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melbourne's tramway history. melbourne's tramway history by a "special correspondent" you have been passenger no. to ride the w class tram since 29th june, 1999. please ride the w class again. this article is taken from electric traction, the journal of the australian electric traction association, february 1960 issue. the first tramway to operate in melbourne was an isolated line from fairfield railway station. it ran northwards for about one mile, being about four miles north-east of the city. it was built to carry people to land sales, and is believed to have operated only on such occasions. "service" commenced on 10th january, 1885, with one double-deck tramcar, and ceased about 1891-2. the next tramway to appear was the line to the eastern suburb of richmond, when cable operation commenced on 11th november, 1885. from this 3 1/2 mile route grew the main melbourne cable tramway system which soon covered the city and inner suburbs from the north-west through the east to the south. sixteen routes were operating by 1891 along 43 1/2 miles of streets, and this system ran almost unaltered until it was converted to electric trams or motor buses or was abandoned. rolling stock consisted of four wheel grip cars towing trailers, mainly of the four-wheel type with saloon bodies. originally, the grips and trailers for each route were painted in distinctive colours, but a standard colour scheme came into use in the 1920's. the maximum rolling stock reached was 592 grip cars, 534 four-wheel trailers and 63 bogie trailers, between 1922 and about 1926, while route mileage remained constant from 1891 to 1925. the next horse tramway to appear was really a branch line from the brunswick cable route, and ran for .625 miles (of double track) from royal parade to the main entrance of the zoo. it opened on the same day as the cable route - 1st october, 1887. four cars - saloons and toastracks - operated the route until the depot and cars were destroyed by fire during the police strike on 5th november, 1923. as patronage had declined for some years, it was formally decided to abandon melbourne's last horse tramway. a third horse tramway also commenced in october 1887, and ran from the terminus of the brunswick cable tram northwards along sydney rd for about 1 1/2 miles. it operated until 1916, when taken over and electrified. it was originally operated by the northern tramway co., and later by the coburg council. the melbourne tramway & omnibus co. followed its zoo horse tramway with two others. the first ran from the victoria st (north richmond) cable tram terminus to kew. passengers were obliged to walk over the bridge across the yarra river to board the horse tram, which ran one mile 53 chains to the main gate of the kew cemetery. service commenced on the 28th december, 1887, and ceased on 31st december 1914, when the route was electrified. a maximum of eight cars was reached in 1910, and were housed in a large corrugated iron shed at the outer terminus. the last m.t.&o.co. horse line ran from the richmond cable tram terminus to hawthorn, a distance of 2.06 miles. it ran from 27th january, 1890 until 31st january 1916, when it was closed for electrification. the caulfield tramway co. commenced operating a horse tramway between elsternwick railway station and caulfield railway station in april, 1889 and later constructed a branch line along glenhuntly road to glenhuntly railway station. total mileage was four miles, 30 chains. the service appears to have ceased in 1894, but the rails were still in position in glenhuntly rd when that road was electrified in 1913. the remaining suburban horse tramway was situated in the southern bayside suburbs of sandringham, beaumaris and cheltenham, some nine to twelve miles from melbourne. the beaumaris tramway co. built six miles 33 chains of track and commenced operating in april 1889. holiday traffic was very popular in the early years, and a maximum of about 20 trams, of both toastrack and double-deck saloon types, operated from two depots. the service between cheltenham railway station and beaumaris ceased about 1910 to 1914, while the sandringham to beaumaris section closed in 1914. a two-mile cable tramway was opened by the clifton hill, northcote and preston tramway co. between the m.t.o. cable tram terminus at clifton hill and dundas st northcote on 18th february, 1890. the company suffered from the general financial malaise of the times and service ceased on 7th july, 1893., only to resume on 7th april 1894. the service stopped again on the 27th november 1897, and re-opened again under the auspices of the northcote council in march 1903. rolling stock was mostly similar to the m.t.o.'s, but one trailer is reported to have varied. the cable tunnel was not as deep as that used by the m.t.o., and although the lines almost touched at clifton hill, a through service was impossible until the m.