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Trams in Shanghai (2)

30 October 2010

Early Days of Shanghai Tram

The Heyday of Shanghai Tram

Dying Days & Resurrection

[1] [2] [3]

The heyday of Shanghai tram was between early 30s to late 50s when it became the most favourite travel mode of the residents and the most distinctive streetscape of downtown Shanghai both in visual and in audio senses. In the morning the residents with bedrooms near the main streets woke up by the crispy sound of tram bells, and at night they drifted into dreams in the cozy echo of the chimes.

Tram rails in Shanghai downtown in 1953

Shanghai resident 金陵人[1] was born and grown up in a house situated on Sichuan Road (四川路) with the door right in the front of a Route 1 stop. In the 50s, there was no shelter at the bus or tram stations in Shanghai, so from his balcony he could easily spot a tram pulling into the stop. Sometimes when he was late for school, he would check if there was a tram coming; and when there was one, he would race down the stairs and dash out the door and jump on board. It cost him 3 fens (3% of a yuan) to take the trip, a price which could afford him a baked sesame pie (大饼) for his breakfast or 3 low-quality pencils for his homework. The conductor would tear an appropriate ticket from a timber clipboard he/she was holding in his/her arm and punch a tiny hole in the ticket with a delicate copper pincer to indicate how far a passenger was allowed to travel with his fare.

Another native Shanghai resident pen named 食砚无田 also narrated on his blog [2] about his childhood memory of tram:





When I was a little boy my family lived in a shared Stone Gate Terrace House in Merry Alley (#646 Lane) at Tiantong Road (near Henan Zhong Road), where Tram Route 8 from Yangshupu to East New Bridge passed through with fare starting at 3 fens. At the time my family’s finally situation was rather tight and I seldom got any pocket money. I would love to take for a ride to Nanjing Road, but I could not afford the fare so often stood at the entrance of the alleyway watching trams disappearing in the direction of the downtown centre and fancied what I might experience if I were on board.

It was until I started attending primary school that my mother began to give my 2 fens each week as my pocket money. I saved all of them in a clay coin saver. The sound of a coin falling into the saver would make me so thrilled, as I pictured with these coins how many sweet tram trips I would be able to take.

You know, the most delightful experience in riding tram was to stand next to the driver who also stood there while driving the vehicle.

My family moved to Wuning Road in 1968 to live in a flat with a proper kitchen and a bathroom, leaving behind the allay, the Stone-Gate Terrace House and trams, which somehow made me feel as if I lost a part of my life. The chinking sound of tram bells that had accompanied my entire childhood is so unforgettable.

The following is 金陵人’s description of the tram riding experience:



Tram driver stood for the whole trip behind the handles for direction and speed (only in the late years they were offered a tall stool), and the bell sound was caused by driver’s foot pressing down on a metal treadle that hit against a metal device and produced clapping sound. I often stood behind the driver observing with great amazement that how wonderfully he was able to utilize all his arms and legs at the same time.

The interior of the carriage was exclusively made of timber, even the floor, with small ornaments all around; when looking back, I realized how artistic these tiny ornaments were. The tram normally progressed at a leisurely speed, while carriages kept rocking and swaying, a motion that became the backdrop throughout my entire high school years.

A tram driver checking the situation at the front door, Shanghai, 1936


[1] [2] [3]

Early Days of Shanghai Tram
The Heyday of Shanghai Tram
Dying Days & Resurrection

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The Tram to Bondi Beach is a well-crafted and beautifully-illustrated story by Libby Hathorn and Julie Vivas about a 9-year old Sydney boy's professional endeavour as a paperboy on trams traveling to Bondi Beach, a commercial centre directly facing the Pacific Ocean.

The boy's most cherished dream was to become a tram driver when grown up so he could be rattling and flying down the hill to the beach.

The rise and fall of the fate of Sydney tram follow a very much similar pattern and timeline as that occurred in Shanghai.

The first electric tram service down to Bondi Beach began in 1906, just two year earlier than the tram service to Waitan, a commercial centre directly facing Shanghai's mother river Huangpu.

The heyday of tram in Sydney was in 1940s. At its peak in 1945, the tram network had carried 404 million passengers, but since entering 1950s, the tram was gradually replaced by buses.

The last tram to North Bondi and Bronte ran in the early hours of Sunday 28th February, 1960, 3 years before the final run of Shanghai Tram Route 1 to Waitan, while the entire Sydney tram network was finally closed at the end of February 1961, 14 years before that in Shanghai.


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