tramjatra which started out in 1996 as the Melbourne Calcutta Tramways Friendship. The 1st decorated tram was Belgatchia tram 349. Back then Belgatchia Depot had a depot to depot relationship with South Melbourne Depot. This will be the 12th tram decorated in Kolkata while it's 5 in Melbourne. We've been given a warm welcome back at the WBTC (formerley CTC head office) by Joint MD Shri Nilanjan Sandilya and many a trammie friend. Staying this time around at Mahadeb's in south Kolkata not far from the Tollygunge Tram Depot. 3 days in Kolkata and the tramjatra ball is well and truely rolling. 1st up the traditional name of the Calcutta Tramways Company (CTC) has changed to the West Bengal Transport Corporation (WBTC). Mahadeb and I have selected Tram 247 which is a Park Circus Tram. The 20th anniversary Tramjatra will this year be staged out of Gariahat Depot with tram decoration at the Nonapukur Workshops as we've done in 2012 (Paribeshbandhu) and 2013 (Gitanjali)

2016 Tramjatra 20th anniversary - Mahadeb Shi Short Film - Tramways Friendship Kolkata & Melbourne

2016 Tramjatra 20th anniversary - Mahadeb Shi Short Film - Tramways Friendship Kolkata & Melbourne

Posted Sun 8/12/13 by Roberto D'Andrea

Tramjatra celebrates the distinctive tram-way cultures of Melbourne (Australia) and Kolkata (India) through collaborations between tram companies, trammies and their tram-loving communities. Trammies, artists and tram passengers have decorated the interior and exterior of many trams in both cities. Starting in Calcutta-1996 (Melbourne-Calcutta Tramways Friendship), Melbourne Feb-1997 (Bondhu Tram), Calcutta-1997 (Calbourne), Melbourne-2000 (Moomba), Kolkata-2001 (Tramjatra, Sundari, Cricket, Childrens Trams, Moomba), Melbourne-2001, Melbourne-2002 (Moomba), Kolkata-2005 (Tramjatra Book Launch), Kolkata-2012 (Paribeshbandhu Tramjatra) and Kolkata-2013 (Gitanjali Tramjatra).

"The Mother Earth - Clean Air - Free Flowing Trams". Trams being good for a clean environment by lowering air pollution and congestion are central to the Tramjatra script.

In 2016 we celebrate our 20th anniversary of tramjatra friendship.

Melbourne and Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) are two of the rare surviving tramway systems of continuous operation outside of Europe. Both cities have an enduring love for trams and have fought against anti tram forces that dismantled and destroyed many of the world's tramways through the 1950s and 60s.

The tramjatras have featured performing tram conductors. Photographic exhibitions inside the decoarated trams explore the cultures of both cities and countries. Tram conductors and connies are exhibition guides, moving through decorated trams yarning and giving away collectable tickets and cards. Through their yarning, singing and storytelling traditions connies have been a bridge between the two cities, celebrating the similarities and differences of two of the world's great tramways.

Tramjatra Filmmaker Mahadeb Shi touring Melbourne Tram Museum - filming trams

Tramjatra Filmmaker Mahadeb Shi touring Melbourne Tram Museum - filming trams

Posted Sat 9/2/19 by Roberto D'Andrea

While Tramjatra's Documentary filmmaker Mahadeb Shi was in Melbourne for the Indian Film Festival screening of the Tramjatra documentary on August 22 on closing night, we took the opportunity to study and film Melbourne's Trams and visited the Melbourne Tram Museum. Mahadeb has documented Melbourne's tram infrastructure with a special focus on Tram Super Stops. Mahadeb will compile a short educational video on Melbourne's Tramways to show trammies and senior management of the WBTC in Kolkata to encourage....

1 - To preserve, protect and display in a tram museum the history of Kolkata's Tramways and tramcars like the Hati Gari (elephant) and round ended Bombay trams.

2 - To show tramcar modernisation and the function of a high frequency modern and low floor tramcar system.

20th Anniversary Tramjatra Tram decoration at the Nonapukur Workshops

20th Anniversary Tramjatra Tram decoration at the Nonapukur Workshops

Posted Mon 5/11/18 by Roberto D'Andrea

Decoration of tram 247 from the Nonapukur Workshops. For the first time in Tramjatra's history we kept a active social media presence via facebook. Well what a surprise to find that we soon had many of Kolkata's young tram enthusiasts making contact with us. Thanks to Craig Allen and Souroshanka's expetise we connected with many and invited them to join us painting and decorating the Tramjatra Tram. Priyanka was the principal artist with Bipro by her side and joined by many like long term Tramjatra artist Ujjal Dhar. The design was based on artwork Bushra Hasan and I had prepared in Melbourne and had representative artwork from the previous 11 Tramjatra Trams spanning 1996 - 2013.

2016 Kolkata Tramjatra - Kolkata International Film Festival - Tramjatra Festival

2016 Kolkata Tramjatra - Kolkata International Film Festival - Tramjatra Festival

Posted Mon 7/11/16 by Roberto D'Andrea

October 2016 Update : Tramjatra short doco directed by Mahadeb Shi has been selected for the Kolkata International Film Festival (KFF) in the documentary film section. The film festival runs between Friday November 11 and Friday November 18. The Tramjatra festival in Kolkata begins on Friday December 9. The screening of the Tramjatra Short documentary is excellent news in the lead up to the 20th anniversary celebrations in December. The film celebrates 20 years of tramways friendship and the distinctive tram-way cultures of Melbourne (Australia) and Kolkata (India). Mahadeb has has filmed and documented Tramjatra and has made a fast moving 10 plus minute doco which takes us back to when it all started in 1994. He has been a Tramjatran since the first Melbourne Calcutta friendship tram was decorated at Belgatchia Depot way back in October 1996. Mahadeb directed and produced the 1994 film Kather Baxo which featured footage of end of era trams on Howrah Bridge and around Howrah Station. Mahadeb organised the 2013 Gitanjali Tramjatra which celebrated the 100th anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore reciving the Nobel Prize for Literature for his book Gitanjali. Love People Love Nature Love Trams was the theme for this tramjatra. Mahadeb is one of 5 original Tramjatrans with Dr Debasish Bhattacharya, Jayanta Basu, Mick Douglas and Roberto D'Andrea. Mahadeb came to Melbourne for the 2001 Tramjatra. He is a port graduate in cinema from the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune, specialising in editing. in both film and video media (1985). Over two and a half decades since then he has been working as a director, scriptwriter and editor in both film and video media. He has directed more than 10 documentaries including Kather Baxo (Wooden Box), a personal documentary on Kolkata's Tramways that explores the relationship between the city and its tramcars. His most notable film "Eleven Miles", which won the Joris Iven award at the Cinema Du Rell at Paris in 1990 and was then broadcast on Channel 4 in the U.K. He has edited 25 feature films, 20 feature length documentaries and several television programmes. Many of these films have screened at international festivals and have won awards.

2016 Tramjatra 20th Anniversary - Tramjatra and Multicultural Arts Victoria : Bushra Hasan Indi Bind

2016 Tramjatra 20th Anniversary - Tramjatra and Multicultural Arts Victoria : Bushra Hasan Indi Bind

Posted Fri 2/9/16 by Roberto D'Andrea

20th ANNIVERSARY TRAM DESIGN. Bushra Hasan - Indi Bindi

Tramjatra and Multicultural Arts Victoria. General Manager of Multicultural Arts Victoria and Tramjatran Andy Miller, has introduced Bushra Hasan from Indi Bindi and together we have come up with a Tramjatra design that has been given the thumbs up by the Calcutta Tramways Company (CTC). This will be the template design for the 20th anniversary Tramjatra Tram in Kolkata late in 2016.  After the Kolkata 20th anniversary tramjatra we will apply to decorate a Melbourne Tram on our 21st birthday in 2017.

DESIGN GUIDE....LEFT COMPARTMENT (Starting from left window)

1st window 1996. Features the friendship banner which was displayed on all 4 CTC Trams.

2nd window is Calbourne Durga Tram from 1997.

3rd window is Ujjal Dhars artwork overviewing the four 2001 Trams. (Tramjatra, Sundari, Cricket and Baccha)

4th window is Andy Miller - Ujjal Dhar - Barun Gayen Baccha tram from 2001

5th window is Michael Douglas beautiful Shared Lung - Fus Fus Bondhu 2005

Australian and Indian birds side by side from the Paribeshbandhu Tram 2012 

(Ujjal - Dilip - Craig Allen and Nonapukur Trammie art with Orange-bellied Parrot and Great Indian Hornbill both endangered - River Kingfisher from India and Kookaburra Kingfisher from Australia)

Copy of Tramjatra Tram Ticket - In Bengali says "Melbourne Trams - Calcutta Trams - Beautiful Trams"

RIGHT COMPARTMENT

Ist section devoted to Rabindranath Tagore symbolically calling for peace with DOVES and PEACE SYMBOL....

Underneath with the CTC designed SUNRISE from Sundari Tram. 

(CTC - Nonapukur design taken from Melbourne Tram book)

Tram symbols from both cities in last 2 windows.

Under Melbourne Tramways symbol is FLINDERS STREET STATION and symbolically linked to VICTORIA MEMORIAL by HOWRAH BRIDGE - under CTC symbol....theme is our shared colonial past.

2013 Gitanjali Tramjatra

2013 Gitanjali Tramjatra

Posted Thu 19/12/13 by Roberto D'Andrea

The Rabindranath Tagore Tramjatra is now complete. Five beautiful days on the tracks of the Calcutta Tramways Company (CTC) in our decorated Hati Gari 'elephant' tram we named Gitanjali, after Rabindranath Tagore's famous book that won him the Nobel Prize for Literature 100 years ago. The Hati Gari tram 498 was built in the early 1940s at the Nonapukur Tram Workshops and is a wooden bodied tram that was common in Rabindranath's Kolkata of the late 1930s and into the 40s..

Mahadeb Shi our long time Tramjatra friend did the curatorial job on Gitanjali organising the trams decoration and Tagore inspired performers. Polash has been a 'fly on the wall' and on tram performer and The Calcutta Tramways Company a wonderful host and friend across the many months it's taken to prepare Gitanjali. Craig Allen who performed as a Connie with me on the Paribesh Bandhu Tram in December 2012 has done all the Tramjatra website from Melbourne. Long time tramjatran Sanjay Mitra was along for the ride.

With plenty of print and television media coverage many Kolkatans came looking for Gitanjali to take a ride and enjoy some of the on tram entertainment. Gitanjali was full to sometimes overflowing for most journeys as we were a service tram picking up passengers. One of our tram conductors from Belgatchia Depot, Arun Bannerjee, told me he'd collected over 1500 rupees in half a days Connie-ing. Good to know we were a money earner for the CTC. My favourite Tagore inspired entertainment was the Sukchar Pancham Repertory Theatre who added colour and movement to the 2nd cabin combining Tagore songs with drama. The troupe was huge with 12 plus women and men and a couple of kids learning the performance craft, just like one sees with Australian Indigenous folk who often perform with young and old. Students from the Rabindranath Bharati University also a treat. Polash and his Kolkata guitar joined with both troupes and it was nice to see Polash in the middle of the action.

As mentioned previously I was the link to Rabindranath's love of nature and wish that people live in harmony with the natural world.

After welcoming people to Gitanjali and encouraging passengers to view the exhibition which followed Tagore's travel years I'd yarn and give away a series of collectable cards. Rabindranath was always the 1st followed by the Paribesh and Sundari tram cards to highlight the tramjatra friendship between Melbourne and Kolkata that now spans 20 years. The Rabindranath card talks of Tagore's birthplace, Nobel Prize and his extensive travels promoting peace and harmony between people's of different race and background. The series of Indian and Australian native animal yarns and cards is symbolic of our tramway friendship and flows on nicely from last years Paribesh Tramjatra with Connie Craig Allen.

In effect I was the Santiniketan and Sri Nicketan Connie using a mix of Bengali and English. Passengers collected upwards of 12 cards each with adults and children equally keen. Animals from both countries that featured where the endangered Bengal Tiger (Sundarbans), the Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby (chota Kangaroo), Great Indian Hornbill (Indian Paki), the Chital Deer which I named the Santiniketan card after the Tagore inspired forest planted for deer, Langur monkey who also doubles up as the Hindu god Hanuman, and an endangered fresh water Ganges River Crocodile called the Gharial (Indian Kumi) The other Australian natives where the Rainbow Lorikeets (Australian Paki), Common Brown Butterfly (Australian Proja Putti), Eastern Water Dragon (jul Girgiti), Leaf Green Tree Frog (Australian Cutch Bang) and the Weedy Seadragon (Australian Charra Puna).

Kolkata's tram enthusiasts were on board each day and took lots of photos. They were happy to be called Gunzels using the Melbourne tram enthusiast term and one fellah filmed the tram journey from the drivers cabin from Esplanade to Tollygunge. On Sunday the 15th we hosted the environment groups who joined us at Kalighat Depot. Great mix and a privelage to have some legendary Environmentalists with us for the ride to Esplanade. I addressed a meeting inside Gitanjali at Kalighat Depot and they got a nice surprise being yarned Indian and Australian flora and fauna by a Melbourne Tram Conductor. We'll meet again before I depart as there's a possibility of doing a Sundarbans Tram as a part of a Tiger Festival sometime next year.