&m.t.b. placed smaller pulleys in the tunnel in 1925. the first electric tramway to operate in australia - indeed the southern hemisphere - commenced from box hill (nine miles east of the city ) on 14th october, 1889. it ran northwards through open farmlands to high grounds at doncaster, a distance of 2 1/4 miles, where excellent views of the surrounding countryside drew large crowds on holidays. the original frail tramcar and the generating equipment originated from the centennial international exhibition which was opened in melbourne on 1st august, 1888. although early financial results were satisfactory, a dispute with a land owning company over right-of-way caused service to be cut in june 1891, and the box hill and doncaster tramway co. ltd. went into liquidation in january 1892. despite this failure, the doncaster and box hill electric road co. ltd. was formed in the same month, and operated the line until 1894, when it leased the property to its engineer, mr. h.hilton, for one shilling per week. mr. hilton managed to keep the service running until 6th january, 1896, when falling revenue caused him to terminate this amazing lease. a small saloon car had been placed in service before the first company failed, and both tramcars and the other assets were sold. the only steam-operated passenger tramway to operate in melbourne ran from cheltenham railway station to the melbourne home and hospital for the aged, a distance of about one mile. it was originally built by the contractor to carry construction material for the home, but was later used to carry visitors. it was built about 1908 to a narrow gauge (2 ft. or 2 ft.6 ins) and was serviced by two small locomotives and a number of trucks and carriages. it is doubtful the line survived for very long after the home was opened in 1909. the first electric tramway opened in the (then) suburbs of melbourne commenced running from st kilda railway station on 5th may, 1906. it had been built by the victorian railways to their gauge of 5 ft. 3ins.,and ran south to middle brighton. an extension of one mile to brighton beach railway station was opened on 22nd december 1906 making a total length of 5 miles 12 chains. disaster struck on 7th march 1907 when fire destroyed the elwood depot, offices and seventeen trams. seven bodies were purchased from sydney and placed on reconditioned trucks, and the service reopened on the 17th march. single truck cars of both motor and trailer types, with saloon, combination, open and closed toastrack bodies, provided the service until the first of sixteen drop centre bogie cars was received in 1916. many of the earlier trams were either scrapped or sent to the sandringham line in the next few years, and the bogies provided the bulk of the service. three "luxury" tramcars entered service in 1942, being based on the design then current on the m & m.t.b. system (see later). the post war years saw falling revenue and wearing track and cars, and the middle brighton to brighton beach extension was abandoned on the 31st december, 1956. the next abandonment came six months later on 30th june 1957, when the line was cut back to head st, at elwood depot, leaving 2 1/2 miles to operate until the final closure on the 28th february, 1959. all cars were sold, the m. & m.t.b. purchasing the three "luxury" trams. the second electric tramway in melbourne's suburbs was opened on the 11th october 1906 and ran from flemington bridge (near the terminus of the north melbourne cable tram route) to essendon, with a branch to saltwater river (now maribyrnong river) and a short spur along puckle st moonee ponds, to moonee ponds railway station. ten saloon and five open toastrack motors and ten open toastrack trailers were commissioned and comprised the whole rolling stock operated by the north melbourne electric tramways and lighting co. ltd. about 7 1/2 route miles were in use. a new era in melbourne's tramway history opened on 30th may, 1910 when the prahran and malvern tramways trust ran their first car out of malvern depot. operations commenced with thirteen single truck combination cars on 4 3/4 miles of route, and few would be bold enough to be sure that within ten years the undertaking would have spread throughout the eastern and southern suburbs with 100 trams running on 35 1/2 miles of route. the "p. & m." was the first of the melbourne suburban tramways trusts, and became by far the largest. they introduced bogie electric tramcars in 1912, and built 25 such cars within three years, in addition to single truckers. when their lines reached into the kew area in 1915, a second depot was built in that suburb. most lines were built in double track, and an interesting feature of early construction was the extensive use of centre poles with double bracket arms to carry the trolley wire. the only surviving example of the latter on the ex-p.