Port Canning Rice Mill Tramway

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Port Canning Rice Mill Tramway

'Port Canning' is also described in some early documents as 'Port Matla', named after the Matla River about 28 miles(45km) south-east of Calcutta.

The Port, named after the then Viceroy of India, was an ill fated attempt in the mid 1880’s to build a new port serving Calcutta. It was located to the south-east of Calcutta in the area of mangrove swamps known as the Sundarbans and was promoted by the ‘Port Canning and Land Improvement Co Ltd.’ It failed as port as the Sundarbans are natural protection against typhoons from the Bay of Bengal and building in them took away this protection;, thus exposing the port to no defence during the typhoon season [1].

The records show that a Rice Mill had been constructed before 1887 and that a tramway ran from the mill to the Calcutta and South Eastern Railway station at Canning that was said to ‘afford easy access to the station and thence to Calcutta’. The line was broad gauge(BG) and thought to have been animal worked [1].

On November 2, 1867 a cyclone hit the region. Calcutta, although suffering extensive wind damage, escaped added destruction from storm surge. Port Canning, however, was totally destroyed by a surge "about five feet and a half high," according to a contemporary newspaper account, and reduced to a "bleached skeleton." Five years later the grand plans for its development were finally abandoned [2].

The company went into liquidation and was reconstituted as the ‘Port Canning Land Co Ltd’ and by 1909 the ‘Imperial Gazetteer’ states ‘ Canning is now a Government estate and only the relics of wild speculation of the sixties (1860’s) are a railway (Calcutta and South Eastern Railway ) which does little traffic in timber and other produce from the Sundarbans, some ruined jetties and the remains of a tramway line’ [3].


  1. 1.0 1.1 “Industrial Railways and Locomotives of India and South Asia” compiled by Simon Darvill. Published by ‘The Industrial Railway Society’ 2013. ISBN 978 1 901556 82-7. Available at http://irsshop.co.uk/India. Reference: Entry WB146 page ....
  2. “Storm Surge Risk – A cautionary Tale from history” by Saurabh Mishra"; Retrieved 10 Oct 2017
  3. “Imperial Gazetteer of India”, v. 9, p. 300; Retrieved 10 Oct 2017