Melbourne's Trams To The Millennium.

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Yarra Trams C 3002 at Port Junction.
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Melbourne's tramway system, the largest in the Southern Hemisphere and the eleventh largest in the world, comprises 244 route kilometers of track operated by 517 trams of six classes, both heritage and modern, running on the 1435 mm gauge.

Since David Keenan's book Melbourne Tramways was published in 1985, many interesting and diverse events have occurred in the ensuing fifteen years. New trams, the B2 class have arrived replacing the venerable W2 class trams that ruled Melbourne's streets for sixty-four years. Even that Melbourne icon, the W class tram, has been decimated, only fifty-three left in service from a total of over seven hundred. New extensions have opened, to Blackburn Rd East Burwood and Airport West in 1993 and to Bundoora RMIT in 1995. Trams have even replaced trains! In 1987, the suburban railway lines to St Kilda and Port Melbourne were replaced by articulated light rail vehicles.

The future of Melbourne's trams is looking healthy. It was announced recently that ninety new low floor trams will be delivered, 59 to Yarra Trams and 31 to Swanston Trams, starting in 2001. The Swanston Trams Citadis cars are currently being assembled in France, the first four were delivered to Melbourne on Thursday 9th August and are due to commence services in September 2001, the launch date tentatively set at September 15th. This appears to herald the start of a fleet replacement program that will see all high floor trams phased out by the year 2026.

A Brief History Of Melbourne's Trams.

Cable trams, the first tram system that Melbourne had, commenced operations with a line from Spencer St to Richmond along Flinders St and Bridge Rd.

The cable tram system was operated by the Melbourne Tramway & Omnibus Co and grew to have no less than 46 miles of track serving seventeen routes, arguably the largest in the world.

In 1916, the MTOC lease expired, and the cable trams operated under an interim management, the Melbourne Tramways Board, until the Melbourne & Metropolitan Tramways Board took over in 1919. The M&MTB embarked on a program to electrify the cable lines which started in 1925 and finished in 1940 with the departure along Bourke St of the last ever cable tram to Northcote. The Bourke St lines were originally converted to both double and single deck bus operation, double deck buses ran to East Brunswick but single deck buses had to run via Smith St Collingwood as the curve from Gertrude St into Smith St was too sharp to accommodate double deckers. As buses were a failure on these routes, trams were substituted in 1956, just in time for the Olympic Games.

The first electric trams in Melbourne commenced operation in 1889 from Box Hill to Doncaster, this line lasting until 1896. The first successful electric tramway in Melbourne was the Victorian Railways trams which commenced their operations in 1906 between St Kilda and Elwood, just before the North Melbourne Electric Tramway and Lighting Company (NMETL) started theirs between Flemington Bridge, Moonee Ponds and Maribyrnong. Several other council controlled tramway trusts commenced operations, the greatest of them all was the Prahran and Malvern Tramways Trust (PMTT), which commenced in 1913.

The six tramways trusts and their details were -

North Melbourne Electric Tramway & Lighting Co. (NMETL).
Opened in 1906 with lines from Flemington Bridge to Moonee Ponds and Maribyrnong. Services were operated from Essendon Depot.
Prahran & Malvern Tramways Trust.(PMTT).
Opened in 1910 with lines connecting with cable trams in St Kilda Rd to the southeastern suburbs. Services were operated from Malvern and Kew depots.
Hawthorn Tramways Trust (HTT).
Opened in 1916 with lines from Princes Bridge (Batman Ave) to Wattle Park and Burwood. Services were operated from Hawthorn depot.
Melbourne, Brunswick & Coburg Tramways Trust (MBCTT).
Opened in 1916 with lines to Moreland and Brunswick. Services were operated by Coburg depot.
Fitzroy, Northcote & Preston Tramways Trust (FNPTT).
Was not ready for service before the M&MTB takeover in 1919. The FNPTT were to operate lines to East and West Preston operated from the original Preston Depot.
Footscray Tramways Trust (FTT).
Was not ready for service before the M&MTB takeover in 1919. Three lines were to be operated isolated from the main system, with services operated by Footscray depot.

In 1919 and 1920, the M&MTB took over all the separate tramways trusts, except the NMETL which held out until 1921. The Board inherited a mixed bag of trams of several different designs, this culminated in the design and construction of the W class, which became Melbourne's standard tram. The eight variations of the W class totalled no less than 751 trams, of which only 54 remain in service, with fifty in the Ready Reserve fleet, used for emergencies.

In 1983, the M&MTB was amalgamated with the Victorian Railways suburban services to become the Metropolitan Transit Authority, with "The Met" as its trading name. The Met started experimenting with ticketing systems and introduced A and B class trams before handing over to the Public Transport Corporation in 1993, which kept "The Met" as its trading name.

In 1998, the PTC was corporatised as a prelude to privatisation,which took place on August 29th 1999 (at 3 o'clock in the morning!). The trams have been split up into two separate systems, Yarra Trams, and Swanston Trams. Yarra trams was taken over by Melbourne Metrolink,owned by the French, and Swanston Trams by National Express, owned by the British.

