Please take the tram again.
VR tram 54 at the back of Preston Workshops after purchase by the MMTB. Note that the tram has already been stripped of parts eg Brill 77E trucks, headlights and trolley poles and is sitting on MMTB No 1 trucks.
Photo by Clive Mottram.
Click on the graphic to vote for this
page as a Starting Point Hot Site!
The Victorian Railways (VR)were responsible for two tram lines, one of 1600mm gauge from St. Kilda railway station to Brighton Beach, and the other of 1435mm gauge from Sandringham railway station to Black Rock. These two lines were termed Electric Street Railways
This line was opened in two stages, from St. Kilda railway station to Middle Brighton on the 7th May, 1906 and to Brighton Beach terminus on the 22nd December, 1906.
The line was built in response to demands that the St. Kilda railway line be extended.The fact that the then Victorian Premier, Tommy Bent (Bent by name, bent by nature)lived along the route also had a lot to do with it, mainly because of the increased property values that the new line was responsible for. The St. Kilda to Middle Brighton section was the first successful electric tramway in Melbourne.
Disaster struck in the early hours of the 7th March, 1907 when a fire destroyed the Elwood tram depot and all the trams. Services resumed on the 17th March using four C class trams and three D class trams from Sydney, which were altered to run on VR trucks salvaged from the fire. These trams apparently sufficed until Newport Railway Workshops built fourteen new trams.
Duplication of the line between St. Kilda and Elwood, additional crossing loops between Elwood and Brighton Beach and the addition of nine extra trams enabled VR to provide a five minute peak hour service from 1913. The new crossbench trams proved to be unpopular (like the MMTB V class) and this was the main reason behind an enquiry in 1913 into the line's management and operation. This resulted in improvements to the line's infrastructure, but more importantly led to the introduction of sixteen air brake equipped bogie drop centre trams, the first in Melbourne. Most of the older trams were sold or scrapped to make room at Elwood depot for the new trams and twelve trams were transferred (after re-gauging)to Sandringham for the opening of the Black Rock tramway in 1919.
For the rest of its life, the line led a rather uneventful existence. Due to the lack of investment (only three more trams were built for it)the St. Kilda to Brighton Beach Electric Street Railway closed on the 28th February, 1959 and was replaced by buses.
This line's terminus at Sandringham railway station was only three kilometres from the Brighton Beach terminus of the St. Kilda line. It was the result of agitation by various people to extend the Sandringham railway line. The 1435mm gauge was chosen by VR as it was planned to extend the line to Cheltenham to link up with a proposed MMTB tram line. An inland route was chosen as it was felt that a coastal route would not look very good passing through the extensive foreshore reservations along Port Phillip Bay. The section of tramway to Black Rock opened on the 10th March, 1919.
On the 1st September 1926, a 3.5 kilometre extension was opened to Beaumaris. This line was never patronised much except for holiday periods, so it was closed exactly five years later on the 31st August, 1931. This closure shot the proposed Cheltenham extension down in flames.
The Black Rock tramway was opened with twelve trams (six motors and six trailers)transferred from Elwood after re-gauging.Four drop centre trams similar to the sixteen at Elwood arrived in 1921 when the trailers were sold. Experiments were carried out in 1933 when MMTB Y1 613 was borrowed to evaluate driver only operation in an attempt to reduce costs. This was successful, resulting in two drop centre trams being converted to driver only operation.
Like the St. Kilda line, lack of investment caused the Black Rock line to close, being replaced by VR bus route 901. Closure, which was delayed from 1945 by public pressure and several enquiries, finally happened on the 5th November, 1956, with the trams being transferred to Elwood.
It is intended to only give a brief overview of the trams. For more and technical details, readers are referred to the 5th edition of Destination City by Cross, Budd and Wilson, published by Transit Australia Press in 1993.
The Original Fleet.
The original Victorian Railways tram fleet comprised nine motors and eight trailers, all built by J.G.Brill of Philadelphia, USA, except for trailers 11-14 which were built at Newport Workshops. The motors were numbered 1-8 and 10, the trailers being numbered 9 and 11-17. All were destroyed in the 1907 Elwood depot fire.
The Second Fleet.
Trams 1-7 were built by Newport Workshops in 1907 using salvaged parts from the trams lost in the fire. They were identical to the originals except for windscreens.
Trams 8-14 were built as trailers in 1907 using salvaged parts. In 1915 no. 14 was motorised.These trams were scrapped in 1922 after the delivery of the bogie drop centre trams.
