Transport Engineering

The origins of the Kingsway Workshop go back to the Colaba Causeway workshop of the Bombay Tramways Company as it then was. The workshop was opened there in 1886. People living in the surrounding area complained of nuisance from the workshop in 1910 and the Company (by now the B.E.S.T. Company) decided to shift the workshop to a convenient spot in the north of the city. Accordingly, in June 1915 land was acquired from the Improvement Trust at Kingsway, between Dadar and Matunga, on a 999-year lease. A workshop was soon erected on the plot.The workshop undertook the repairs of both the coachwork and the electrical machinery of trams. It was equipped with all the necessary machines, such as a heavy-duty shaping machine, a tyre-cutting lathe, a tyre-heating furnace, an armature-winding plant, a coil-testing machine, etc. The work was carried out in sections such as the truck shop, the paint shop, the machine shop, etc.

When bus services were introduced in 1926, a bus workshop was opened in Colaba. Transportation engineering was now divided into separate sections for trams and buses. When the Colaba workshop began to prove inadequate to the needs of buses, another bus workshop was opened at Dadar near the tram workshop. This workshop had various sections for repairs to chassis (base-frame, engine and wheels), body and ancillaries, and seats and windows, a paint shop, a machine stop, an electrical section, a unit section, calibration and lubrication, a tyre section, etc.

After  1947, the workshop space was found to be inadequate with the expansion of the bus service. In 1950, further land was acquired next to the Kingsway Tram Workshop and the new Workshop was planned to maintain a fleet of 600 buses.

When trams were abolished in 1964, the tram sheds in the Kingsway Workshop were taken over for the expansion of the Bus Workshop. This was a useful temporary expedient; but these sheds had been specially designed for trams and did not permit a scientifically planned expansion of the Bus workshop.


When the trams were abolished, the tram and bus workshops were merged. The pits in the tram sheds (for under carriage repairs) were filled in and levelled and the space was allotted to bus body repair sections. Machines no longer useful were sold. Some of the tram workshop staff were redundant under the new arrangement and under the regulations, could have been retrenched on payment of compensation. They were, however, suitably re-trained and absorbed in the bus workshop.

The rearrangements at unifaction were carried out as methodically as possible. The space needed for each section was calculated as for an assumed fleet of 1500 buses. The layout of the Shops was arranged, so as to avoid unnecessary movement of materials. The work of shifting of machinery and equipment and merging of shops was carried out without affecting the daily production.

At the time the Municipality took over the B.E.S.T. Company, double decker buses constituted 65 to 70 per cent of the fleet, the rest were single deckers. Economically, this was a sound proportion.

The chassis (and spare parts of the chassis) of D.D. buses were imported from England. However, in 1961, the Government of India laid down restrictions on the import of D.D. chassis, as it was proposed to manufacture the chassis in India. the import of spare parts was also severely restricted.

The Undertaking’s buses were in a grave state at this period. Most were old. New chassis were not available. The fleet utilization was 81 per cent. i.e. out of every 100 vehicles only 81 were available for actual service; the other 19 were in the workshop awaiting repairs. Shortage of spares delayed their repair. In the circumstances, two alternatives were open : one, to purchase the uneconomic single-deckers, for they were being manufactured in India; the other, to strive for self-sufficiency by repairing the existing double-deckers with maximum efficiency and putting them on the road again.

Transportation Engineering accepted the challenge and started methodical work. About 50 vehicles in the available fleet were temporarily withdrawn from service and brought into the workshop. Their units were dismantled and the parts were thoroughly inspected for the degree of wear and tear. Then they were sorted into reparable and condemned.

Inquiries were set on foot about the possibilities of having replacements for the condemned parts manufactured in the country. Indian manufacturers were induced to undertake the manufacture of parts which were needed on a large scale, such as pistons rings, valve guides, rocker shafts, main and big-end bearings for Gardener engines. etc.

The same solution could not be adopted for parts which were not needed in large quantities. Attempts were made to repair them in the workshop. With processes such as welding and metal-spraying, sleeving, metal-stitching, such parts as valves, crank-shafts, master-cylinders, wheel-cylinders, tappets, flywheel housings, cam-shafts, etc., were given a new lease of life.

Until the B.E.S.T. Company was taken over by the Municipality, only the Colaba Depot was available for the maintenance of buses and minor repairs. As the fleet grew, the need for more depots was felt. In 1961 the fleet comprised 1045 buses in all. Six new depots were constructed for their maintenance. The Wadala Depot was equipped for the maintenance of 300 buses. At this time it was the largest depot in Asia. After this, taking long maintenance experience into account, the authorities decided that no depot should be called on to look after more than 125 to 150 buses. Accordingly, small depots were built at convenient spots in the city and its suburbs.

Standardization of Bus Construction : From an engineering point of view, a bus has two main components : the body or coachwork and chassis (together with the engine and the transmission) on which the body is built. Both were standardized as far as possible.

In the period upto 1960 different manufacturers built varying bus-bodies. Some bus-bodies were of composite type and some were built of steel and aluminium. These variations proved troublesome and costly in maintenance. A decision to have complete metal bodies was taken and brought into effect from 1962. Another early step was to standarize the various fitments on bus-bodies.

In 1967, with a view to standardizing bus construction, buses were classified into three types. Type A comprised single deckers, steel-built throughout. Type B comprised double – deckers, also steel-built throughout. Type C included both single deckers and double-deckers and used both steel and aluminium in their construction.

Manufacturers build these types of buses in conformity with special designs prepared by the Transportation Engineering Department. The demands of city transport are different in some respects from those of other transport. In the city gear-changes are far more frequent and brakes must be extremely efficient. A large diesel tank is required; medium horse-power is adequate for the engine. Transportation Engineering takes all these requirements into account in designing a chassis to suit the special needs of city traffic. Efforts are being made to improve the bus-bodies and make them better looking.

5 Responses to “Transport Engineering”

  1. Daryll Rodrigues Says:

    Hi there!

    Could you possibly tell me if the Bombay Tramways (when it existed) had any breakdown/recovery vehicles and tower wagons to deal with derailments, accidents with other vehicular traffic & overhead cable problems?
    I am very keen on procuring photos of these vehicles from anyone. Thanks.
    Daryll R

  2. Daryll Rodrigues Says:

    Hi Anyone!
    This is a 2nd request to anyone who may have in their possession photos of tramway breakdown/recovery vehicles. I am particularly interested in this aspect of tramway operation wordwide.
    Daryll R

  3. Daryll Rodrigues Says:

    Anyone out there? I have posted two messages re photos of tramway beakdown/recover vehicles and/or tower wagons if anyone would like to contact me.
    Please email me if you have any photos of these types of vehicles.
    Thank you
    Daryll R

  4. Daryll Rodrigues Says:

    Anyone out there? I have posted two messages re photos of tramway breakdown/recovery vehicles and/or tower wagons if anyone would like to contact me.
    Please email me if you have any photos of these types of vehicles.
    Thank you
    Daryll R

  5. tim Says:

    Class mate.

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