Kolkata is a melting pot of many people just like Melbourne. For many it's a struggle to make a living. There's also a huge middle class and all come together on trams just like we do in Melbourne. Thanks Kolkata, I've never felt threatened wearing shorts and long socks in Melbourne Connies uniform in any of the 16 trams we've decorated together over the years and it's fitting that the 16th tram was devoted to one of the greatest Bengali's, Rabindranath Tagore.

Off to meet Sri Nilanjan Sandilya, the Managing Director of the Calcutta Tramways Company to once again thank him before returning to Australia. A tram trip along College Street coming up and finally we hope to bring Rabindranath to Australia in 2014 on a tram.
 

2013 Reflections on two decades of Melbourne-Kolkata Tramjatras

2013 Reflections on two decades of Melbourne-Kolkata Tramjatras

Posted Thu 19/12/13 by Roberto D'Andrea

Kolkata and Melbourne are 2 of the few surviving tramway systems outside of Europe. Both cities have a love for trams and kept trams running against the trend of the 1960s to abandon trams. In India trams once plyed the streets of New Dehli, Mumbai, Kanpur and Chennai. In Australia Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth once had extensive tram systems.

Around the world there has now been a tram renaissance to combat urban air pollution and traffic congestion. Cities in France, England, Canada, Brazil, Turkey, Tunisia, the United States and others have rebuilt, or are currently building tramways often called light rail. So Melbourne and Kolkata made the correct decision to retain trams many years ago.

The seventh Tramjatra

This is my 7th visit to Kolkata since 1994 and all visits have had trams and the Calcutta Tramways Company (CTC) central to the script. With many and varied transport modes from human drawn Ricksaws to a well run underground Metro, there's room for trams in Kolkata's transport mix. The CTC was nearly closed in the early 1990s. On my 1st visit to Belgatchia Depot in 94 the trammies said there was not much time left. I was glad this changed after local and international pressure and by the time I'd returned to Calcutta in 1996 with a travelling tram show there was more hope that trams would have a future in this congested and air polluted metropolis.

Cause for optimism

There has been some good work done in recent years and cause for optimism. The Nonapukur Tram Workshops have skilled engineers and tradesman and in the last few years have built more than 25 modern fibreglass trams with high capacity seating.

Catching Calcutta trams in the 1990s and early 2000s was a bumpy affair with tram tracks having many broken rail joints. Crunch crunch was the often heard and felt sound as the metal wheel navigated an uneven and windy monsoon worn track.

I was pleasantly surprised, when here for the 2012 Paribesh Bandhu Tramjatra, and once again this year to rexpreience CTC trams running on new track – still noisy, but faster, smooth running and with far fewer derailments. With improvements throughout much of the CTC network, I'm happy to see a big increase in patronage in North Kolkata along College St and Bidhan Sarani from Esplanade to Shambazzar.

Sadly the opposite is the case on the wide roads like APC and AJC Bose Roads. Tram stops where people can safely catch and board a tram are urgently required.

Reserving the tracks and keeping other vechicles from using tram track on wide roads like RP Mukerjee Road to Tollygunge will speed up trams and increase reliability. Increasing timetable frequency is also needed so passengers don't wait long periods of time to catch trams. Ideally a tram every 10 minutes on popular routes would be a good start. Tram track renewal is still needed in the Maidan, Sealdah Flyover and other sections of the CTC network along Elliot Road from Nonapukur Workshops to Wellington.

Tram lines open and close

A most welcome return is the opening of the No 29 Tollugunge to Esplanade tram route via Kalighat, Hazra, Alipore and Kidderpore in south Kolkata. Had some wonderful Tramjatra journeys in the south most notably with the much loved Uscha Uttup singing on the Sundari tram in 2001. I look forward to Rash Behari Avenue opening and once again seeing trams in the Ballygunge Goompty. This is a vital link between the Metro and Ballygunge Rail Station.

A tram museum!

I believe Kolkata needs a tram museum so visitors are given the opportunity to see the history of Calcutta's trams. An audit is urgently required so the CTC can preserve the last of the British Wooden Bodied trams and beautifully built Hati Gari trams. Rabindranath Tagore's tribute tram, Gitangali was a Hati Gari tram number 498 built in the early 1940s at Nonapukur. I'm confident that tram enthusiasts like myself would come to Kolkata to see a display of CTC trams in one of the worlds great cities. Kalighat Tram Depot would make a great Tram Museum located near Kalighat Metro stop and Kali Temple.

I wish the CTC and Kolkata all the best for a shared future where trams are an important part of the transport mix.

Kind regards
Roberto 
– Melbourne-Kolkata Tramjatra

Tramjatra 2013: Day 4

Tramjatra 2013: Day 4

Posted Sat 14/12/13 by Roberto D'Andrea

It's been a rippa wild ride as a Connie once again in Kolkata. The Gitanjali tram launch was held in the Esplanade.

On Wednesday December 11. The tribute tram to Rabindranath Tagore we've named Gitanjali, after a book Rabindranath produced that won him the Nobel Prize for Literature 100 years ago was decorated on the spot in garlands of flowers. Love this tradition and the tram has some beautiful floral perfumes wafting through the tram. Shri Das Gupta a learned scholar on Tagore launched the Gitanjali tram together with CTC Managing Director Mr Nilanjan Sandilya, Jayanta Basu and Melbourne Connie Roberto doing the speeches.

Gitanjali is touring from north to south Kolkata each day and is stationed at South Melbourne's sister depot from the 1990s 'Belgatchia'. Mahadeb Shi our long term 'tramjatra' friend and filmmaker has largely organised Gitanjali's design and some Tagore inspired entertainment as the tram tours. I'm on board from start to finish as a Melbourne 'Mela' Conductor. It's been a wonderful journey and busy!!. Enjoy seeing local Kolkatans smiling and having a giggle when a Connie welcomes them on board Gitanjali with a mixture of Australian English and Bengali. It's my speaking street learnt Bengali they love. I can explain how long I'm in Kolkata (char saptaho) – where the tram plying from Belgatchia to Shambazzar along Bidhan Sarani and College street to Bowbazzar, right into B B Ganguly Street to Lalbazzar and Dalhousie BBD Bagh – then onto the Esplanade via central Calcutta past the British Colonial Governors House. From there we head to Kidderpore along the scenic parkland Maidan tramlines, Kidderpore to Alipore, Hazra, Kalighat, Rabindranath Sarobar and to the Tollygunge Tram Depot terminus called a Goompty. 

I'm tram conducting with my Calcutta Tram Company (CTC) trammies friends. Our crew on day 1 is pictured with the blue capped Jamadah as our driver and our 2 CTC Conductors by his side. 

In usual Tramjatra fashion we'll be a service tram taking all passengers but will be able to run outside the normal timetable and stop for periods of time while Tagore performers set up. In effect we're an extra wild card 'Mela' (festival) tram. 

It's Saturday morning in Kolkata and day 4 for this Tagore Tramjatra. My role as a Connie is to take people to Santiniketan and Rabindranath's love of nature. In Australia Tagore would be a Landcare beacon. Part of what he inspired others to do is love nature. He was a tree planter and bush regenerator of a grand scale and when Polash, Mahadeb and I were in Shantiniketan a few weeks ago I took time to go to the replanted Deer Forest near the Baul Camp – beautiful and wild with substantial local trees and a good sized canopy. With my background of planting many a tree, shrub and volcanic plains grasses at Wool Wool it's perfect for me to represent the nature loving side of Rabindranath – this also flows on from last years colourful Paribesh Bandu tram that Craig Pico Allen and I painted with Nonapukur trammies.

The Paribesh (Eco friendly) tram was adjourned with Indian and Australian flora and fauna – this years Connie performance is an evolution from last year. On cards as gifts to passengers are species like Bengal Tigers, Chital Deer, Brished-tailed Rock Wallabies, butterflies, frogs, crocodiles, lizards, colourful parrots and the Great Indian Hornbill – local passengers and CTC trammies are keen to collect and I can do most of my storytelling in Bengali.

Love the trammies, they look after me and the various tramjatras we've done over the years have meant we've got to know each other – trammie mates. There's also been a number of younger tram enthusiasts that are enjoying calling themselves Gunzels. Sanjay Mitra likewise is a close friend and is often riding on tramjatra trams with me. Many of the Melbourne Mela Conducting photos are taken by Sanjay – there's always a heap to say

Signing off as I need to get to Belgatchia to start Connie-ing on Gitanjali.
 

Tramjatra 2013 : Gitanjali Tramjatra Newspaper articles

Tramjatra 2013 : Gitanjali Tramjatra Newspaper articles

Posted Thu 12/12/13 by Roberto D'Andrea

TAGORE TAKES  TRAM TO MARK NOBEL CENTENARY

ARTICLE FROM THE TELEGRAPH NEWSPAPER - KOLKATA

Written by Jayanta Basu - Kolkata Tramjatra

"For it is a desperate age of hurry and hustle and the lyric muse has to take her journey to her tryst of hearts on trams and buses". Rabindranath Tagore

It is only fitting that the poets journey through life - including his receiving the Nobel 100 years ago - will be celebrated on a Calcutta Tram, appropriately christened Gitanjali. Calcutta-Melbourne Tramways Friendship Forum, in association with Calcutta Tramways Company and Australian based connies.com, is organising an exhibition on a tram of rare photographs tracing Tagore's journeys across the world. The exhibition, from Wednesday to Sunday has been designed by artists Hiran Mitra and Mahadeb Shi.

"When I came here last year, we decided that this year's tram festival will centre around an exhibition on Tagore. The decision was taken especially keeping in mind the centenary of the poet winning the Nobel", said Roberto D'Andrea, a Melbourne Tram Conductor-turned-green entrepreneur.

Melbourne is the only city other than Calcutta outside Europe where trams have never stopped trundling. Among those who have lent their support to the exhibition are Calcutta-based documentary film-maker Mahadeb Shi and Polash Larsen, Bengali-Australian cultural activist based in Australia.

Tram No 498 has been given a fresh coat and more than 50 black and white photographs of Tagore and his paintings have been put up on the inside and on the exterior of the tram. "The photographs have been mostly collected from Visva-Bharati and Rabindra Bharati University", said Shi. The exhibition was to be launched on December 10 - on this day in 1913 Tagore had received the Nobel - but has been deferred by a day because of the state mourning for Nelson Mandela.

From Wednesday to Sunday the tram will move between Belgachhia and Tollygunge, via Esplanade, twice daily. Anyone can take a ride and see the photographs and paintings," said Roberto, who will be on the tram wearing the conductor's uniform and carrying a bag full of mementoes.

Roberto's tryst with Calcutta - especially it's trams - began two decades ago when he first came to the city on a holiday and ended up at the Belgacchia Tram Depot. Around the same time a Calcuttan named Debasish Bhattacharya was tirelessly writing to tram crusaders all over the world, pleading with them to fight and defeat the Left Front's government's plan to scrap the trams. 

Roberto and his artist-activist friend Michael Douglas joined hands with Calcutta green activists to save the trams, and thus was born the friendship platform. The platform subsequently took upon itself to organise a theme-based tram ride almost every year to highlight the importance of the greenest mode of motorised public transport in the city. A similar ride is also organised in Melbourne.

"We are happy to help in the great cause. Rides on the special tram will be free", said Nilanjan Sandilya, the managing director of Calcutta Tramways Company. Poet Alok Ranjan Dasgupta and mayoral council member Debasish Kumar will open the festival.

ARTICLE FROM BUSINESS ECONOMICS INDIA MAGAZINE (January 15 - 2014)    

Written by Abhijit Ganguly - Gitanjali Tramjatra interview with Roberto D'Andrea

Kolkata and Melbourne have two rare surviving tramway systems outside of Europe. Both cities have a love for trams and kept trams running against the trend of the 1960s to abandon them.  In India, trams plied the streets of New Dehli, Mumbai, Kanpur and Chennai. In Australia, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth once had extensive tram systems. Around the world there has now been a tram renaissance to combat urban air pollution and traffic congestion. Cities in France, England, Canada, Brazil, Turkey, Tunisia, the United States and others have rebuilt, or are currently building tramways often called light rail. So Melbourne and Kolkata made the correct decision to retain trams many years ago. 

This is my seventh visit to Kolkata since 1994 and all visits have had trams and the Calcutta Tramways Company (CTC) central to the script. With many and varied transport modes from human drawn ricksaws to a well run underground Metro, there's room for trams in Kolkata's transport mix. The CTC was nearly closed in the early 1990s. On my first visit to Belgatchia Depot in 1994, I was told by local trammies that there was not much time left. I was glad this changed after local and international pressure and by the time I had returned to Calcutta in 1996 with a travelling tram show there was more hope that trams would have a future in this congested and air polluted metropolis. 

There has been some good work done and cause for optimism. the Nonapukur Tram Workshops has skilled engineers and tradesman and have built in the last few years more than 25 modern looking fibreglass trams with high capacity seating. Catching trams in Calcutta in the 1990s and early 2000s was a bumpy affair with tram tracks having many broken rail joints. Crunch crunch was the often heard and felt sound as the metal wheel navigated an uneven and windy monsoon worn track. 

