Tramroads, Riverbed Crossings

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Tramroads, Riverbed Crossings

During the dry season the beds of many rivers had soft sandy soils. Trying to cross these with heavy carts, either pulled by hand or by animal, was arduous. Applications were made for funding to lay Tramroads across these riverbeds to enable carts to easily make the crossing during the dry season. Proposals were for tracks to be constructed from wood, stone or a combination of those materials.

The tracks would either be lifted before the onset of the monsoons or allowed to be washed away. During the monsoon season the carriage of goods would be continued by boats.

Captain Arthur Thomas Cotton of the Madras Engineers in 1836 suggested that one way of laying tram roads was ‘that viaducts are not carried over the great rivers, but that temporary rails are laid across them during the 10 months in which there are no water in them, and that ferry boats are used in the monsoon’ [1].

There are a number examples of the use of this form of temporary Tramroad:-

Adyar River Tramway was under consideration in 1842 to provide a tramway, either using stone or iron rails, to connect south Madras to the outlying districts of Santhome and Mylapore. The proposal was to construct a tramway, presumably to convey carts pulled by bullock and extended over existing roads[2]. A short length was constructed but in 1843 the experiment was abandoned .

Jajmau near Cawnpore, Ganges River Crossing . In 1852 [3] and in 1853-54 Messrs. ‘Greenway Brothers’, Contractors, laid down a bridge of boats to cross the River Ganges at Jajmau, which is some 2 km south of the centre of Cawnpore [4]. Then during the dry season they laid a tramway over the soft sand to connect with the bridge. They were granted rights to raise tolls for the use of the tramway for 6 years [3].

Furruckabad (Farrukhabad) Tramway. Approval was given by the Indian Goverment in 1854-55 ‘to lay down a tramway on the river sands’ [5] on the banks of the Ganges at Furruckabad. This clearly would have been a dry season temporary track, the approval was given for 6 years, but whether it was repeated in subsequent years, or how successful it proved to be, is not known - no further information has been found.

Lucknow, Ganges River Crossing Tramway. A proposal in about 1854-55 was submitted by Messrs. Greenway of Cawnpore 'to construct a double tramway to facilitate the transit of the River Ganges'[6]. No further information has been found.

Gomti River Tramway. Authorisation was given by the Indian Goverment in 1857 ‘to lay down a wooden tramway on the portion of the Ghazeepore Road which lies in the bed of the River Grountee’ [7]. This refers to the road between Benares (now called Varanashi) and Ghazipur( Ghazeepore) ,this road required the crossing of the River Gomti (Grountee) River at Rajwari near the confluence with the River Ganges. This would be a temporary wooden track used in the dry season.

Madras Tramway Proposals. Proposals were put forward by the Madras Government in 1857 for ‘experiments for using tramways instead of common roads; these were being carried out in the Madras Territories and may be used in the Punjab’ [8]. It would appear that Madras were experiencing similar problems in crossing unstable ground and were developing solutions using temporary tracks.

Bhogava River Temporary Tramway . In 1869 a proposal to cross the Bhogava River at Limbdi in Kathiawar. The moveable tramway was constructed in 1870. This was probably a stone or wooden tramway for carts to cross the soft sand of the riverbed [9]


  1. British Library IOR/F/4/1867/79385, Page 57. 1836; “Report to the General of Civil Estimates, 1836”
  2. British Library IOR/F/4/2089 “Military Report 135 1843 Board collections 97150”
  3. 3.0 3.1 British Library IOR/E/4/817 page 1294; “Roads, Oude, completion of tramway by Messrs Greenway”; Side Note (100 & 83 of the 7th September , No52; 1852
  4. British Library IOR/E/4/843, page 1413. “Jajmau, Ferry, offer on part of Messrs. Greenway Brothers to be allowed contract of bridge of boats at Cawnpore.”
  5. British Library IOR/E/4/829, Page 1479. 1854-55; “SN 94 Farm to Messrs. Greenway of Cawnpore of the ferry and bridge at Furruckabad for 6 years at Rs 6,200 per annum They are engaging to lay down a tramway on the river sands”
  6. British Library IOR/E/4/864 p.92 "Proposal by Messer Greenway Bros to construct a double tramway to facilitate the transit of the Ganges referred to the resident in Lucknow."
  7. British Library IOR/E/4/846, Page 641. 1857; “India Public Works department 19 Aug 1857" 'Side Note (393) Expenditure of Rs3000.0.0 sanctioned from the ferry fund (Benares) for laying down a wooden tramway on the portion of the Ghazeepore Road which lies in the bed of the River Grountee’
  8. British Library IOR/E/4/843 p1238 “Roads, Madras, tramways suggested as substitutes for common roads”
  9. British Library IOR/V/10/1384 ‘Indian States Administration Reports Kathiawar 1865- to 1875’ No 12 of 1869 para 75 and No 40 para 47