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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]

But the good time for anything that is artistic and leisurely was over. Entering 60s, it was machine and speed that ruled the day for many reasons - some are reasonable and some are not so reasonable - in the West and then in the East, including in China. At 17 minutes past midnight on August 15, 1963, the last tram departed the terminus in Jing’ansi; as soon as the tram wheels rolled past the rails, the workers and the PLA soldiers previously waited at the both sides with equipments quickly demolished the rails behind the tram. By 3:52am, Tram Route 1 left Nanjing Road and arrived in Waitan, and it was the moment that after 55 years of being the indispensable feature of the commercial heart of Shanghai, Tram Route 1 eventually rolled into history.

Yet it was until 12 years later that all traces of the tram were wiped away from Shanghai’s ground.

In early 70s, on each Saturday afternoon (except during the school holidays), one could witness a group of girls and boys at the station of Great Eight Temples (大八寺) jumping onto Tram Route 3 that ran between Hongkou Park and Pentagon Square (五角场) in the northeast of Shanghai. They were the students from the High School Affiliated to Jiaotong University, one of a handful of top prestigious boarding highs in Shanghai that only took in the students selected from primary schools, in an era when most students had to attend a school nearby, a policy designed to avoid a long distance travel by kids.

By then the driver was no longer standing but sitting on a high stool, but the sound of bells was still produced by driver’s foot when the tram approaching a stop or when one or two pedestrians walked across the rails in front of the approaching tram, conductor lady was still punching a pole on tickets, the fare was still started at 3 fens, the exterior of trams was still painted in muted green, the rails under trams were still glistening in the sun, the carriage floors were still paved with timbers, the benches were still made of wood, the windows behind the benches could still be opened and closed at passengers’ will, the folding doors of the carriages were still manufactured with metal bars and measured about a meter in height, the boys and the girls heading home once a week still loved to stand around the driver monitoring his navigating performance, and trams still progressed in a leisurely speed, rocking and swaying.

And old Shanghai tram displayed on Shanghai street

Then on December 1, 1975, all the tinkling and jingling, all the swaying and swinging came to a full stop - Tram Route 3 was replaced by Bus Route 93. From that day on in the next thirty years plus, urban Shanghai had no more sight of rails no more sound of bells. A month later, Zhou Enlai, China’s first Premier and the conductor of China Tram passed away; eight months later, Zhu De, Chairman of China’s Congress and the security guard of China Tram passed away; ten months later, Mao Zedong, Chairman of CCP and the driver of China Tram passed away; a year or two later, the new driver ordered to replace the China Tram with China Bus. The tracks were dismantled, and there have been no more tracks since, and the China Bus has to grope its way forward through the messy traffic flow in the murky downtown streets of the ruleless global village.

Another 30 years rolled away. Then on the National Day 2009, tram re-emerged in Shanghai, but with a twist. It lost one leg becoming monorail, it runs fast like a bullet, it rings no bells, it opens no windows, it operates orderly, it moves steadily, its conductors are no longer casually ambling around and punching a hole on your ticket but all pose graciously like flight hostesses, its drivers no longer allow you to monitor their performance from behind but position themselves stately as if were airline pilots.

The old Shanghai tram used to be the favourite urban transportation for the residents from all walks of life, in particular the folks at the grassroots level, due to its high frequency, its low cost and its easiness to leap on and jump off board, while the reincarnated tram is more like to be designed for a planned VIP trip. It gains speed, gains efficiency, gains order, gains stability, but the lively dynamism, the social inclusion and the human touch seem to be somewhat missing. Can we regain those lost qualities? Even it can’t be done with this kind of tram, how about with that kind of tram? And maybe it’s not just about the tram, but also about the city planning? And maybe it’s not even just about the city planning, but also about the national strategy?

It is said that many roads lead to Rome, not just one. It may also be said that many travel methods can help us to take the journey to Rome, not just one. And after all, Rome, the once imperial headquarter, doesn't have to be the only destination for our journey - there is commercial centre Nanjing Road, there is workers' hub Yangshupu, and more.

[1] [2] [3]

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

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RELATED:

A Tram on downtown street Melbourne, Australia, 2010

Tram attracted the fastest growing patronage than any mode of transport in Melbourne, despite it costs much less to maintain than that of rail or freeway network.

Melbourne is the only city in Australia and in the world that the traditional tram is still running in its downtown area. In fact it has become such a distinctive part of Melbourne's character that when government decided to retire the W-class green and yellow trams from service in 2012, a loud protest is heard.

Adam Elliot, an Oscar winner for his animated film Harvie Krumpet, recently called on the residents in Melbourne to ''strongly demand'' the state government to reconsider its plan.

''The W-class tram is such a precious Melbourne icon that its removal would be like Edna not living in Moonee Ponds, Leunig not having his weekly cartoons in The Age, and Luna Park not having a mouth,'' Elliot said, according to Sydney Morning Herald [1].

He recalled when he traveled the world he was frequently asked if Melbourne still has its “gorgeous old trams”. “Let's advance and evolve our wonderful city but not lose its soul in the process,” he pled.

[1] Reference: smh.com.au/victoria/
wclass-trams-the-art-and-soul-
of-melbourne-town-
20101023-16yne.html


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