Trams 15-17 were the ex-Sydney D class trams mounted on salvaged trucks in 1917 to replace trams lost in the fire. No. 15 was originally D98, no. 16 D101 and no. 17 D110. No. 16 was scrapped in 1918, and nos. 15 and 17 in 1922.
Trams 18-21 were originally Sydney C class trams 23, 25, 38 and 39 respectively. By June 1907 they were all converted to trailers and wre withdrawn by 1910.
Tram 19 was a pattern tram based on the Sydney J class design, but with five compartments instead of four. Built in 1912, it lasted until 1930.
Trams 20-27 were built by Pengelly & Co., Edwardstown, S.A. in 1913. Nos. 22-27 went to Sandringham in 1919 for the Black Rock opening, while no. 20 was converted to a breakdown tram in 1929 (all they did in the conversion was remove the seats).VR 20 is now stored at Newport Workshops and is part of the PTC Heritage fleet.
Trams 28-43 were built at Newport Workshops between 1917 and 1923 and were the first bogie drop centre trams to operate in Melbourne. No. 43 was the only dual gauge tram to operate in the Southern Hemisphere, being equipped with bolster rubbing plates for trucks of either gauge, while nos. 28 and 43 were gauge convertible. All trams except nos. 34 and 41 were sold in 1959, 34 is at the Bylands Tramway Museum, while No. 41 is at the Melbourne Tramcar Preservation Association at Haddon, 12 km from Ballarat.
Trams 48 and 49 were identical to nos. 28-43, but ran at Sandringham only. They were sold to the Old Canberra Tram Company for restoration.
Trams 50 and 51, identical to nos. 48 and 49, were converted to driver only operation in 1938 and 1934 respectively, and were in service at Sandringham until 1956.They were regauged to standard upon closure of the Black Rock line and transferred to Elwood, but were never used on the St Kilda line due to union concerns about one man operation. No 51 was used once by the AETA for a special tour. The body of no. 51 is at Marysville, Victoria.
Trams 52-54 (the luxury cars) were built at Newport in 1942, and were the last VR trams to be built. They were based on the MMTB SW6 class, but had a shorter body and a two piece windshield. Upon closure in 1959, the three trams were purchased by the MMTB and used mainly on route 82 between Moonee Ponds and Footscray. Only 52 and 53 were in service, no. 54 being used as a source of spare parts. After being renumbered 700 in 1976, no. 53 soldiered on until 1980 and eventually ended up at the ARHS Railway Museum in North Williamstown. No. 52 was placed in storage in 1975 and is now at the Bylands Tramway Museum near Kilmore, Vic.
Notes on the Victorian Railways trams from the 1940's
These notes are taken from Tram Tracks, the original journal of the Australian Electric Traction Association
From Tram Tracks 1st September 1946.
Latest news on the Sandringham - Black Rock proposal indicates that an active interest in the fate of the line is being shown by the Minister for Transport, Mr. Stoneham. On the 8th of August he received a deputation from the Australian Railways Union, while, on the same day he inspected the line in company with members of the Sandringham City Council.On the following day, the Minister again visited the line, this time in company with the Railway Commissioners. It is understood that a report has been prepared.
From Tram Tracks 1st October 1946.
At a recent meeting of the St. Kilda City Council, a deputation was arranged to see the Railways Commissioners on the question of providing more modern cars on the Brighton line. Brighton City Council are to be asked to join the deputation.
The application by the Commisioners to substitute buses on the Black Rock line is to be heard publicly at Sandringham by the Transport Regulation Board; the date is 24th September. If the result is unsatisfactory to the Council, the matter will be taken further.
New self lapping brakes are to be fitted to the cars in the near future.
As a result of complaints by conductors as to the difficulty of collecting fares during peak hours, the railway authorities have decided to increase the standing room on the luxury cars by placing the transverse tip-over seats longitudinally in the saloons. This most unfortunate and retrograde step is not likely to be accepted without demur by the patrons of the line. No. 52 appeared on 17th September with the new arrangement and the other two followed on successive days.
From Tram Tracks 1st November 1946.
The existing safety bars having been proven too cumbersome, the bogie combination cars are to be fitted with small bars similar to those used by the M.& M.T.B.
As predicted in our last issue, complaints are rife against the "improved" seating in the luxury cars.
With the return to service of no. 48, Sandringham this month says farewell to no. 43, which returns to Elwood, after having been on loan for 11 months - the longest of three sojourns at the southern depot.
From Tram Tracks 1st January 1947.