& m.t.t.lines is on the resered track in dandenong rd. the second of the municipal trusts to commence electric tramway operations was the hawthorn tramways trust, which built a line from batman ave. at the corner of swanston st city, to camberwell junction, where one line continued along riversdale rd to wattle park and another line branched right to burwood. services commenced on 6th april, 1916, and 11.1 miles of route were in use by 23rd december, 1916, including the power st line to the richmond cable tram terminus which connected with the main lines at the depot. although ten single truck combination cars and ten maximum traction bogie cars were ordered, only seven of the bogies were ready for the opening and the remainder by mid-july. four maximum traction bogie cars were purchased from the p.& m.t.t. in 1916, and were transferred to h.t.t. tracks by a derailing and jacking operation at the right angled crossing at the corner of glenferrie and riversdale roads! eight more bogie cars, almost identical with the original ten, were commissioned in 1917-8, making a maximum rolling stock of 32 cars. a spectacular accident happened on sunday 7th january 1917, when bogie car 11 (later m.& m.t.b. 117) entered a passing loop in toorak rd burwood on the downgrade. the front bogie took the straight, while the rear bogie took the turnout, and the car was badly damaged in the resultant capsize. the h.t.t. purchased 117 acres of land immediately beyond the original wattle park terminus and proceeded to develop it as a tourist attraction. the h.t.t. and m.&m.t.b. have planted some 7,000 trees in this fine reserve, 6,000 being wattle trees. the h.t.t. was concerned at the limited patronage on the power st shuttle and ordered two birney safety cars from the u.s.a. in order to reduce costs. they did not arrive until after the m.&m.t.b. had been formed, and were placed in service by that authority. the third suburban electric tramway trust commenced operating on 27th april, 1916 along sydney rd brunswick, from the cable tram terminus over the former horse tram route. by 31st october 1916 it had reached the northern end of the city proper at queensberry st (where it connected with the swanston st cable trams), and north coburg and east coburg at its outer terminii. the melbourne, brunswick and coburg tramways trust operated 12 large single truck combination cars over seven miles of route, and added six more large cars on radiax trucks in 1917. the remaining two trusts were the fitzroy, northcote and preston tramways trust and the footscray tramways trust. neither completed their projects before being absorbed by the m.& m.t.b. the former was building two routes to east and west preston from the north fitzroy cable tram terminus, and this 5.85 miles of route was eventually opened on 5th april, 1920. the footscray trust was building three short routes in that suburb, radiating from footscray railway station. the 4 1/2 route miles were opened on 6th september, 1921. the victorian railways opened their second tramway (to 4ft. 8 1/2 ins. gauge) from sandringham railway station to black rock on 10th march, 1919, a distance of 2 1/4 miles. several of the toastrack type cars from elwood depot were converted from their original gauge for the new line, and four bogie cars arrived in 1923. an extension to beaumaris ran from !st september 1926 to 31st august 1931, a distance of two miles. during 1933, m.&m.t.b. y class car 613 was on loan for experimental one man operation and two of the bogie cars were converted in 1934 and 1938 as a result of this. no 43 was on loan from elwood (on the spare set of local trucks) three times during 1943, 1946 and 1950, while the four bogie cars were overhauled and painted. track deteriorated badly over the years, and probably became the worst in australia. service finally ended on the 4th november, 1956. the lease of the cable trams by the melbourne tramways and omnibus co. expired on 30th june, 1916 and it was decided to appoint an interim melbourne tramways trust to operate the system until it was decided what to do about the growing problems of street passenger transport in the melbourne metropolitan area. it was eventually decided to form a body known as the melbourne and metropolitan tramways board to take over the m.t.t. cable trams (on 1st november 1919), including the zoo horse tramway. on 2nd february, 1920 the five municipal trusts and the northcote cable line passed to the board, while on 1st august 1922, the essendon lines were purchased. the board now found that it operated eight isolated tramway systems comprising: (a) two cable systems with 45 1/2 route miles and 1,200 cars; (b) six electric systems with 71 1/2 route miles and 226 cars, the latter consisting of 23 different types! it was obvious that standardation was urgently needed, and thus the w class drop centre tramcar evolved. the first tram of this type entered service on the 21st december 1923 and 406 of the fairly similar w, w1 and w2 classes were built by 1931. an overall scheme for melbourne's tramways wsa prepared, and the decision taken to convert the cable trams to electric traction. temporary relief was