To my pleasant surprise when I was here in 2012 for the Paribesh Bandhu Tramjatra, I found CTC trams on new track. They were still noisy but with smooth running and much less derailments and faster tram speed. With new tram track on much of the CTC network I have been happy to see a big increase in patronage in North Kolkata along College Street and Bidhan Sarani from Esplanade to Shambazzar. Sadly the opposite is the case on a wide roads like APC and AJC Bose Roads. Tram stops where people can safely catch and board a tram are urgently required. Reserving the tracks and keeping other vechicles from using track on wide roads like RP Mukerjee Road to Tollygunge will speed up trams and increase reliability. Increasing timetable frequency is also needed so passengers don't wait long periods of time to catch trams. Ideally a tram every 10 minutes on popular routes would be a good start. Tram track renewal is still needed in the Maidan, Sealdah Flyover and other sections of the CTC network along Elliot Road from Nonapukur Workshops to Wellington. Tram lines open and close in Kolkata. Had some wonderful Tramjatra journeys in the south most notably with the much loved Usha Uttup singing on the Sundari tram in 2001. I look forward to Rash Behari Avenue opening and once again seeing trams in the Ballygunge Goompty. This is a vital link between the Metro and Ballygunge Rail Station.

I believe Kolkata needs a tram museum so visitors are given the opportunity to see the history of Calcutta's trams. An audit is ungently required so the CTC can preserve the last of the British wooden bodied trams and beautifully built hati Gari trams. Rabindranath Tagore's tribute tram, Giatanjali is a hati Gari tram number 498 built in the early 1940s at Nonapukur. I am confident that tram enthusiasts would come to Kolkata to see a display of CTC trams in one fo the world's great cities. Kalighat Tram Depot would make a great Tram Museum located near Kalighat Metro and Kali Temple.

Calcutta Tramways Company - Trammies and Depots - Tram Street architecture - Travelling by Tram

Calcutta Tramways Company - Trammies and Depots - Tram Street architecture - Travelling by Tram

Posted Wed 11/12/13 by Polash Larsen

Roberto D'Andrea

One of the great joys of being a tramjatran in Kolkata has been the catching of many a Calcutta Tramways Company (CTC) tram for over 20 years. A small tramjatra camera travels in my tram conductors bag. This series of photos are pics of trams in December 2013 from a variety of tram locales. Sometimes we're inside a depot or the Nonapukur Workshops, with a Belgatchia Depot conductor or tram crew at Galiff Street. From Kidderpore to Tollygunge and Rajabazzar to Esplanade.....

ARTICLE FROM BUSINESS ECONOMICS INDIA MAGAZINE (January 15 - 2014)    

Written by Abhijit Ganguly - Gitanjali Tramjatra interview with Roberto D'Andrea

Kolkata and Melbourne have two rare surviving tramway systems outside of Europe. Both cities have a love for trams and kept trams running against the trend of the 1960s to abandon them.  In India, trams plied the streets of New Dehli, Mumbai, Kanpur and Chennai. In Australia, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth once had extensive tram systems. Around the world there has now been a tram renaissance to combat urban air pollution and traffic congestion. Cities in France, England, Canada, Brazil, Turkey, Tunisia, the United States and others have rebuilt, or are currently building tramways often called light rail. So Melbourne and Kolkata made the correct decision to retain trams many years ago. 

This is my seventh visit to Kolkata since 1994 and all visits have had trams and the Calcutta Tramways Company (CTC) central to the script. With many and varied transport modes from human drawn ricksaws to a well run underground Metro, there's room for trams in Kolkata's transport mix. The CTC was nearly closed in the early 1990s. On my first visit to Belgatchia Depot in 1994, I was told by local trammies that there was not much time left. I was glad this changed after local and international pressure and by the time I had returned to Calcutta in 1996 with a travelling tram show there was more hope that trams would have a future in this congested and air polluted metropolis. 

There has been some good work done and cause for optimism. the Nonapukur Tram Workshops has skilled engineers and tradesman and have built in the last few years more than 25 modern looking fibreglass trams with high capacity seating. Catching trams in Calcutta in the 1990s and early 2000s was a bumpy affair with tram tracks having many broken rail joints. Crunch crunch was the often heard and felt sound as the metal wheel navigated an uneven and windy monsoon worn track. 

To my pleasant surprise when I was here in 2012 for the Paribesh Bandhu Tramjatra, I found CTC trams on new track. They were still noisy but with smooth running and much less derailments and faster tram speed. With new tram track on much of the CTC network I have been happy to see a big increase in patronage in North Kolkata along College Street and Bidhan Sarani from Esplanade to Shambazzar. Sadly the opposite is the case on a wide roads like APC and AJC Bose Roads. Tram stops where people can safely catch and board a tram are urgently required. Reserving the tracks and keeping other vechicles from using track on wide roads like RP Mukerjee Road to Tollygunge will speed up trams and increase reliability. Increasing timetable frequency is also needed so passengers don't wait long periods of time to catch trams. Ideally a tram every 10 minutes on popular routes would be a good start. Tram track renewal is still needed in the Maidan, Sealdah Flyover and other sections of the CTC network along Elliot Road from Nonapukur Workshops to Wellington. Tram lines open and close in Kolkata. Had some wonderful Tramjatra journeys in the south most notably with the much loved Usha Uttup singing on the Sundari tram in 2001. I look forward to Rash Behari Avenue opening and once again seeing trams in the Ballygunge Goompty. This is a vital link between the Metro and Ballygunge Rail Station.

I believe Kolkata needs a tram museum so visitors are given the opportunity to see the history of Calcutta's trams. An audit is ungently required so the CTC can preserve the last of the British wooden bodied trams and beautifully built hati Gari trams. Rabindranath Tagore's tribute tram, Giatanjali is a hati Gari tram number 498 built in the early 1940s at Nonapukur. I am confident that tram enthusiasts would come to Kolkata to see a display of CTC trams in one fo the world's great cities. Kalighat Tram Depot would make a great Tram Museum located near Kalighat Metro and Kali Temple.

Tramjatra 2013: The launch

Tramjatra 2013: The launch

Posted Wed 11/12/13 by Polash Larsen

The Gitanjali tram has arrived at the Esplanade and looks good in the sharp morning sunlight.  Mornings have been the hottest part of the day and things are heating up.  Outside the depot it’s all hands on deck.  Flower garlands are being attached to the tram while a worker is flicking water over the ground to keep the dust down.  They’ve discovered a compression problem in one of the bogeys.  Is it a big problem I wonder?  Apparently trams function better if the brakes are working… So yes it IS a big problem.  There’s talk of doing a short run and then heading back to Nonapukur to fix it.  Not so sayeth the CTC!  In short order a team of mechanics turn up from Nonapukur in the official CTC car.  They get everything shipshape in no time at all.

Everyone is snapping photos of the event.  I even manage to get in one of them.  If I look a little smug it’s because me being in the picture is starting to feel like a rare event.  I’ve had some experiences where I’ve been physically pulled out of photos despite Roberto trying to include me.  One guy even dragged me out of a photo and then handed me his phone so he could get a picture with the foreigner.  Clearly I am chopped liver.

The opening programme kicks off with a song – Rabindrasangeet of course.  Jayanta Basu, a journalist for The Telegraph acts as MC.  He’s already written a celebratory sort of article for the paper describing the event and Tramjatra.  It’s a well put together piece and he even managed to quote the Managing Director of the CTC Nilanjan Sandilay saying rides on the dedicated tram will be free which was something we were hoping for but hadn’t been confirmed.

According to Jayanta’s article I am a “Bengali-Australian Cultural Activist”.  By the end of the day my mother has posted a link to the article on Facebook saying, “My son – the cultural activist”.  I can’t tell whether she’s proud or sarcastic.  It’s not impossible for her to be both.

Roberto is called up to give a short speech and he kicks into “Ammi mela conductor.  Ammi bhalo basi trams.”  Everyone is charmed by his speech with one of the following speakers describing him as a composer of Bengali doggerel.

With the conclusion of speeches we all get on board.  I opt for the relative quiet of Second Class.  The poetry group pile onboard, sit down facing each other and start reading from Gitanjali.  I’m annoyed as this is a classic instance of an opportunity missed.  Just half an hour with this group and I could have set them up to really capitalize on the unique spatial qualities of the rear bogey.  I do my best not to fume too visibly and throw my attention instead into watching the poetry group closely.  One of the group in particular, a girl in a yellow sari, green blouse and hefty gold bling around her neck catches my attention.  I lean over to Sanjay-da who is sitting next to me and say that the CTC will be no longer endangered when people like her become regular passengers on the trams.

A nice moment occurs when Roberto comes back into the rear bogey from the front.  The poetry group launch into Tagore’s Bengali adaptation of Auld Lang Syne which is Purano Sai Diner Katha.  Earlier I’d written out the words for Roberto and he’d been keeping them in his connie bag in preparation for just such an opportunity.  He starts with them and I join in quietly in the background as well.

Above all Tagore believed in the importance of international friendship.  The spectacle of the Aussie Connie singing in Bangla with the Bengali poets sums it up for me.  The poetry group disembarks soon after this moment and later we have Maloy Mitra’s Sukchar Pancham Repertory Theatre.  They provide a full programme of dance drama, songs, poetry and even an excerpt from Dak Ghar or The Post Office as it’s known in English.  Maloy makes the observation in Bengali that it’s turning into the Mitra show between Hiran Mitra, Sanjay Mitra and Maloy Mitra.  My thoughts immediately turn to Madan Mitra the Transport Minister.  It’s just as well my Bangla isn’t up to the task of taking the joke too far.

The theatre troupe hop off the tram somewhere near Gariahat.  We trundle back towards Esplanade.  The tram is going to be housed at Belgatchia Depot for the night.  Mahadeb and Sanjay decide to call it a night but Roberto wants to keep the performance going all the way to Belgatchia.  I’m desperate to knock off.  Doing nothing tires me more than doing something.  I feel very strongly that someone should stay with Roberto so I stay on board to the terminus.  The Belgatchia connies greet Roberto like a long lost brother.  The give us both tea and biscuits and offer us dope (which I decline on account of being a non-smoker).  Roberto hands out Connie cards to everyone but it’s done without a lot of the usual performance script.  The Belgatchia boys speak good English and they want to use it.  I get chatting to a fellow who has been living in the depot office ever since he suffered a crippling injury to his right hand.  He tells me, “Mr Sanjilay himself gave permission for me to stay here!” 

“He’s a very kind man,” I say.  What else CAN I say?

Eventually we head to the Metro and head for home.  Roberto to Rajah Guest House and me to Mahadeb’s place near Tollygunj.

A man in a tight green jumper approaches us on the Metro platform.  He’s read about the Tramjatra in the papers and wants to know more about us, what we’re doing and so forth.  Roberto gives him tomorrow’s route and what time the Gitanjali tram departs Belgatchia.

As the train arrives he moves away from us to get in a different carriage but not before he tells us, “The trams are finished.  It’s just a matter of time…”

TRAVEL IN THE MORNING TO GITANJALI LAUNCH

Well this is it – the day of the big launch.  Mahadeb has some mysterious business to take care of so we head off in different directions.  We’ve agreed to meet at Esplanade Depot at 10am.  I don’t really know where that is but I’m fairly confident I’ll not only find it but get there on time.

I rock up to Tollygunge Metro to catch the 9:20 train.  It’s late.  I soon see why.  When it does arrive ten minutes later it is jam packed – which in no way inhibits commuters from trying to squeeze on board.  I squeeze my chunky frame inside and several more people follow.  The train is delayed for several minutes as the doors won’t close.

Finally we’re off and it seems there’s a bit of consternation about the amount of space the bag on my shoulder is taking up.  It ends up on top of my head.  I can’t reach a handrail but that doesn’t matter as I’m pretty snug tucked under a fellow passenger’s damp and noisome armpit. 

A middle-aged man behind me says something to me.  My Bangla has really progressed.  Instead of staring goggle eyed like a startled fish (which I’m learning is a common Bengali facial expression) I can say, “Ammi Bangla janni na”.

“To which station are you departing?” he asks in English.

Ah – now I understand – and we exchange places as he’s getting off before me.  Eventually I arrive at Esplanade and work out where the depot is.  I’m only a little frazzled with my spirits dampened somewhat by the crush on the Metro.

Tramjatra 2013: Santiniketan - Nonapukur Workshops and decorating Gitanjali

Tramjatra 2013: Santiniketan - Nonapukur Workshops and decorating Gitanjali

Posted Tue 10/12/13 by Polash Larsen

Nonapukur Tram Depot and workshop.

Nonapukur which means “Salty Pond” is a fully functioning tram maintenance and tram building workshop. We have the support of both Mr Sandilay the Managing Director of the Tramways and Mr Ghosh the Works Manager at the workshop.  Like many of the depots there are people living on site – including a bunch of kids playing cricket on the weekend.  Roberto has a bat and turns out to be pretty good.  I demur – just to add to my alienation in this place I don’t like cricket.  I like hockey.  Indians don’t like hockey anymore.  Their team are losers.