It has apparently been decided to retain the altered seating arrangements in the "luxury" cars. The ridges of the erstwhile tip-over seats are, however, proving uncomfortable in their new role, and it is likely that the seats will be replaced by properly constructed longitudinal seating.
From Tram Tracks February 1947.
It is understood that improved air brakes will be installed on 18 bogie trams this year. These will be identical with those on the three new cars. Work has not yet commenced on the alterations to the barriers in the drop centres of the 18 cars.
It has been announced on the radio that no decision has been reached yet on the proposal to close the Sandringham tramway.
From Tram Tracks March 1947.
Operating results for the year ending 30/6/46 show a slight decrease on the previous year's all time record figures. Both lines ran at a profit-8,865 pounds for St. kilda-Brighton and 5,670 pounds for Sandringham-Black Rock. Passengers carried were, 6,723,262 and 2,223,515 respectively, and revenues were 66,440 pounds and 20,118 pounds. density of travel was 13.0 and 17.4 passengers per car mile.
It is understood that a severe manpower shortage holds up relaying of a substantial proportion of the Brighton line.
The older roller blinds on the bulkhead behind the driver on the bogie cars have all been replaced by wooden panelling.
Owing to pressure of business, The V.R. Commissioners have not yet been able to meet the joint deputation from the St. Kilda and Brighton councils on the provision of more modern cars.
Shortly to retire is Inspector J. Griffiths, Officer-in-charge V.R. Tramways who has been actively associated with the St. Kilda-Brighton line since 1912 when he was transferred from the railways as Assistant Inspector. The long and excellent record of timetable running on this line has been due principally to his organisation.
From Tram Tracks May 1947.
Due to industrial troubles, the service on the Brighton line was reduced to 12 mins. (formerly 8 mins.) off peak and halved during peak periods before ceasing altogether. Prior to the reduction of service, several single truck cars emerged from retirement owing to the withdrawal of bogie stock which had developed defects. Track work is proceeding on an increasde scale.
It is understood that the report by the Transport Regulation Board on the proposed Sandringham abandonment has been presented to Cabinet, but nothing has yet been made public.
From Tram Tracks June 1947.
It has been announced that all single truck cars, several of which were due for scrapping, will be retained. The decision may be due in part to the failure to obtain permission to abandon the Black Rock line, newer cars from which would have come to Elwood, and also to the recent emergency, when single truck cars were placed in service until the servive ceased altogether.
When Running resumed on the Brighton line, it was to a reduced (12-minute) headway, owing to power supply difficulties.
During the stoppage, a new isolating gantry was erected at Elwood Depot and some work was done packing rails in the St. Kilda area.
From Tram Tracks July 1947.
Car 41 will be in service again soon, equipped with new type air brakes. The remaining older bogie cars will be equipped at Elwood and Sandringham as soon as practicable.
A proposed fare increase on the railways is likely to be affected on the railway trams. Rumour suggests that the 3 1/2d fare will rise to 4d., and that the existing 4d. and 5d. fares will be increasde by 1d. each.
The Sandringham City Council has complained about the condition of the tracks in Potter St., on the Black Rock line; they are described as "unsafe" and an accident is felt to be inevitable unless.something is done.
From Tram Tracks August 1947.
The Union have requested the Commissioners to instal upholstered seats in the saloons of drop-centre cars 28-43, 48-51.
From Tram Tracks September 1947.
Both of the single truck toastrack cars are in service on the Black Rock line following the withdrawal of bogie car No. 49, recently involved in collision with a large motor truck. A proposal to operate a bus over the tram route to "releive congestion" has not been received favourably by the tramwaymen.
Good progress is being made on the fitting of improved air brake installations on the Elwood cars.
From Tram Tracks October 1947.
Fares on these lines have been increased, concurrently with the increase in railway fares. On the Brighton line, former 3 1/2d. fares are now 4d., 4d. and 5d.fares becoming 5d. and 6d. respectively. At Sandringham the fares are now 2 1/2d. and 3 1/2d., an increase of a halfpenny. Children's fares have been increased, as have through rail-tram fares.
From Tram Tracks November 1947.
Interesting ticket usages have followed the increase in fares. The only new tickets in use so far are the 6d. and the 2 1/2d. child. 3 1/2d. Elwood tickets are used for the new through fare on the Black Rock line and Elwood 2 1/2d. child tickets for the former 2d. section.
From Tram Tracks December 1947.
The three steel "luxury" cars have resumed Sunday running, having been confined to weekday operations since 1942.
Great difficulty is being experienced in obtaining supplies of new tickets following recent fare increases.