Colour Schemes

1. W class trams.

The 43 trams now in service on regular routes, and the 50 held in reserve for emergencies now carry their original Hawthorn Green and Cream livery lined in gold. It was originally intended to reapply the M&MTB logo but a gold version of the PTC double arrow logo was substituted. One tram, W7 1011, was formerly held for commemmorative purposes, but has recently been added to the City Circle fleet.

2. City Circle trams

City Circle trams, of which there are eleven, are painted burgundy with a green roof. A gold band encircles the tram and City Circle emblems are black and white. Tram numbers are gold. W7 1011 only has its ends painted in the City Circle scheme, the sides being used for promotional purposes.

3. Z, A and B class trams.

Most trams are painted in Shamrock Green and Wattle Yellow, with Burmese Gold roofs. A yellow line runs along the side panels, this was lowered from its original position starting in 1988 as it used to be hidden by advertising panels. Tram numbers are yellow unlined stick on vinyl decals.

Yarra Trams has commenced painting A and B class trams in a distinctive blue and grey scheme. Click on Yarra Tramsto see this scheme.
M>Tram (formerly Swanston Trams) is also repainting Z3 and B2 class trams in their new colour scheme. Click Here to see Z3 185 in its new colours.

4. Decorated trams

Many trams are painted for use as decorated trams used for advertising or promotional purposes. Some trams have been decorated for the same company for quite some time, Qantas had Z3 217 for nearly three years, and the tram has had no less than six changes to its livery, including the 1997 Australian Grand Prix and the 1998 Commonwealth Games. B2 2068 ia another example, having had four different liveries for Melbourne Water/,and has since been repainted in the new Yarra Trams colour scheme.

Where Have All The W Class Trams Gone?

Most of them haven't gone very far at all! Around 40 W2 class trams went to the USA both as runners and also for their electrical gear. Several W5 class trams are there as well. In 1989, the PTC gave preference to local buyers when selling W class trams. For further details regarding the whereabouts of W class cars, click on The W Class.

1990 saw the National Trust classify all the remaining W class trams as heritage vehicles, and a combination of the PTC, unions and Government has ensured that no further W class tram will be allowed to leave Victoria, or be scrapped.

So what will happen to the W class? Many of them are stored at Newport Railway Workshops (after some had been temporarily stored at the Hendersons Springs factory in North Melbourne, others being stored on the test track at Preston Workshops), not wanted by anybody except enthusiast groups and museums worldwide. These trams are rotting away because of the National Trust's attitude, they should be disposed of thoughtfully to those who would look after them and return them to their former glory. The 54 trams in use today will be kept in service indefinitely, but it is not known whether the 50 Ready Reserve trams will ever turn a wheel again. It is most unlikely, although some have been used on enthusiast charters.

Melbourne's Tram Fleet.

The Original W class number series was
W5 class.
681 - 685, 720 - 839.
SW5 class.
840 - 849
SW6 class.
850 - 969
W6 class.
970 - 979, 981 - 1000.
W7 class.
1001 - 1040.

W class trams - Technical Details.

Class  Numbers  Length  Width  Height  Trucks   Control   Motors    Seats

 SW5   720-849  14.17m  2.73m  3.16m   MMTB 15  MMTB RC2  GE247AX2   50  
 SW6   850-969    "       "      "        "        "         "       " 
  W6   970-1000   "       "      "        "        "         "       " 
  W7  1001-1040   "       "      "        "        "         "      46   

Many thanks to Clive Mottram for photos of SW5 733 at Brunswick Depot, W6 1000 in Spencer St, W7 1031 in Plenty Rd East Preston, Z1 40 in Gertrude St Fitzroy, Z3 185 in Plenty Rd Reservoir, B1 2002 at Sth Melbourne depot and C 3004 at Kew Junction. The PTC kindly supplied the photo of B2 2005 at St Kilda.

Click on each photo to see it full size.

City Circle trams.

There are eleven W class trams in the City Circle fleet which is based at Southbank Depot. They were all built between 1936 and 1956 at Preston Tramway Workshops. These trams are -

SW5 728  (1936)
SW5 842 (1939)
Sw6 856 (1940)
SW6 866 (1943)
SW6 888 (1945)
SW6 909 (1946) The City Of Prague
SW6 925 (1949)
SW6 957 (1950)
SW6 1000 (1955)
W7 1011 (1955)
W7 1020 (1956) The City Of Vienna

909 and 1020 were named when friendship agreements were made between Melbourne's tram system and the systems of the cities that the trams were named after.

Melbourne's Tram Services.

Melbourne's tram services are operated from eight tram depots, four of which are controlled by each tram company.

Go to Part Two of Melbourne's Trams to the Millennium.
Go to Part Three of Melbourne's Trams to the Millennium.
Go to Tram Route Index.
Go to Route 1.

Page last updated on February 16, 2002.

Corrections made to the cable tram section on September 21st, 2000

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