There’s less than a week until the launch now.  We’ve arrived at an unstable time in the history of the tramways.  Mr Jain who had been the Chairman of the CTC unexpectedly quit.  The Transport Minister, Madan Mitra, named himself acting Chair and we’ve lost days renegotiating permission with him and the Principle Secretary of transport.

The final consensus from them in the end was, “If you’re not here asking me for money then why are you wasting my time?  Go away and do whatever you want!”  I should state this is merely my interpretation of the outcome of our meetings.  My Bengali, after all, is not very good…

With all permissions issued by the CTC and higher ups in the Ministry we’re finally able to commence.  The CTC has spruced up a vintage wooden bodied “Hati Ghari” tram dating back to the 1930’s.  This is significant because the 30’s were the last decade of Tagore’s life.  It’s unlikely he rode this tram – at this stage he would have been driven everywhere unless he was flying or travelling in his own private railway car.  Still this old beauty can take us back in time.  While the paint job doesn’t exactly make the tram seem new – it does feel fresh.

“Hati Ghari” literally means “Elephant Car” and they get called that because the rear of the second class carriage is meant to slope down like an Elephant’s bottom.  I will leave those of you more familiar with Elephant’s bottoms to confirm this allusion…  Those of you unfamiliar with Kolkata’s trams might be a bit surprised by the reference to class.  The front bogey is designated as “First Class” while the rear is “Second Class”.  There’s no longer a difference in price between the two but the rear bogey does have a more longitudinal seating arrangement to facilitate more standing room.  The funny thing is West Bengal’s Communist State Government never did anything to reform the classist nature of the tramways.  It took an incoming right-wing government to remove the distinction and make an egalitarian environment for passengers.  How ironic!  Of course I should mention they also did a few things like allow cars to keep driving on what had formerly been segregated tracks and make trams drive head on into one way traffic.  To an outsider it seems fairly lunatic though I’m sure they had their reasons…

The Art Director for the decoration of the tram is a notable Bengali artist named Hiran Mitra.  It’s a very different concept from last year’s Paribesh Bondu (Eco-friendly) Tram where Roberto, Craig and CTC workers all mucked in to hand paint the tram.  This year the entirety of the decoration is in the form of Vinyl appliqués with photographic images, text and reproductions of Tagore’s paintings.  Hiran overseas the application of the stickers and there isn’t much for Roberto and myself to do.  Roberto keeps himself busy by practicing his interactions.  He has enough kitchen Bangla to construct a script for himself which he practices on anyone who’ll listen.

“Ammi Mela conductor.  Ammi Tramjatra jabbo.  Tagore Tramjatra.  Tagore bhalo basi nature…” and so on.

I on the other hand have nothing to do except cool my heels.  I was supposed to be working with local performers to shape what they were doing and help them be comfortable in the tram space.  That hasn’t happened.  Mahadeb’s approach hasn’t facilitated me meeting them.  Admittedly he’s had some problems with large chunks of the program falling through at the last minute.  He assures me that in India everything is done verbally.  I’m not so sure about that.  In any case working without contracts, deposits for services or even just a collaborative process has left us vulnerable to people dropping out at the last minute.  At this point I have way too much time available to me so I spend it fuming about spelling errors on the appliqués, poorly worded labels for the exhibition and so forth.  In other words I let myself get pissed off about things I have no control over.  Och!  Schoolboy error!

Although I’m happily eating and drinking everything put in front of me (including a fantastic mutton biryani from a place called Shiraz around the corner from the depot.  Thanks Sanjay-da!) I’m unhappily eating myself up due to my creative frustration.  My cousin Gautama rings and tells me he’s launching a floating restaurant in Goa on the 20th and he wants my help.  I assume by “help” he means he wants me to mooch off him, eat his food and drink his alcohol.  I readily agree and book a flight to Goa the day after Tramjatra concludes. 

Calcutta isn’t cold but I long for sunnier climes…

A COUPLE OF DAYS EARLIER

I’m writing this update from Mahadeb Shi’s flat while sipping Old Monk “Very Old Vatted” Indian Rum.  Mahadeb and I polished off the bottle of Glenmorangie I bought duty free in Bangkok.  Fare thee well single malt.  You shall be missed.  Vale!

Outside there is the usual symphony of dog barks and car horns.  I’m trying not to think about tomorrow’s launch.  That’s right – Tagore Tramjatra launches at Esplanade Depot TOMORROW!!  To take my mind off my nerves I’ll pick up the thread of my Tramjatra story where I left off.

Roberto arrives on the usual Thai midnight flight.  We meet the next afternoon and he reminisces about the time he stayed on Sudder Street back in the day.  We sit in the Fairlawn’s beer garden and because I’m in denial about how sick I am I have a beer and some onion pakoras.  Foolish…

We’re reaching the point where the Deakin Uni crew are set to pack their bags and head back to Australia.  For some this can’t come soon enough while others have extended their Indian trips with plans to see the rest of the country.  Lorinda, my partner, is heading South to Kerala to a five star resort.  I wish I was going with her but I’m supposed to shift to the Rajah Guest House where Roberto is staying. 

I head over on the Metro with Roberto to MG Road to check out Rajah Guest House.  To my tired and jaded eyes the 70’s era hotel looks… well… tired and jaded.  They show me their finest room at 1300 rupees a night.  In my weakened condition I have a Barton Finkesque hallucination of myself in that room doing terrible things.

Rajah Guest House is in Roberto’s beloved North Calcutta near the corner of Mahatma Gandhi Road and College Street.  College Street is a fascinating mish mash of tiny wooden hole in the wall bookshops.  I imagined it as heaven until I look closer and see that the vast majority of the books are out of date textbooks.  Maybe one day I’ll be filled with a burning desire to read Statistical Methods 2005 cover to cover – but not today…

As we’re planning on heading to Santiniketan on the weekend in pursuit of archival material from Tagore’s University “Visva-Bharati” I decide to stay an extra night at the Fairlawn.  I’m glad I do because it gives me an excuse to spend the day in bed.  Something must be done to quell my intestinal rebellion!  The hotel staff call forth Dr S Chatterjee (specialist in ‘Travel Medicine’).  Dr Chatterjee is utterly charming.  He asks me what I’m doing in Calcutta and I show him the Tagore card and the Paribesh Bondhu card.

“Oh!?  You’re one of those?!” he exclaims. 

He then tells me how much his four-year old loves the trams.  He tells me how they hired the heritage tram for his birthday and then makes a point of letting me know he has friends in Melbourne at the Collins Street clinic and when there he never misses an opportunity to take the City Circle Tram!

My doctor is a gunzel…

An extremely competent gunzel as it turns out.  He prescribes a course of antibiotics, tells me which brands of yoghurt are safe for consumption, shows me how to avoid the “lassi trap” and tops it all off with a recipe for home made gastrolyte.

I follow his inntructions to the letter and I’m fit enough to make the Santiniketan trip the next morning.  As arranged we meet under the clock at Howrah Train Station.  Besides the fact we’re meeting under a clock there’s no similarity with Flinders Street whatsoever.

Santiniketan is a couple hundred kilometers North of Calcutta.  I haven’t been on a train in India for a couple of years.  This is a pretty fast train reaching speeds of close to 100km/hr in some stretches.  Roberto, Mahadeb and I are well equipped with newspapers and bananas for the trip.  My antibiotics have already started to work and I feel great!

We’ve opted for second class seats, in with the common peeps, yadda yadda yadda. It’s a fascinating trip with heaps of beggars and panhandlers making their way up and down the carriage.  There’s a little beggar child with her face painted purple so she looks like Krishna.  There’s also this guy who is effectively blind.  He has a battery powered PA slung around his neck and he walks slowly up and down the entire train singing – you guessed it – songs by Tagore.

After he passed us by a group of teenage school girls decided to do some singing of their own.  The more excited they got the higher they climbed on the seats and the sharper they sang off key.  Their teacher was right in amongst it singing and getting hysterical with the best of them.  It was amusing at first but started to grate as they dragged on.  It turns out that they were travelling to Bolpur (near Santiniketan) from Nagpur which is over 1200 kms away.  I guess their sense of time had become somewhat elastic throughout the course of their journey.  Amongst the pop and Bollywood tunes I recognized ‘Dum Maro Dum’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBceoTOcgiM and the English bits from ‘Gangnam Style’.  No need for a link surely?

There was an interesting moment when one of the panhandlers playing a variant on a tambourine tried to engage the girls.  It was an offer to jam basically and he did everything he could to drum along to their songs.  He got ignored.  I guess it’s fair enough that a bunch of school girls don’t know what to do in this situation but I thought their teacher might have recognized an opportunity for an educative interaction.  Wrong caste?  Wrong class?  Wrong sect?  Too dirty?  Not dirty enough??  Indian cultural experiences can be exclusive sometimes…

Santiniketan means “peaceful house” and once we leave behind Bolpur the village where the train station is things become very green and pleasant.  Thanks to Sanjay Mitra we have a place to stay.  Well to do Calcuttans have turned the area nearby the university into a peaceful retreat.  We end up staying at Sanjay’s bungalow amidst sizeable country houses.  Closer to the university most commuting is done by cycle rickshaw.  One of the more pleasing spectacles is the proliferation of young ladies on bicycles which says to me that unlike a lot of India Santiniketan is a safe place (both for women and women cyclists).  The photographers for the North Side Ladies calendar should come here!

I feel like there is a Tagore-esque romantic veneration of nature at work around the place.  Have a look at this Banyan.  Not only is it huge but a hillock has been created around its base with tiers and steps as if to emphasize its significance.  The veneration can become pretty playful at times though.  Sadly I didn’t have my camera ready when local kids started using the dangling roots as a swing.

I won’t go into the shenanigans we went through at Visva-Bharati’s archives.  The university has a reputation for being obstructively bureaucratic where Tagore is concerned.  I will say that the people I met lower down the pecking order were very friendly and as helpful as they were allowed to be.  I particularly enjoyed making friends with Doctor Amrit Sen (a Mohan Bagan supporter in the domestic league; he follows Arsenal in the EPL).  His postdoctoral research quite fortuitously happened to be Tagore’s travel years in the West and he was able to point us towards some good photos for the tram exhibition as well as making a few helpful suggestions to get around the red tape.

Once in the archive Mahadeb makes the comment that “Tagore must have been one of the most photographed people in his time” which for me ties back in with Amit Chaudry’s statement about Tagore’s celebrity status.  One of the photos in the archive depicts an elderly Rabindranath with his students.  Amongst them is a young Indira Gandhi.  She looks miserable.  Sanjay tells me later that she was expelled (though he uses the quaintly English term “rusticated”).  Apparently she wasn’t a very good student…

In the evening we make a little detour to check out the ‘Nandan Mela’ – an arts festival on the school grounds to commemorate Nandilal Bose, an eminent visual artist and one of the first teachers at the school.  It looks great but the events professional inside me tut tuts at the paucity of food, drink and clear signage to the toilets.

Mahadeb and I have to extend our stay in order to get some value out of the archives.  Roberto elects to head back to Kolkata to get on with printing cards for his Connie performance.  He has a couple of hours before his train leaves so he goes for a walk in the forest, sees deer and visits a Baul camp.  I’m more than a little envious.  I came to India to work with local artists.  Instead I’m drafting a letter to the Vice Chancellor of Visva-Bharati and getting glared at by the director of Rabindra Bhavan.

The following day Mahadeb and I have an uneventful trip back to Howrah station.  I’m feeling increasingly anxious.  My phone has started playing up and my txts aren’t going through to Lorinda anymore.  This worries me as I know she’s had a resurgence of the same tummy virus she had in Kolkata – only this time she’s miles from anywhere in Kerala.  I also know in my heart of hearts that I don’t really want to stay at the Rajah Guest House.  More than the lack of English amongst the hotel staff, the open sewer a few yards from the front door, the lack of hot water – what really bothers me is the architecture.  What can I say?  I’m sensitive, alright?

Mahadeb suggests I stay with him.  The flat’s virtually empty since he and his wife moved to Delhi anyway.  I accept his offer gratefully but I insist on paying him the money I would have paid at Rajah Guest House on the proviso that it goes towards our ailing production budget.  He agrees and when we discuss it with Roberto he also sees it as a good idea as I’ll be able to help Mahadeb with some of the production work.  From the little balcony outside my bedroom there is a view of the local pond which has dried up for the winter.  It’s pleasantly overgrown and green space.  Mahadeb tells me it’s full of snakes but I’m thrilled to see a pair of Mongooses (Mongeese? Mongi?) gamboling about and I’m reminded of Kipling’s Riki Tiki Tavi.  The more domestic setting is working for me.  Within a couple of days Mahadeb has sorted out an Indian phone and internet dongle for me.  I’m able to skype with Lorinda and my spirits are lifted considerably.  Mahadeb observes that I’m “somehow lost in this city”.

I am.

Besides my suitcase I have a lot of baggage.

Next stop Nonapukur Tram Depot!

Tramjatra 2013: One day until launch

Tramjatra 2013: One day until launch

Posted Tue 10/12/13 by Roberto D'Andrea

This is my 7th visit to Kolkata since 1994 and all have had trams and the Calcutta Tramways Company (CTC) central to the script.