gained by converting the northern 1/2 mile of the swanston st cable route to electric trams and bringing the coburg cars to lonsdale st, constructing a line along holden st and brunswick rd east to bring the preston cars in by the same route as the coburg cars, and converting the flemington rd cable tramway and building new tracks along flemington rd, peel and william sts to collins st for the essendon trams. while extensions, more passing loops, duplications and new routes were undertaken during the middle 1920's, the first major conversion from cable trams was put in hand. swanston st, st kilda rd, esplanade (st kilda) toorak rd and chapel st were changed over during 1925-26, and enabled the former prahran & malvern tramways trust routes in the eastern and southern suburbs to enter the city. further conversions followed: spencer st to richmond in 1927; collins st to victoria bridge in 1929 and brunswick st in 1930. new electric tramway depots were built at glenhuntly, hanna st, camberwell and malvern (2nd. shed) while 17 acres of land was purchased at preston and the existing workshops constructed. extensions were nade to existing depots at essendon, hawthorn, coburg and preston. despite the financial restrictions of the later depression years, experiments were carried out to evolve a better type of tramcar. this resulted in the w5 class, which became the type used in the conversion of the elizabeth st cable lines in 1935-36. four cable routes were converted to buses between 1935 and 1939, and only the two bourke st routes of 7.883 miles remained. during 1938, the chairman (mr. h.h.bell,snr.) was sent on an overseas tour and returned very impressed with the american p.c.c. tramcars and the london double deck diesel buses. he persuaded the board to try the latter on the bourke st routes and 45 double deck and 25 single deck buses were ordered for the conversion - which had been scheduled for conversion to electric trams by 1940. because of the war, the buses were not placed in service until the 26th october 1940 when the "rope" of the cable tramway could not run any longer. the second main off-spring of mr bell's trip was the sw6 class tramcar, which superseded the 120 cars of the w5 class, and 10 cars of the sw5 class (which latter ones were converted while under construction to be similar to the sw6 class). to date, 190 trams of the sw6 and w7 classes have been built. unfortunately, the war stopped negotiations concerning the p.c.c. cars, but these were resumed after the cessation of hostilities. the war brought extensions to essendon aerodrome, west maribyrnong and gordon st (footscray), plus heavy loadings and rising revenues. tramway passengers rose to 284,139,431 for the year ended 30th june, 1945 (but have fallen to 195,349,994 for the year ended 30th june, 1958). although a large rehabilitation plan was made for the postwar years, little was accomplished because of the severe shortage of manpower and, during some years, loan money. a set of p.c.c. trucks and equipment was placed in a modified sw6 class body, and no. 980 entered service in july, 1950. after a lengthy period of construction, the 1 1/2 mile latrobe st diversion was opened on 15th january, 1951. meanwhile, mr. bell had retired, and was succeeded by major general r.j.h.risson (from brisbane tramways) in october 1949. on 1st january, 1952, mr. d.h.eakins was appointed chief engineer, and the engineering departments had their first direct coordinator since before the war. the long postponed conversion of the two bourke st routes from buses to trams commenced in september 1953. (it had been decided by 1944 that the buses were unequal to the loads they were required to carry). the isolation of the local footscray system ended on 2nd may, 1954 when the south spur at west maribyrnong was linked to gordon st, and trams replaced buses on the moonee ponds-footscray route. the first bourke st route was officially opened on 24th june, 1955 to northcote, and the second route to nicholson st on 8th april 1956. the trams needed operated from two depots, and were equipped with resilient wheels and carbon insert shoes (instead of trolley wheels). work on the system since "the bourke st job" has been concentrated on relaying tracks in mass concrete, although several additions have been made to the permanent way service tram roster, and three trams have been purchased from the victorian railways following closure of their line from st kilda railway station. the m.&m.t.b. now operates 790 passenger tramcars over 142.67 miles of route. the latter figure makes it the largest single system of electric tramways to operate in australia, although the department of road transport and tramways (now department of government transport) in sydney was the larges single operator, controlling the main sydney system, and the systems at north sydney, manly, enfield, rockdale and newcastle.finis this page sponsored by get your own
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