STAFF AND TICKET WORKING ON V.R. TRAMWAYS - by "Annett Lock".
From Tram Tracks September and October, 1946.
Although only one single line section still exists on these lines, all the St.Kilda-Brighton and one half of the Sandringham-Beaumaris lines were originally single track.
In common with most other lines, Staff and Ticket Working was employed to safework the single track.When the "Brighton Electric Line" was opened in May, 1906, "Staff Stations" with crossing loops were placed at the "Village Belle", Shelley St., Park St.( now Head St. Elwood) and Bay St. as well as the termini. These intermediate loops were called "turnouts" and were numbered consecutively from the St.Kilda end. The "Car Staffs" were flat metal strips, 6 inches long and one inch wide. One end was key-shaped and on the other end the number of the staff section was perforated. Each staff station had a metal box containing a telephone and two drawers for "staff tickets" - one drawer applicable to the staff section on each side of the station.
The operating principle was simple. With "balanced" working, all cars carried the staff through each section where it was exchanged for the staff for the next section at each "turnout". With following movements, all cars in one direction over a section at one time carried a staff-ticket except the last car in that direction, which carried the staff. These "tickets" were printed pieces of paper on which the run number, etc. had to be written.
The staff acted as the key for the ticket drawers and could not be withdrawn from the lock whilst the drawer was open. The staffs could only open the drawer for the sections concerned.
The car shed was situated on the UP side of No.3 Turnout and cars were not permitted to leave the shed until the staff for No.3 Section was at this turnout.
In December, 1906, the line was extended to Brighton Beach, and the Park St. old terminal loop was relocated to Wellington St. and an additional staff station - Wellington St.-Brighton Beach instituted.
The No. 1 turnout at the "Village Belle" was relocated to Carlisle St. in June, 1906.
At off-peak periods, cars crossed usually at No. 2 and No. 4 Turnouts and, so as to save time at the non-crossing turnouts Nos 1, 3 and 5, the staffs for section 1 and 2, 3 and 4, 5 and 6 were padlocked together and acted as one staff.
In the event of disabled cars or accident, the system was suspended and a "Pilotman" appointed to accompany cars over the affected section until normal working could be restored. He was, in form, an "Acting Staff". During pilot working, the Pilotman always rode the last car for following movements.
After the 1908 enquiry, the Signal and Telegraph Branch took over the line and a new Rule Book loaded the line with large lists of Staff and Ticket Instructions. Visits by Block Inspectors were frequent and fines for incongruent working were the order of the day. In the confusion that followed the 1907 fire, safeworking was not taken seriously and tales are told of dead cats and fish being heaved over at loops in lieu of the staff!!! However, considering that at this time the North Melbourne company propelled trailers on some single line sections under "hope and listen" rules, the cats and fish were not so bad after all!
To provide for more traffic at the St. Kilda end, a local service was inaugurated to Dickens St. in 1911, and to safework these cars, Dickens St. was opened as a special staff station (in Staff Section No.2) during evening peak periods. No loop was provided and the old No. 2 Section Staff was replaced by a new "divisable (sic)" staff. This consisted of two portions labelled "2A" and "2B" and padlocked together for normal operation. When Dickens St. was "open", the Down Brighton car departed from No.2 Turnout with 2A, the local following to Dickens St. with 2B. On arrival at Dickens St., the local placed 2B in the box and awaited the arrival behind it of the next up Brighton car which had collected 2A at Turnout No.3. The local then departed with a staff ticket followed by the through car with 2A and 2B to Turnout No.2 where they were duly exchanged with the next Down through and local cars.
Duplication from St. Kilda to No. 3 turnout was completed in July, 1913, and, to facilitate the running of a 5-minute peak hour service to Brighton, a new loop was placed in the middle of each of the three remaining staff sections (North Rd., Normanby St., Gould St.). This arrangement proved too inflexible for peak working, and the remaining single line was duplicated in 1915.
The Sandringham-Black Rock line was opened in March, 1919, and extended to Beaumaris in September, 1926. There were four single line sections-Sandringham to Car Shed and Black Rock-Fourth St,-Pasadena Ave,-Beaumaris, which were numbered consecutively from the Up end.
Unlike the St. Kilda-Brighton staffs, the Sandringham ones were 6-inch bars of cruciform cross-section and did not operate the ticket drawers.
Due to the failure of the Beaumaris extension, staff ticket working was abolished in 1929, as were the extension staff sections on the closing of the extension in August, 1931, leaving No, 1 Staff Section (Sandringham-Car Shed) the sole remaining section of Single line on the V.R. Tramways.