Kolkata's a city where there's many and varied transport modes from human drawn Ricksaws to a well run underground Metro, Auto 3 wheelers and a swag of public and private run buses that are like beasts spewing diesel exhaust and hunting in packs across tram lines.....heaps of Taxis, human drawn Goods Carriers and cyclists.

Catching trams in 'Calcutta' in the 1990s and early 2000s was a bumpy affair with tram tracks having many broken rail joints. Crunch crunch was the often heard and felt sound as the metal wheel navigated an uneven and windy monsoon worn track.

To my pleasant surprise when here for a Paribesh Bandhu Tramjatra with Connie Craig last year, and once again a feature of tram travel in December 2013 is riding CTC trams on new track. Still noisy but with smooth running. On some trips drivers have reached full parallel on the metal tram controller. There's only a few sections of old track on the Sealdah flyover, Suryan Sen St, Elliot Rd and Wellesley. The well patronised parkland tram ride to Kidderpore through the Maidan is still on old track.

Tram lines open and close in Kolkata. Mostly to the negative. A most welcome return is the opening of the No 29 Tollugunge to Esplanade tram route via Kalighat, Hazra, Alipore and Kidderpore in south Kolkata. Had some wonderful Tramjatra journeys in the south most notably with the much loved Uscha Uttup singing on the Sundari tram in 2001.

Tram patronage has increased near where I stay in North Kolkata on College Street and Bidhan Sarani to Shambazzar. I've ridden on and seen many full trams. Mostly due to new tram track and overhead electrical wires. These streets are a similar width to streets in Melbourne like Brunswick and Smith Streets and tram travellers can easily hop on board a tram.

It's a very different story on wider roads with trams. Tram lines to Tollygunge on SP Mukerjee Road where once protected by a narrow reservation so the trams could move freely. I've had the experience a few times outside the Nonapukur Workshops where one has to take on 3 swaying lanes of vehicular traffic and then take refuge on the tram track....tram drivers slow and as a male one hops on board the slow moving tram. Images of some CTC trams on the rails and at Shambazzar Goompty

... Roberto
 

Tramjatra 2013: Nonapukur Workshops - decorating the Gitanjali tram

Tramjatra 2013: Nonapukur Workshops - decorating the Gitanjali tram

Posted Mon 9/12/13 by Roberto D'Andrea

The Tagore Tramjatra tram decoration started at Nonapukur Workshops in Kolkata today with CTC trammies involved in the work. There's 2 tram workshops that I've enjoyed visiting over the years. The Preston Tram Workshops in Melbourne and the Nonapukur Tram Workshops is Kolkata.

The Nonapukur Tram Workshops that I first visited in 1996 was a fully functioning workshop with a working foundry, body shop, truck shop, electrical shop and paint shop. Nonapukur continues to renovate trams and from 2008 to 2010 they manufactured 24 new-look trams. The new Fibreglass trams have clear rooftops made of clear polycarbonate sheeting with a wide window space, comfortable seating and better visibility from inside and out. Nonapukur Workshop is now manufacturing new tram cars and renovating existing steel-body (BSCL) cars. A restaurant tram was built at Nonapukur. Air-conditioned trams to attract commuters and foreign tourists as well as to increase revenue for the company, one single-coach air-conditioned banquet tram has now been introduced and offers heritage tours to north Kolkata in the morning and south Kolkata in the evening. A museum tram, rail-scrubber cars (which polish the tracks using jets of water), flat cars for goods transportation (some of which are modified from obsolete single-coach Howrah trams) and a tower-inspection car for checking wires are all maintained at the Nonapukur Workshops.

Tramjatra 2013: Polash Larsen’s first blog from Kolkata

Tramjatra 2013: Polash Larsen’s first blog from Kolkata

Posted Mon 9/12/13 by Polash Larsen

So here is the long overdue initial blog post for Tagore Tramjatra 2013.  They’ll start coming thick and fast from now on as I steadily catch up on the whirlwind of activity over the last couple of weeks.

Despite months of emails, meetings, research into Rabindranath Tagore’s Nobel prize and the history of the Kolkata tram network I still feel unclear about whatever it is I’m supposed to be doing.  At the back of my mind is a quibbling quisling voice asking if Roberto is somehow expecting some sort of magic to come out of my participation on the grounds that I am “half-Bengali half Australian”.  I’m a little uncomfortable with this but at the same time I’m determined to explore what this might mean in Kolkata – the centre of the Bengali renaissance.  Calcutta was the first toehold of the British in India with massive cultural edifices born out of the wealth generated by the opium wars.

Calcutta is the home of Satyajit Ray, Sourov Ganguly and of course Robi Thakur known to the world as Rabindranath Tagore the first non European to win the Nobel Prize for literature.  As Amit Chaudhury called him: “The first global literary celebrity”.  I interpret this as an ambivalent statement that is as critical as it is celebratory.  While you’re chewing that over – here’s a picture of Tagore with another brainy guy with similarly crazy hair >>

We have a final meeting with Roberto and Craig in Melbourne to discuss a few things (like how to do this blog) before I set off.

Later on at Suvarnabhumi International Airport I suddenly remember that I’m supposed to be documenting my experience so I took a photo >>

Clearly I still need to work on my documentation chops…

Through an astonishingly random stroke of good luck my arrival in Kolkata on the 23rd of November coincides with the second week of a Deakin University Cultural Heritage study tour that my girlfriend Lorinda is on.  The university has booked her a double room at the historic 215 year-old Fairlawn Hotel.  What does this mean?  It means that my accommodation for the first week is FREE!  What’s more the hotel is centrally located on Kolkata’s equivalent of Khao San Road: Sudder Street.  The Fairlawn is a quirky sort of place with the redoubtable nonagenarian Violet Smith in residence as owner/matriarch.  I won’t attach any pictures of the place as there are plenty on Tripadvisor ( link ) but I will post a photo of some goats I saw there >>

Bear in mind this is the most touristy strip in Cal and just around the corner from a few five star hotels as well.  One of Lorinda’s colleagues wonders what he should write on the Australian Immigration re-entry form when it asks if he’s “been in any agricultural areas while overseas”…

I’ve already described the incredible good luck that has led to my first week’s stay being rent free.  There is however a price to pay.  A terrible, TERRIBLE price.  My arrival coincides with the arrival of a less welcome guest at the Fairlawn.  Lorinda is struck down with a nasty stomach virus that has just started to tear through the Deakin crew.  I spend my first two days in Kolkata looking after her and then I succumb myself.

The rotavirus is no respecter of my half-Bengali stomach.  Not for me is a half dose.  I get the lot…

I’m determined to soldier on though.  I go for a walk with the less invalid members of the Deakin University cultural heritage group.  Despite feeling wretched I start to like the place.  Kolkata was laid out by the Brits a couple hundred years ago and as a consequence is a much more walkable sort of city than the other Indian cities I’m more familiar with.  If my (non-Bengali) father was alive and with us he might say, “Yeah, Calcutta’s actually a European city that the Indians buggered up”.  I disagreed with him vigorously on lots of subjects while he was alive and I’m not particularly inclined to agree with his ghost now that he’s gone.  Particularly not as I’m enraptured with the elegant decay I see everywhere.  Monsoon washed red buildings dominate the scene with the occasional colonial era building being reclaimed by plant life.  Street names date back to the populist and international outlook of the early twentieth century while yellow cabs pootle around >>

It’s all kinda glorious!  This joint has SOUL!!

If only I could keep food in my stomach…

A couple of days later it is the 27th and I feel well enough to risk being more than fifty meters from my bathroom at the Fairlawn.  It’s also my birthday.  I decide to visit Jorasanko the ancestral home of Tagore in North Kolkata.  I immediately get talked into paying way too much for a taxi.  I recall how a Canadian NGO worker I met in Dhaka described this scenario as no more of a rip-off than the manner in which multinationals like Microsoft rip us off when they set the price of MS Office.  I try to think of Norez, my taxi driver as Bill Gates.  How can a lowly arts worker resist the persuasiveness of a Bengal tycoon in a tiger economy?  I sigh and get in the back of the cab.

Jorasanko is a palatial, rambling, three-storey town house sort of maintained by Rabindra Bharati University.  You have to take your shoes off, leave your bag in a locker and you are forbidden from taking photos.  I suspect the last stipulation is so the outside world doesn’t see how shabbily they present the home of Bengal’s most important family.  Here are some sneaky pics I took outside >>

The following week I returned with Mahadeb Shi (the guy who’s really making most of this Tramjatra happen) and took another sneaky pic with my phone inside the “museum” >>

It’s a little sad and not a little frustrating.  There’s no context for an outsider and I feel like the exhibits haven’t been updated since the 1950’s.  The swishest looking part of the museum is a “Tagore in China” that was put together by a museum in China and then donated to Rabindra Bharati.  It jars hilariously with the rest of the museum.  Besides the Chinese exhibition having a totally different reading of Tagore to the rest of the jorasanko it’s also written in a form of refined Chinglish that is at odds with the written style of the floral and formal Indian English throughout the rest of the building.

As I’m leaving I get a text from my cousin Gautama in Mumbai wishing me happy birthday.  “I’m at Jorasanko” I reply.

“Exploring your Bengaliness???” he fires back.

“Yeah, bonging on.”

I head back to Steve Jobs waiting for me in his yellow Ambassador iTaxi lazily batting away mosquitoes as he stretches out on the bench seat.

Tomorrow Roberto arrives in Kolkata.

Time to get to work.

2012 Tramjatra - Paribeshbandhu Connie - A weird magical experience!

2012 Tramjatra - Paribeshbandhu Connie - A weird magical experience!

Posted Tue 18/12/12 by Craig Allen

I'm in a city of 12 million and now wherever I go in the city I'm recognized as one or those strange nature loving Melbourne tram conductors. Kolkata is a warm city which tempers its hustle and bustle with good humour. Now, this is amplified by having in a way become for a short time a part of the city's fabric.

Our conversations and interactions on the trams are a delight. At times they involve the whole carriage joined in conversation and laughter, at others intimate conversations with a parent and child, students eager to learn about Australians and our way of life, old folks who wish to know my opinion of their beloved country and city, or jibes with cheeky street kids (some of whom I suspect are running a racket on-selling wildlife swap cards).

Many people here speak English to a greater or lesser extent. Others delight at my few mangled Bangla words intermixed with impersonations of the calls of Australian wildlife. The kookaburra is a particular hit. And the kids do beaut tiger impersonations! And always there are the jolly CTC conductors and drivers who's company is such a pleasure as we roll and lurch our way through the frenetic city streets.

Tramjatra 2012 - Some news articles from day 2

Tramjatra 2012 - Some news articles from day 2

Posted Sun 16/12/12 by Craig Allen

During the 2012 Paribesh Bandhu Tramjatra the Times of Indian (Bengali Edition) kindly published this article about Roberto and Craig (Pico) Allen painting the environmental tram with Calcuta Tramways Company staff.

We were in the newspapers this morning. Telegraph - Green Tram with Aussie Friends

We were in the newspapers this morning. Telegraph - Green Tram with Aussie Friends

Posted Sun 16/12/12 by Craig Allen

GREEN TRAM WITH AUSSIE FRIENDS article

Telegraph Newspaper - Kolkata - Monday December 17 - Written by Soumitra Das

A tram with colourful wildlife from both Down Under and India painted on it's body trundled out of the Esplanade Tram Depot late on Saturday morning. Two Australian men dressed in blue shirts and shorts with leather bags slung across their shoulders in the two compartments were pretending to be conductors but handing out swap cards with photographs of animals printed on them instead of tickets. Children as well as grown ups, some running alongside the compartments, demanding the cards out of curiosity.

The two men are Roberto D'Andrea, a veteran "trammie" and artiste who loves clowning, and Craig Allen, an artist who works for Bush Heritage Australia Private National Park. Both have been here from the first day of this month to raise awareness about pollution and create an eco-friendly tram so this "clean" mode of transport running on eletricity is not junked, as it has been in many cities around the world.

Roberto communicates effectively with his "passengers" with a few words of Bengali he has picked up, or else depends entirely on gestures with a few Englis words thrown in. the two men are from Melbourne, the last redoubt of trams in Australia. Roberto D'Andrea, who was a tram conductor by profession, first arrived here way back in 1996 to distribute free fictional Melbourne tram tickets, and was also part of a large team of artists, filmakers, folk artists from both countries that was here in 2001 to launch Tramjatra that had taken the city by storm.

Tramjatra was staged in Melbourne as well. Calcutta and Melbourne, both of which have a shared history having once been capitals of their respective countries during colonial times, became linked ever since. Subsequently the Tramjatra book was launched and now the tram activists are back again. Craig is here for the first time, and has spent much of his time at the Nonapukur tram depot painting the "Paribeshbandhu tram" with pictures of the kangaroo, koala bear, kingfisher, kookaburra, and tiger and gharial as well, whose photographs were printed both on the swap cards and on small posters pasted below the roofs of the two tram compartments.

He was assisted by artists who are CTC employees, like Ujjal Dhar, who had participated in earlier Australian endeavours as well. The cards were created by Connies, a small company Roberto has formed that organises popular festivals and engages with schools to raise environmental awareness. They are in Calcutta to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the company. The tram will continue to ply in north Calcutta around Chitpur and Bidhan Sarani even after the two Australians have gone.

