Melbourne - Calcutta Tramway Friendship : The early days

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.