From Tram Tracks December 1946.
The proposal by the Victorian Railways commissioners to substitute buses for trams on the Sandringham-Black Rock route was strongly opposed by the Sandringham City Council and other local organisations. To enable all parties to put forward their views, the application was heard by the Transport Regulation Board - Messrs. Mountjoy (Chairman), Binger and Garlick - sitting at the Sandringham Court House.
The V.R. application was heard on 23rd. September, and the case submitted was based on the following points:-
(a) Aggregate loss on line: 67,000 pounds. No profit made except during war years. (b) Estimated cost of rehabilitation and maintenance for 7 years: 114,000 pounds (including 18,000 pounds for two new tram cars). (c) Estimated cost of dismantling line - 8,000 pounds; restoration of roadway - 30,000 pounds, this covers only that portion of the road for which the Commissioners are responsible; provision of 8 new 25-passenger buses - 16,000 pounds. Total cost of bus subst- itution - 54,000 pounds. (d) No great increase of population likely; increased profits during war due to transient traffic.
The case for the retention of the trams was put by Cr. Sillitoe of the Sandringham City Council and was heard on 17th October. The main points made by the Councillor were as follows:-
(a) Land is available for 5,000 new homes with corresponding popu- lation increase. 261 building permits were granted only recently. (b) Very little of the wartime increase in traffic was due to trans- ient causes, the bulk coming from new residents. (c) Cost of the immediate restoration of the Council's portion of the roadway (necessitated by the removal of the tramway and the operation of buses), 35,000 pounds. The borrowing of this sum would require heavy Municipal rate increases. (d) The Commissioners' case was purely financial and did not take into account the comfort and convenience of passengers.
Witnesses from all walks of life strongly supported the retention of the trams and came under gruelling cross-examination from the Railway's representative (Mr. Kelly) and solicitors representing certain motor interests. A lady, giving the housewive's view, provided light relief to the proceedings when she unexpectedly turned the tables on one of the solicitors with a neat remark.
The A.E.T.A. was represented by the President and Vice President, a number of other members being in attendance also. It is felt that some help was given to the tramway case, both officers being in the witness box for a considerable time.
No decision was given to the board who are to prepare a report for submission to the Minister for Transport. If the result is unfavourable to the Council, it is understood that further expert advice will be sought.
It is of interest that the tram retention was supported by the tramwaymen themselves who are understood to be opposed to working on buses. The Union advocate was present to support the Council.
The Sandringham-Black Rock line was authorised in 1914 and opened for traffic in March, 1919, for a distance of 2.42 miles, and was extended to beaumaris in 1926. This extension (2.19 miles) was closed in 1931. All but a short section of the line is double track and the existing rolling stock comprises 4 bogie and 2 single-truck cars.
The Association feels that the Commissioners' estimates for tramway rehabilitation and 7 years maintenance is excessive. For instance, the estimated cost of new cars - 9,000 pounds each - is almost double the current cost of M.&M.T.B. SW6 cars.
It would seem also that the proposed operation of 8 buses is rather inadequate. At present, 4 trams provide peak service, carrying an average of more than 120 passengers each. Two 25-passenger buses, even with standees, could not cater for even a fraction of that load, and no provision appears to have been made for reserve vehicles.
The Railway representative pointed out that tram operating costs are 2/4 per mile (much in excess of those obtaining on the M.&M.T.B. system and relating to old cars operating on worn track - Ed.), and estimated that each bus could run at 1/2 per mile. With 2 buses, this advantage is nullified and with more the advantage is reversed. Also the estimate applies to new buses, the cost increasing with age.
Another point glossed over is the estimated efficient life of a bus. This was given by the Railways as 5 years, but no allowance is made in the estimates for this constantly recurring capital expenditure over 25 years - the efficient life of a tram.
It is felt also that the manoeuvring of at least two Black Rock buses in addition to the existing Beaumaris bus and two privately-owned vehicles would create no little congestion in the confined space outside the railway station.
The result of this interesting case, the first in which the Association has participated, will be awaited with considerable interest.
To go to the second part of the Victorian Railways trams story, click Here!
To go to the third part of the Victorian Railways trams story, click Here!
This page on the Victorian Railways trams and their history is being slowly put together as I find more copies of Tram Tracks .
The last addition to these pages was on the 22nd July 2000 - Dave.
Melbourne's Trams To The Millennium
Dave's Enterprise-ing Pages
Dave's tram photo index