Tramjatra 2012: Paribesh Bandhu Tracking Kolkata Sat Dec 15-Weds Dec 19

Tramjatra 2012: Paribesh Bandhu Tracking Kolkata Sat Dec 15-Weds Dec 19

Posted Sun 16/12/12 by Craig Allen

"The Mother Earth - Clean Air - Free Flowing Trams"

 TRAMS - ENVIRONMENT - BIODIVERSITY - POLLUTION - GLOBAL WARMING & CLIMATE CHANGE

The focus for the 2012 Tramjatra 2012 is biodiversity and environment. To celebrate the clean air and quality of life trams bring to modern cities and urban environments. Five Indian and a series of Australian native animal collectable cards haver been produced. The Indian series is made up of the Bengal Tiger, Chital Deer, Gharial Crocodile, Great Indian Hornbill and Hanuman Langur. All these local eastern Indian animal species featured on the inside and outside decorations on the Paribesh Bandhu Tram. 

The Bengal Tiger and Gharial are both critically endangered. The Australian species cards are a mixture of colourful parrots, birds of prey, migration and wetland birds, frogs, fish, reptiles, marsupials, marine animals and the famous Australian 'monotremes', the Platypus and Echidna. 

Trammies from Kolkata and Melbourne....We will perform with CTC trammies to yarn and give away the native animal cards to CTC passengers. This continues the tradition of tramjatra trammies playing the role of entertainers and educators. Tramjatra trammies have painted and decorated the Paribeshbandhu Tram with images of flora and fauna from Australia and India.

With Global Warming, pollution and population growth, native flora, fauna and human habitats are threatened. Like solar energy, tramways are one of the many solutions to global warming, climate change and pollution world wide. Tramways flourish in cities like Milano, Tunis, Vienna, Prague, Lisbon, Budapest, Amsterdam, San Fransisco, Portland, Zurich, Lyon, Grenoble, Manchester, Toronto, Torino, Kolkata and Melbourne. Kolkata is a member of a distinctive tram family. Tramways are making a comeback in the modern era as 'light rail'. A well run high frequency tramways helps lower urban air pollution and greenhouse gases from petrol and diesel cars and buses. 

In West Bengal and Bangladesh, the Sundarbans and cities close to the Bay of Bengal like Kolkata and Dhaka are threatened by rising sea levels and extreme weather events. The low lying Sundarbans have already witnessed erosion from rising sea levels.

2012 Paribesh Bandhu tram launch - Saturday December 15

2012 Paribesh Bandhu tram launch - Saturday December 15

Posted Sat 15/12/12 by Craig Allen

Bengal Post - Saturday Dec 15 - Friendly Relations

Kolkata-Melbourne Tram Yatra launched to strengthen ties

In an attempt to strengthen ties between Australia and India and to make Kolkatans aware of the advantages of trams, Melbourne Tramway Network and Calcutta Tramways Company (CTC) launched the Kolkata-Melbourne Tram Yatra at CTC Esplanade on Saturday. The body of the tram is painted with pictures of animals found in Australia and India. This special tram, named the Kolkata-Melbourne Tram Yatra, carries pictures of endangered species in its interiors.

From now onwards, the special tram will run across the city. Passengers availing the tram would pay the usual fare. At the time of buying the ticket, the passenger would get a trump card bearing pictures of animals of different types. Just after the inauguration at the CTC Esplanade terminus, the tram trundled to Shyambazar tram depot. During the journey, former Melbourne Tramway Network conductors Craig Allen and Roberto D'Andrea distributing trump cards to passengers. "We are distributing these trump cards to remind people that if we do not control pollution, then a time would come when there would be only pollution in the environment and we would cause immense damage to not only the environment but animals," Allen said. He explained that after realising the importance of trams, different countries are now toying with the idea of introducing this mode of transportation. "We are here till December 18 and will distribute these cards," said D'Andrea.

While state transport secretary B. P. Gopilka inaugurated the tram run, additional state transport secretary Ashish Thakur, CTC Chairman Shantilal Jain, and other CTC officials were present on the occasion. "We want to promote trams through this Yatra because it is an eco-friendly mode of transportation and is pollution-free. We need to refurbish all trams in the city," said Thakur. the last Tram Yatra was held in 2005 in Kolkata. "This is the seventh Tram Yatra and I am lucky to be a part of it this year," said Jain. The first Tram Yatra was held in Kolkata in October 1996. It was held twice in 1997, once in Melbourne and then in Kolkata. The third and fourth Tram Yatras took place in 2000 in Melbourne and in 2001 in Kolkata.

Tramjatra 2012: Times of India - Bengali Edition

Tramjatra 2012: Times of India - Bengali Edition

Posted Fri 14/12/12 by Craig Allen

Principal artists for the Paribeshbandhu Tram. Ujjal Dhar, Dilip and Craig Allen - Tramjatra Melbourne. After some very late nights, and a lot of concern about the paint not drying, the Poribesh Bandhu tram is nearly ready to roll. We've taken a week at the Nonapukur Workshops to paint Gariahat Tram 687 as the Paribesh bandhu Tram. Craig and I have had some interesting trips around Kolkata buying paint brushes and other art bits and pieces we need. In partnership with the Calcutta Tramways Company which has in beautiful fashion given Tramjatra space at Nonapukur and a crew of Trammie artists to help set up the tram in readiness for the launch on in a few days. The Connies have funded the decoration of the Paribesh Bandhu Tram, interior exhibition and outside artwork. Designs have been taken mostly from The Connies biodiversity cards series.

Kolkata - Nonapukur Workshops - Decorating the Paribesh Bandhu tram

Kolkata - Nonapukur Workshops - Decorating the Paribesh Bandhu tram

Posted Fri 14/12/12 by Craig Allen

On behalf of the The Connies we've arrived in Kolkata with a 5 card West Bengal, Bangladesh and Sundarbans native animal series printed and ready to go. We've also brought many of our Connie Australian flora-fauna cards and as you can see from this series of photos its the animals of both countries which will adourn the Paribesh Bandhu Tram. 

Tramjatra 2012: Kolkata-Melbourne friendship tram to strengthen relations - Pre launch newspaper cov

Tramjatra 2012: Kolkata-Melbourne friendship tram to strengthen relations - Pre launch newspaper cov

Posted Mon 10/12/12 by Craig Allen

Bengal Post article : Monday December 10 - 2012

KOLKATA-MELBOURNE FRIENDSHIP TRAM TO STRENGTHEN RELATIONS

Calcutta Tramways Company (CTC) is ALL set to run the Kolkata-Melbourne friendship tram on the occasion of Tram Jatra 2012, scheduled in the third week of December in order to strengthen ties between India and Australia. "We have already selected tram number 687 as a Kolkata-Melbourne friendship tram across the city. The decoration work has started at the Garihat tram depot," CTC Chairman Shantilal Jain told the Bengal Post.

Jain said the Kolkata-Melbourne Friendship Tram concept is the brainchild of Roberto D'Andrea, a former conductor with the Melbourne tramways. D'Andrea has travelled all the way from Down Under and will distribute 20,000 Australian and Indian native animal cards during the Tram Jatra to underline the tram as green mode of transport. 

The adornment of the tram will be carried out jointly by CTC workers and Tram Jatra crew members from Melbourne from December 8 to 13. The body of the tram will be painted with images of animals from both Australia and India - like the tiger, the duck-billed platypus and birds that are found in both nations - to portray the tram as an eco-friendly mode of public transport. "We have decided to inaugurate the Friendship Tram in the third week of December," said Jain. the tram will have usual fare. Jain said the Tram Jatra began in 1996. The last one was held in 2005.

Tramjatra 2012 - the adventure begins

Tramjatra 2012 - the adventure begins

Posted Sat 8/12/12 by Craig Allen

Times of India - Bengali Language edition

Saturday December 8

Newspapers are still strong in India. Here in Kolkata there's lots of press with a wide variety of Bengali Newspapers like the Ananda Bazar Patrika, Bartoman and Bengali language editions for the Times of India and Statesman Newspaper. There's good coverage in the English language press from the likes of The Statesman, Times of India, Hindustan Times and Telegraph. There's also a Hiindi and Urdu language newspapers. Since 1996 Tramjatra has attracted plenty of media in newspapers, radio, television and on-line. 

2008 Melbourne Tram Conductors -  10th anniversary tribute to The Connies - Phillip Donnellon

2008 Melbourne Tram Conductors -  10th anniversary tribute to The Connies - Phillip Donnellon

Posted Wed 16/2/11 by Roberto D'Andrea

This video is a tribute to Melbourne's Tram Conductors, including footage from the 1990 tram conductors dispute and of conductors back on trams during the 2008 tenth anniversary.

Tramjatra 2005: Fus Fus Bondhu (Clean Air Friendship)

Tramjatra 2005: Fus Fus Bondhu (Clean Air Friendship)

Posted Sat 10/9/05 by Roberto D'Andrea

Launch of the TRAMJATRA book by Mick Douglas in Kolkata in September 2005. This extract from Page 26 of the Tramjatra book is written by Mick. 

"When Melbourne trams started plying the streets again after a four week service strike in 1990, it dawned on me that this city was not itself without it's tramways flowing. I was interested in making a kind of public art that could be integrated into the life of the city and its people, and so I started working with tramways. I wondered about the possibility of a digital museum of civic memory and imagination on tram tracks - a 'tracking vechicle'. An arts project began to explore 'tracking', workshops were held on board trams to hear of people's experiences of the city through tramways and I was told: "You need to meet Roberto - he'll be into this." Could we understand the urban condition through tramways? What might be learnt from the logic of this non-linear system of movement at a time when the folly of various forms of rationalisms dominate? Connections with Calcutta started cropping up. Curiosity got me.

2005 Tramjatra - Launch of the TRAMJATRA BOOK and SHARED LUNG SHIRTS (Fus Fus Bondhu) by Mick Dougla

2005 Tramjatra - Launch of the TRAMJATRA BOOK and SHARED LUNG SHIRTS (Fus Fus Bondhu) by Mick Dougla

Posted Wed 27/4/05 by Craig Allen

LAUNCH OF TRAMJATRA BOOK BY MICK DOUGLAS

IMAGINING MELBOURNE AND KOLKATA BY TRAMWAYS. Edited by Mick Douglas

A LOVELY PAEAN TO A USER FRIENDLY VECHICLE

Article from Hindustan Times : Sunday September 11 - 2005

A unique initiative to lengthen the life of one of the most user-friendly and non-polluting transport systems, the tramways, reached a landmark in the city on Thursday evening. Tramjatra : Imagining Melbourne and Kolkata by Tramways, edited by Mick Douglas, and published by Yoda Press, New Delhi, was launched at the Calcutta Club. Writers Nabaneeta Dev Sen and Buddhadev Guha spoke on the occasion, sharing tram-centric anecdotes with the gathering. The tramways and its revelance in the global context have come under much debate in recent times. In Kolkata, it has faced threats of closure, while Melbourne has seen the privatisation and automation of its tramways. 

An intercultural-cultural arts project called Tramjatra, which came about in 1996, has brought together artists and tramways communities of Melbourne and Kolkata. A clutch of tram-lovers have explored the two cities through the medium of tramways and initiated a movement that has given Kolkata's tram a slight longer lease of life. the book is an effort to further strengthen the movement. 

In an interesting size and format, the volume is largely in English but has large chunks of Bengali too. It has essays by writers like Gayatri Chakravorty, Spivak and Dipesh Chakravarty that discuss historical links between Kolkata and Melbourne. The relation between memory and tram travel has also been explored and an effort has been made to locate Tramjatra in the context of western notions of public art. The book also includes short writings by "passengers" who have built upon the Tramjatra project through their contributions. Says Professor Sukanta Chaudhuri about the book, "It presents tramways in both cities but most importantly, it affirms their place in defining each cities indentity."

Said Dev Sen with characteristic humour, "The best thing about this extremely accessible form of transport for people of all ages is that it never goes out of its roots." She spoke of times when she was a student - she was a resident of the Gariahat area - and would wake up to the trundling of the first tram at 4am. Guha, on the other hand, also reminisced about the kick he got from putting his ears to the tram posts and listening to the approaching vechicle. The evening ended with a rousing paean to the vechicle that has become one of Kolkata's most significant legacies, sung by young Medha Basu.

2001 TRAMJATRA in Kolkata - Davies and Baird Tram Track audit - Launch of TRAMJATRA TRAM 628

2001 TRAMJATRA in Kolkata - Davies and Baird Tram Track audit - Launch of TRAMJATRA TRAM 628

Posted Sun 1/4/01 by Roberto D'Andrea

Tramjatra 2001 was a 3 month affair. It all kicked off in late January when Roberto D'Andrea arrived in Kolkata with Mike McGuffike from track junction manufacturer Davies and Baird.

Davies and Baird have had a long association with the Melbourne Tramways from its beginnings in 1885 with the first Melbourne Cable Car Network. Mike came as part of the Tramjatra Technical exchange.

