This TOI article says ' trams started operating in Delhi on March 6, 1908, at the behest of Lord Hardinge.'

But Lord Hardinge became Viceroy of India in 1910. And it was Lord Minto who was the incharge of India in 1908.

What am I missing?

  • Some researcher didn't [do his research correctly], and everyone since has just copied the error. Send them an errata, and maybe they will treat you to a free tram ride. If they also treat you to round-trip airfare for two, remember you heard it here first. Mar 7, 2014 at 23:30
  • haha. sure. but actually I doubt if it's an error. because not just TOI but also The Hindu mentions the same, which is considered like a textbook in India. But if u have some good reliable source citing it's an error then I'll definitely apply for 2 air tickets :)
    – aarbee
    Mar 8, 2014 at 9:36
  • @Tea Drinker- incharge is a proper word.
    – aarbee
    Mar 8, 2014 at 9:40
  • In the 1960's and 1970's all North American biology texts proudly announced that humans had 48 chromosomes (sic), right beside a picture of all 46 of them. If I had had the courage of my convictions upon counting them in Grade 10, I would now be world famous. Even eminent authorities make mistakes, and it is exactly the deference to authority demonstrated in your note that causes the error to promulgate. Mar 8, 2014 at 13:41
  • 1
    @Ramit all the newspapers are quoting the same text reference and you will note how similar they all are. Unfortunately there's very little in the books to go by wrt when trams started. I guess we should look at newspapers from those times but I don't know how to access them. The India Office records in London may be a better palce to look.
    – Rajib
    Mar 8, 2014 at 16:06

1 Answer 1


From what evidence I have been able to find, the tramway opened in 1902, soon after electricity was introduced to the walled city ("old" Delhi). The Viceroy at the time was Lord Curzon.

As you have discovered, many newspaper articles have been quoting a different, but very specific date: March 6, 1908. The ultimate source for all of these articles appears in the article "History on Wheels" by Firoz Bakht Ahmed, which may have first appeared in the Deccan Times, but I have not been able to confirm that. This is the relevant quote from the article.

In fact, the tram, according to Ahmed Ali’s Twilight in Delhi, is considered as one aspect which has given Delhi the label of a vintage city. Today, the metro has taken the place of the tram. Nevertheless, down the memory lane, Delhi’s Raj history has its own tag of charm — the trams.

According to Victor Gruen’s The Heart of Our Cities, trams in Delhi began in March 6, 1908 at the behest of Lord Hardinge who launched this transport system at a ceremonial function at the Town Hall in the presence of John Marshall, the director general of the Archaeological Survey of India.

What I find interesting about the statement is that he has provided two very clear references for his work, which I have highlighted in bold. Not only is Hardinge mentioned, but John Marshall, who is a relatively minor player is specifically mentioned, giving the appearance that this sentence was copied directly from some source. (The word "behest" is also unusually archaic, making me more suspicious.) However, I looked in both sources, and strangely, I couldn't find anything like what he mentions in the article.

In Victor Gruen's "The Heart of Our Cities" I could find no reference to the tramway or Hardinge at all. It is hard to see where such a specific claim would be made in such a book; it is really a discussion of urban spread in the sixties. I found only one passing reference to Delhi, on page 19.

Ahmed Ali's "Twilight in Delhi" is a fictional novel written in 1939. It is searchable online at Google Books. I found a few references to the tram, but nothing that specifically called it a "vintage city". Hardinge is also mentioned in the book once, but there is nothing to support the claim in the "History on Wheels" article.

I found a very nice source for Delhi in this era: "Delhi Between Two Empires" by Narayani Gupta. It has copious references to primary source documents. Here is the relevant quote for the tramway (page 167):

Electricity, like the waterworks and the drainage scheme, came to Delhi in 1902 as a side-result of the Durbar. (...) When electricity was introduced, a tramline network was also constructed.The trams first plied in the northern part of the walled city, then (in 1905) in Sabzi Mandi and Paharganj, and in 1907 to Sadar Bazaar and Ajmeri Gate. The sceptical Fanshawe was quick to point out that it was easier to reach Chandni Chowk by walking across Queen's Gardens than by taking a tram.

The Fanshawe that Gupta talks about was the Chief Secretary to the Punjab Government and Commissioner of the Delhi Division. He wrote in the Punjab Municipal Proceedings 53A/July 1902. I haven't checked the source documentation myself, because I don't have access to them.

  • Interesting sidenote: although the Swadeshi movement was not very successful in Delhi, they were successful in getting people to stop taking the tram for a while. Apparently, the tongawallas (cart-pushers) were in support of this due to lost business, and few other Indians cared because losing the tram wasn't a big loss to anybody.
    – nograpes
    Mar 16, 2014 at 16:25
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    That's interesting. I didn't know that Swadeshi movement wasn't a hit in Delhi. BTW, tongawalla is a cart-puller.
    – aarbee
    Mar 16, 2014 at 16:34

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