The Kolkata Tramways greatest problem was the poor state of tracks across the network so Tramjatra part funded Mike McGuffike's visit to encourage track renewal. Mike shared information with Calcutta Tramways Company (CTC) senior management and Public Works Dept (PWD) officials. He did an audit of track and costed the replacement of the 3 way Wellington Junction at College Street and Lenin Sarani.

Next Mick Douglas arrived in Kolkata in early February with a mob of students and teachers from RMIT University, ex-trammies and artists. They joined with local Bengali artists and filmakers to add Kolkata and Melbourne colour to tram stops and terminals and to create the first of 4 decorated trams. Tramjatra Tram 628 from Gariahat Depot was launched on Wednesday February 21 at the central Esplanade Tram Terminal.

A further 3 trams where decorated. Sundari Sunrise Tram 649 from Tollygunge Depot. Cricket Tramsport Tram 725 from Park Circus Depot and Baccha Childrens Tram 715, also from Park Circus Depot. All 4 trams where decorated in collaboration with enthusiastic CTC trammies in depot sheds.

Tramjatra 2001 also hosted a friendship Cricket match between the Abbotsford Anglers Cricket Club and the CTC. Calcutta's schools where invited to tour tram depots and an Australian Rail and Tram enthusiasts group from the Darjeeling Historic Rail Society where invited to tour the Nonapukur Workshops. Tramjatra 2001 gave the Kolkata Tramways a 'negative image break'. Across the 3 months the West Bengali and Indian media, including newspapers,  television and radio, covered the tramjatras. With 4 friendship trams touring the CTC system-wide, trams where very much in the public eye.

For more information about the Mick Douglas and RMIT collaboration between artists from Kolkata and Melbourne tramjatra in early - mid February go to www.tramtactic.net

2001 Tramjatra SUNDARI Tram

2001 Tramjatra SUNDARI Tram

Posted Fri 30/3/01 by Roberto D'Andrea

Both Melbourne & Calcutta have decorative tram painting traditions.

At the Nonapukur tram workshops in Calcutta in early 1997, workshops manager Mr S. K. Mitra & senior workshops officials commissioned a friendship tram. Tollygunge tram 649 was reshaped & painted like Melbourne Z class tram 101, the pride of the tram fleet - complete with sunrise theme.

The sundari tram is a symbol of the desire amongst C.T.C trammies to make Calcutta’s tramways strong again.

On February 27, 2001, the Sunrise Tram was decorated in garlands of flowers & departed the Esplanade with legendary singer Usha Utup, Transport Minister Subhas Chakraborty & a Melbourne Connie on board – amongst many.

Usha broke into the song Kolkata Kolkata‚ as the tram tracked through the lush green maidan parkland. From Kidderpore to Kalighat children & adults rushed to take a close look, smiling & waving. The mood was electric as Usha switched from one hit to another & trammies danced alongside Calcuttans.

2001 Tramjatra - CRICKET TRAM and touring ABBOTSFORD ANGLERS CRICKET CLUB vs CTC Friendship Cricket

2001 Tramjatra - CRICKET TRAM and touring ABBOTSFORD ANGLERS CRICKET CLUB vs CTC Friendship Cricket

Posted Fri 30/3/01 by Roberto D'Andrea

In March 2001, the Australian cricket team was on tour in India. At Eden Gardens in Calcutta, India won a cliffhanger against Steve Waugh’s side late on the 5th day by 171 runs.

The tramjatra cricket tram was painted to celebrate the match and carried the Australian team to the stadium.

C.T.C Chairman Mr Sudhir K. De. said ‘Park Circus tramsport tram 725 is dedicated to enthusiastic supporters of cricket who connect us in common culture, like the tramways’.

Nonapukur Workshop trammie Ujjal Dhar painted cartoon portraits of the greats of Australian & Indian cricket like Patawi, Bradman, Benaud, Bedi, Gavaskar, Waugh, Ganguly, Warne & Tendulkar while Kangaroos bowled to Bengali tigers in a tram-side cricket match.

The Abbotsford Anglers Cricket Club from Melbourne were also touring India & a tramjatra cricket match was organised against the Calcutta Tramways. On match day the Anglers were picked up by the Cricket Tram. Hundreds of Calcutta trammies cheered their side to a 62 run victory.

2001 Tramjatra - BACCHA CHILDRENS TRAM “Fruit Fresh Tram”

2001 Tramjatra - BACCHA CHILDRENS TRAM “Fruit Fresh Tram”

Posted Fri 30/3/01 by Roberto D'Andrea

Andy 'Pescadore' Miller arrived fresh from the popular Melbourne Moomba Trams on Parade festival in March 2001, joined Mr Roberto & conducted alongside Calcutta trammies greeting people, yarning tram stories & singing tramjatra songs in connie-duet. Calcuttas affectionately called Andy 'Milla', and upon learning that he could paint invited him to decorate tram 715 alongside Park Circus trammies & Nonapukur’s Ujjal Dhar & Barun Gayen.

The tram was dressed in the tram sheds at Park Circus. It was dedicated to all the World's children and was called the Bacca (Childrens) Tram. Images of healthy fruit and a healthy environment adorned the tram. Grapes, pears & butterflies named Milano, Tunis, Amsterdam, San Fransisco, Zurich, Lyon, Grenoble, Manchester, Melbourne, Calcutta, Toronto & Torino & reminded Calcuttans of the distinctive tram family to which they belong.

On March 24 2001, the Baccha tram was launched with 60 children from Behala Primary School, Calcutta trammies, Melbourne Connies and the Abbotsford Anglers cricket team onboard for a tram-ride to Joka.

Tramjatra 2001

Tramjatra 2001

Posted Tue 27/2/01 by Roberto D'Andrea

Tramjatra 2001 was a 3 month affair. It all kicked off in late January when Roberto D'Andrea arrived in Kolkata with Mike McGuffike from track junction manufacturer Davies and Baird.

Davies and Baird have had a long association with the Melbourne Tramways from its beginnings in 1885 with the first Melbourne Cable Car Network. Mike came as part of the Tramjatra Technical exchange.

The Kolkata Tramways greatest problem was the poor state of tracks across the network so Tramjatra part funded Mike McGuffike's visit to encourage track renewal. Mike shared information with Calcutta Tramways Company (CTC) senior management and Public Works Dept (PWD) officials. He did an audit of track and costed the replacement of the 3 way Wellington Junction at College Street and Lenin Sarani.

Next Mick Douglas arrived in Kolkata in early February with a mob of students and teachers from RMIT University, ex-trammies and artists. They joined with local Bengali artists and filmakers to add Kolkata and Melbourne colour to tram stops and terminals and to create the first of 4 decorated trams. Tramjatra Tram 628 from Gariahat Depot was launched on Wednesday February 21 at the central Esplanade Tram Terminal.

A further 3 trams where decorated. Sundari Sunrise Tram 649 from Tollygunge Depot. Cricket Tramsport Tram 725 from Park Circus Depot and Baccha Childrens Tram 715, also from Park Circus Depot. All 4 trams where decorated in collaboration with enthusiastic CTC trammies in depot sheds.

ramjatra 2001 also hosted a friendship Cricket match between the Abbotsford Anglers Cricket Club and the CTC. Calcutta's schools where invited to tour tram depots and an Australian Rail and Tram enthusiasts group from the Darjeeling Historic Rail Society where invited to tour the Nonapukur Workshops. Tramjatra 2001 gave the Kolkata Tramways a 'negative image break'. Across the 3 months the West Bengali and Indian media, including newspapers, television and radio, covered the tramjatras. With 4 friendship trams touring the CTC system-wide, trams where very much in the public eye.

For more information about the Mick Douglas and RMIT collaboration between artists from Kolkata and Melbourne tramjatra in early - mid February go to www.tramtactic.net

Calcutta 1997 - CALBOURNE TRAM - Calcutta-Melbourne Friendship Tram “Durgas Eyes”

Calcutta 1997 - CALBOURNE TRAM - Calcutta-Melbourne Friendship Tram “Durgas Eyes”

Posted Sat 3/5/97 by Roberto D'Andrea

The Melbourne Calcutta Tramways Friendship continued to grow. Roberto D'Andrea and Mick Douglas arrived in Calcutta in late September just 1 year after the first Calcutta visit, and  6 months after Bondhu Friendship W Class Tram 1036 had tracked the Melbourne Tramways for 2 months in February-March 1997. The Calcutta Tramways Company (CTC) returned the compliment to tramjatrans from Melbourne when Calbourne rolled out of Belgatchia Depot on the 8th of October 1997. For 8 weeks it toured on all of Calcutta’s tram routes and visited workshops and depots - open to all.

Mick and Roberto decorated and painted Tram 609 with a group of enthusiastic trammies from the Belgatchia Depot. Calcuttans where drawn to the tram we named 'Calbourne'. A mix of our two tram cities names, Calcutta and Melbourne - Calbourne. Passengers entered the tram through the goddess Durga’s eyes. Tram conductors from both cities gave passengers specially designed daily tickets: The Mother Earth‚ Clean Air‚ Free Flowing Trams was printed on each of the tickets, one side with smiling W Class Tram, the other with a handsome Calcutta tramcar.

Calbourne’s interior was colourfully adorned. Long Live Trams, two rare tramway survivors on display with photos of tram passengers, trammies & the trams that track their way through our parklands, along narrow tram streets that form busy shopping strips, infront of colonial parliamentary buildings & close by zoos & huge cricket stadiums. From Kidderpore to Carlton, Behala to Bundoora, Rajabazzar to Richmond, Kalighat to Collingwood, Lenin Sarani to Lygon St & along Mahatma Gandhi Road to St Kilda Beach.

Roberto joins with CTC trammies and stays on-board Calbourne tram co-hosting the exhibition as a conductor for 8 weeks. Calbourne tracks all CTC tram routes and visits all depots and the Nonapukur Tram Workshops. This all took place during the Durga Puja Festival. A Hindu celebration for the goddess mother Durga that sees millions of Calcuttans from on the streets.

CALBOURNE ON TOUR 

From Belgatchia Depot Calbourne tracked along College Street and Rabindra Sarani in the narrow streeted north. Beautiful architecture. Stopped often at the Shambazzar Goompty and tracked along the not often used Galiff Street line. Calbourne also tracked along the tram 'right of way' APC Bose Road.

Next to Rajabazzar Depot. Calbourne tracked along Mahatma Gandhi Road from Sealdah Station to the Howrah Bridge Terminus. This was my favourite tram route through a famous old area called Chitpur. From the Esplanade and BBD Bagh Calbourne's on the Rajabazzar trams route 17 to the newer suburb of Bidhan Nagar, again in the north.

Next to the dockside Kidderpore Tram Depot for Calbourne. From here she tracks the handsome parkland tram-line through the Maidan. From the Esplanade Kidderpore Depot trams track the longest of the CTCs tram-lines to Behala and Joka. Calbourne journeys this long line which terminates in a lush green rural setting at Joka.

Next to Tollygunge Depot in South Calcutta. Calbourne tracks the Tollygunge - Ballygunge line along Rash Behari Avenue and often runs past Kalighat Depot to the Esplanade via Alipore and the Maidan. The architecture around Kalighat has a 1920s art deco feel. Tram lines with 'right of way' reservations.

From Kalighat Depot Calbourne did the shorter run to the Esplanade via Alipore, The Zoo and the maidan. 

Next for Calbourne was the Gariahat Depot lines along Syed Amir Ali Avenue past Park Circus Depot to AJC Bose Road. Calbourne takes a left turn at Moulali Junction tracking along Lenin Sarani where the tram line runs along the kerb-side in each direction to and from The Esplanade.

Visits to the Nonapukur Workshops. A fascinating tram building and maintenance workshops that still does everything from melting metal to electrical, wheel and body shop repairs.

And finally to the Park Circus Tram Depot. In 1997 of all depots in Calcutta, Park Circus reminds me most of South Melbourne Depot. Eccentric trammies and many tram routes. Park Circus trams track many of the inner north and inner south lines. Elliot Road between Nonapukur Workshops and Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Rd is especially narrow. Beautiful tram line that turns left at Wellington Junction into Lenin Sarani and onto the Esplanade Terminus.

1997 - The Melbourne Calcutta Tramways Friendship continued to grow

1997 - The Melbourne Calcutta Tramways Friendship continued to grow

Posted Fri 7/3/97 by Roberto D'Andrea

Roberto D'Andrea and Mick Douglas arrived in Calcutta in late September just 1 year after the first Calcutta visit, and 6 months after Bondhu Friendship W Class Tram 1036 had tracked the Melbourne Tramways for 2 months in February-March 1997. The Calcutta Tramways Company (CTC) returned the compliment to tramjatrans from Melbourne when Calbourne rolled out of Belgatchia Depot on the 8th of October 1997. For 8 weeks it toured on all of Calcutta’s tram routes and visited workshops and depots - open to all.

Mick and Roberto decorated and painted Tram 609 with a group of enthusiastic trammies from the Belgatchia Depot. Calcuttans where drawn to the tram we named 'Calbourne'. A mix of our two tram cities names, Calcutta and Melbourne - Calbourne. Passengers entered the tram through the goddess Durga’s eyes. Tram conductors from both cities gave passengers specially designed daily tickets: The Mother Earth‚ Clean Air‚ Free Flowing Trams was printed on each of the tickets, one side with smiling W Class Tram, the other with a handsome Calcutta tramcar.

Calbourne’s interior was colourfully adorned. Long Live Trams, two rare tramway survivors on display with photos of tram passengers, trammies & the trams that track their way through our parklands, along narrow tram streets that form busy shopping strips, infront of colonial parliamentary buildings & close by zoos & huge cricket stadiums. From Kidderpore to Carlton, Behala to Bundoora, Rajabazzar to Richmond, Kalighat to Collingwood, Lenin Sarani to Lygon St & along Mahatma Gandhi Road to St Kilda Beach.

Roberto joins with CTC trammies and stays on-board Calbourne tram co-hosting the exhibition as a conductor for 8 weeks. Calbourne tracks all CTC tram routes and visits all depots and the Nonapukur Tram Workshops. This all took place during the Durga Puja Festival. A Hindu celebration for the goddess mother Durga that sees millions of Calcuttans from on the streets.

CALBOURNE ON TOUR

From Belgatchia Depot Calbourne tracked along College Street and Rabindra Sarani in the narrow streeted north. Beautiful architecture. Stopped often at the Shambazzar Goompty and tracked along the not often used Galiff Street line. Calbourne also tracked along the tram 'right of way' APC Bose Road.

Next to Rajabazzar Depot. Calbourne tracked along Mahatma Gandhi Road from Sealdah Station to the Howrah Bridge Terminus. This was my favourite tram route through a famous old area called Chitpur. From the Esplanade and BBD Bagh Calbourne's on the Rajabazzar trams route 17 to the newer suburb of Bidhan Nagar, again in the north.

Next to the dockside Kidderpore Tram Depot for Calbourne. From here she tracks the handsome parkland tram-line through the Maidan. From the Esplanade Kidderpore Depot trams track the longest of the CTCs tram-lines to Behala and Joka. Calbourne journeys this long line which terminates in a lush green rural setting at Joka.

Next to Tollygunge Depot in South Calcutta. Calbourne tracks the Tollygunge - Ballygunge line along Rash Behari Avenue and often runs past Kalighat Depot to the Esplanade via Alipore and the Maidan. The architecture around Kalighat has a 1920s art deco feel. Tram lines with 'right of way' reservations.

From Kalighat Depot Calbourne did the shorter run to the Esplanade via Alipore, The Zoo and the maidan.

Next for Calbourne was the Gariahat Depot lines along Syed Amir Ali Avenue past Park Circus Depot to AJC Bose Road. Calbourne takes a left turn at Moulali Junction tracking along Lenin Sarani where the tram line runs along the kerb-side in each direction to and from The Esplanade.

Visits to the Nonapukur Workshops. A fascinating tram building and maintenance workshops that still does everything from melting metal to electrical, wheel and body shop repairs.

And finally to the Park Circus Tram Depot. In 1997 of all depots in Calcutta, Park Circus reminds me most of South Melbourne Depot. Eccentric trammies and many tram routes. Park Circus trams track many of the inner north and inner south lines. Elliot Road between Nonapukur Workshops and Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Rd is especially narrow. Beautiful tram line that turns left at Wellington Junction into Lenin Sarani and onto the Esplanade Terminus.

Calcutta 1996 - Melbourne-Calcutta Tramways Friendship

Calcutta 1996 - Melbourne-Calcutta Tramways Friendship

Posted Sat 26/10/96 by Roberto D'Andrea

Melbourne and Calcutta are two of the rare surviving tramway systems of continuous operation outside of Europe.

In October 1996 South Melbourne Tram Depot Conductor / Driver Roberto D'Andrea undertook a self-funded 5 week visit to Calcutta in spirit of friendship and support for the Calcutta Tramways under threat of closure. He landed in Calcutta in late September 1996 with a travelling tram show.

A travelling tram show complete with W Class tram destination rolls to hang on the interior of trams and an exhibition of photos from Melbourne and Calcutta that shone a positive light on trams. Posters with messages on the environmental benefits of trams and Malcolm Just's tram poetry translated into Bengali.

As a part of his visit Roberto was granted the opportunity to perform as a Melbourne Conductor on four Calcutta Tramways Company's (CTC) trams. Together with Calcutta's CTC trammies from depots in Belgatchia, Kidderpore, Park Circus & Gariahat he lined the interior of trams with an exhibition and poetry that explored the tramways cultures of Melbourne and Calcutta. Dressed in his short pants and long socks MET green summer uniform with conductors bag, he 'performed as a connie' alongside CTC Tram Conductors. ABC television from Australia came along for the ride. Reporter Edmund Roy prepared a postcard for the international television program 'Foreign Correspondant'. A 'U Tube' of the program is in the video section.

The Melbourne tram friendship visit was warmly received by the Calcuttan public, CTC trammies, management & union. The Tram Conductor from Melbourne was the subject of numerous articles in Calcutta's print and television media, and seems to have acted as a catalyst in furthering the effort to retain and improve the Calcutta Tramways.

Trams Decorated : Belgatchia Tram 349 - Kidderpore Tram Depot Tram 329 - Park Circus Depot Tram 340 - Gariahat Tram 498 - Elephant Tram.

In the news

  • 1996 - Melbourne Calcutta Tramways Friendship

    1996 - Melbourne Calcutta Tramways Friendship

    Posted Sun 1/9/96 by Roberto D'Andrea

    In October 1996 South Melbourne Tram Depot Conductor / Driver Roberto D'Andrea undertook a self-funded 5 week visit to Calcutta in spirit of friendship and support for the Calcutta Tramways under threat of closure. He landed in Calcutta in late September 1996 with a travelling tram show.

    A travelling tram show complete with W Class tram destination rolls to hang on the interior of trams and an exhibition of photos from Melbourne and Calcutta that shone a positive light on trams. Posters with messages on the environmental benefits of trams and Malcolm Just's tram poetry translated into Bengali.

    As a part of his visit Roberto was granted the opportunity to perform as a Melbourne Conductor on four Calcutta Tramways Company's (CTC) trams. Together with Calcutta's CTC trammies from depots in Belgatchia, Kidderpore, Park Circus & Gariahat he lined the interior of trams with an exhibition and poetry that explored the tramways cultures of Melbourne and Calcutta. Dressed in his short pants and long socks MET green summer uniform with conductors bag, he 'performed as a connie' alongside CTC Tram Conductors. ABC television from Australia came along for the ride. Reporter Edmund Roy prepared a postcard for the international television program 'Foreign Correspondant'. A 'U Tube' of the program is in the video section.

    The Melbourne tram friendship visit was warmly received by the Calcuttan public, CTC trammies, management & union. The Tram Conductor from Melbourne was the subject of numerous articles in Calcutta's print and television media, and seems to have acted as a catalyst in furthering the effort to retain and improve the Calcutta Tramways.

    Trams Decorated : Belgatchia Tram 349 - Kidderpore Tram Depot Tram 329 - Park Circus Depot Tram 340 - Gariahat Tram 498 - Elephant Tram.

    1996 Melbourne Calcutta Tramways Friendship

    1996 Melbourne Calcutta Tramways Friendship

    Posted Thu 25/4/96 by Craig Allen

    In 1994 Tram Conductor Roberto D'Andrea met Mick Douglas - an artist and lecturer in Architecture and Design at RMIT University. Mick was keen to host an exhibition exploring Melbourne's Tramway culture. Roberto took him to South Melbourne Depot and a collaboration between Roberto, Mick and South Depot trammies began. Together they created a exhibition called Tracking which attracted many to the Lindon Gallery in St Kilda in 1994.

    Later that year Roberto travelled to India and Calcutta with South Depot trammie Sarah Pears. Calcutta, like Melbourne, retained an extensive tramway system. He had packed tickets and photos of trams in anticipation of meeting Indian trammies. On his first day on Indian soil he headed straight to the Esplanade tram terminus. As he neared the trams the ding of Calcutta's tram 'gong' greets him. Melbourne has the same sounding 'gong'. On entering a CTC tram and explaining that he was a 'tram wallah' from Australia the friendly trammies sit him down and take him to the Belgatchia Tram Depot in North Calcutta. They showed him around and a trammie to trammie tram fraternity and friendship between the cities was born. The Belgatchia trammies explained that the Calcutta Tramways was being run-down and set up for closure.

    On Roberto's return to Australia he maintained contact with his new Calcuttan friends, and after talks with Melbourne trammies it was decided that South Melbourne Depot should form a 'sister' relationship with the Belgatchia Depot.

    In the meantime Mick Douglas had been reading a series of 'Save the Calcutta Tramways' letters sent to the Public Transport Users Association in Melbourne by a Dr Debasish Bhattacharyya. Debasish was writing to the World asking for support in a campaign to save Calcutta's Trams. Mick, Roberto and South Depot trammies joined with Debasish to help the Calcutta Tramways.

    In April 1995 the South Melbourne Depot trammies packed a box of gifts for the trammies at Belgatchia Depot, including a painted banner. This is delivered by a holidaying courier Phillip. A sister depot relationship between South Melbourne and the Belgatchia Depot is formalised.

    Roberto decides to try his luck and visit Calcutta in 1996. Together with Mick they prepare a travelling tram show. This includes the poetry of famous South Depot tram poet Malcolm Just which is translated into Bengali, with the help of Melbourne's Bengali community.

    PROJECT SUPPORTERS in Calcutta - West Bengal - India : Dr Debasish Bhattacharyya - Jayanta Basu - Mahadeb Shi - Calcutta Tramways Company and CTC Trammies - Government of West Bengal - CTC Tramway Workers Union - Tram-loving citizens of Calcutta.

    PROJECT SUPPORTERS in Melbourne - Victoria - Australia : Roberto D'Andrea - Mick Douglas - Andy 'Pescadore' Miller - Melbourne Trammies from all Depots - Rail Tram and Bus Union - Victorian State Government - Australia Council - Australia India Council - Vic Arts.

    Postcard from Calcutta

    Postcard from Calcutta

    Posted Thu 25/4/96 by Roberto D'Andrea

    ABC TV's Foreign Correspondant reports on Melbourne Connie and cultural activist Roberto D'Andrea, working with Calcutta trammies to help in the fight to save the Calcutta tramways in October 1996.

    Calcutta 1996 - Melbourne Calcutta Tramways Friendship

    Calcutta 1996 - Melbourne Calcutta Tramways Friendship

    Posted Wed 10/1/96 by Roberto D'Andrea

    Melbourne and Calcutta are two of the rare surviving tramway systems of continuous operation outside of Europe.

    In October 1996 South Melbourne Tram Depot Conductor / Driver Roberto D'Andrea undertook a self-funded 5 week visit to Calcutta in spirit of friendship and support for the Calcutta Tramways under threat of closure. He landed in Calcutta in late September 1996 with a travelling tram show.

    A travelling tram show complete with W Class tram destination rolls to hang on the interior of trams and an exhibition of photos from Melbourne and Calcutta that shone a positive light on trams. Posters with messages on the environmental benefits of trams and Malcolm Just's tram poetry translated into Bengali.

    As a part of his visit Roberto was granted the opportunity to perform as a Melbourne Conductor on four Calcutta Tramways Company's (CTC) trams. Together with Calcutta's CTC trammies from depots in Belgatchia, Kidderpore, Park Circus & Gariahat he lined the interior of trams with an exhibition and poetry that explored the tramways cultures of Melbourne and Calcutta. Dressed in his short pants and long socks MET green summer uniform with conductors bag, he 'performed as a connie' alongside CTC Tram Conductors. ABC television from Australia came along for the ride. Reporter Edmund Roy prepared a postcard for the international television program 'Foreign Correspondant'. A 'U Tube' of the program is in the video section.

    The Melbourne tram friendship visit was warmly received by the Calcuttan public, CTC trammies, management & union. The Tram Conductor from Melbourne was the subject of numerous articles in Calcutta's print and television media, and seems to have acted as a catalyst in furthering the effort to retain and improve the Calcutta Tramways.

    Trams Decorated : Belgatchia Tram 349 - Kidderpore Tram Depot Tram 329 - Park Circus Depot Tram 340 - Gariahat Tram 498 - Elephant Tram.

    1994 - The journey begins

    1994 - The journey begins

    Posted Thu 1/9/94 by Roberto D'Andrea

    In 1994 Melbourne tram conductor Roberto D'Andrea travelled to India and Calcutta (now Kolkata) with trammie Sarah Pears. Like Melbourne, Calcutta retains an extensive tramway system. Roberto had packed tickets and photos of trams in anticipation of meeting Indian trammies. On his first day on Indian soil he headed straight to the Esplanade Tram Terminus. Boarding a tram he explained that he was a 'tram wallah' from Australia. The friendly trammies sat him down and took him to Belgatchia Tram Depot in North Calcutta. They showed him around and a trammie friendship between Melbourne and Calcutta was born. The Belgatchia trammies explained that the Calcutta Tramways was being run-down and set up for closure.

    On Roberto's return to Australia he maintained contact with his new Calcuttan friends. After discussions with Melbourne trammies and artist/RMIT academic Mick Douglas it was decided that South Melbourne Depot should form a 'sister' relationship with the Belgatchia Depot.