Monday, July 23, 2007

Brisbane's Trams and Trolleybuses, A Bygone Era

I was born in 1944 in Warwick, Queensland. Denise, my sister was born in 1946 in Melbourne, Victoria. In 1948 we moved to Brisbane. We moved into a new suburb and public transport was some distance away. The closest transport was a walk 1 kilometer (just over ½ miles) away, and to get to the tram we had to cross a small creek. There was no bridge. Mum and the kids had to jump across the creek. Fortunately it was only a small creek, but during wet weather it was too dangerous for a mother with small children to try and cross. The creek is still there so I took a photo to show what we had to go through to reach the tram.

There was another tram we could catch but that was nearly 2 kilometers (nearly 1.2 miles) away, so most times we caught the closer tram. Then in 1955 the tram line that was 2 kilometers away was converted into a trolleybus line. Thirteen months later the trolleybus line was extended and this new line finished at a new terminus at the top of our street. Eureka no more walks.

This is what our house looked like in the early 1950’s.
Before the suburbs were sewerage all houses had a dunny (outhouse) at the back of the house. I have marked the next doors dunny in the photo. The next photo shows a row of houses all with dunnys at the back of each house.

The family home 1997 prior to my Mother having to go into a Nursing Home.

Brisbane established its first horse tram in 1885. Electric operation was introduced in 1897 with some imported trams, but local construction soon began. From 1907, single truck ten-bench trams were introduced, and in 1908, the two bogie dreadnought commenced service.

Victoria Bridge era 1906.....................Stanley Street era 1898.

A restored 1901 tram at the Brisbane Tramway Museum.

In 1923 the tramways were brought under one management, the Brisbane Tramways Trust, but two years later, the Brisbane City Council took over. It immediately set about modernising the fleet. The dropcentre tram appeared that year, and in 1938 the new streamlined FM was introduced.

..........................................The Dropcentre Tram.

This was the last design of tram for use in Brisbane. Known as a FM (Four Motor) tram, they were the first cars to be equipped with four motors. All previous cars had two motors. No 429 was built in 1942.

.................................The FM Tram.

By 1952, the network had expanded to 109 route kilometres (199 km of track). Ten years later, Brisbane trams were still going strong, despite the fact that trams had disappeared from many other Australian cities.

...................The Bench Tram era 1910.

The conductors on these trams had to walk along the side platform to collect fares from the passengers. When it rained a canvas sheet could be dropped down. I’m not sure how the conductor collected the fares during rainy conditions, but no doubt it would have been one heck of a job.

My father worked as a conductor on the trams (that's Dad on far right).

Urban development, often well away from public transport, the rise of suburban shopping centres and the relative decline in the cost of motorcars meant that as elsewhere, Brisbane's public street transport system increasingly had to compete with the private motor car and patronage slowly declined from a post war peak of 148,000,000 passenger journeys in 1946, to approximately 64,000,000 passenger journeys in 1968.

....................Cnr Queen and Adelaide Street era 1947.

Trams on the Victoria Bridge.......................and in Queen Street.

The Paddington tram depot in Brisbane, Australia was totally destroyed by fire on the night of 28 September 1962, one of the largest fires in Brisbane's history. Sixty-five of Brisbane's trams were destroyed.

It is believed that the fire started in a storage area underneath the depot, although the cause has never been fully determined. Around 7.30pm depot staff were alerted by nearby residents who had noticed sparks falling from under the depot. Staff first secured the depot's cash in the depot master's car and then attempted to drive some trams out of the depot. Three trams were rescued before the fire cut the power to the depot. Firefighting was hampered by very low water pressure. As the fire progressed, burning trams periodically crashed through the weakened floor to the ground below. When it became obvious that the building could not be saved, firefighters concentrated on ensuring the fire did not spread to neighbouring homes. The fire, fuelled by tyres, oil and grease stored under the depot, was visible from many areas of Brisbane.

Some of the trams at the Paddington Tram Depot.

The loss of so many trams put considerable strain on the Brisbane City Council Transport Department. Initially older-style trams were brought out of storage from other depots to assist with peak-hour demand, but in December 1962 three tram services were converted to diesel bus operation. These closures were the first significant route closures of the system and within 6½ years, the remainder of Brisbane's tram routes had been converted to diesel bus operation.

One of the Dreadnought Trams passing the Princess Alexandria Hospital.

The destruction of the depot is generally seen as the beginning of the end for Brisbane's tram system, providing the justification for the subsequent closure of four tram routes, the gradual encroachment of bus operation on other tram routes with the final closure of the tram system occurring on 13 April 1969.

The last tram to run on 13th April, 1969 with special guest passengers.

I went out to the Brisbane Tramway Museum two weeks ago to do some research and take some photos and video. On the next post I will finish up with the story and photos of the museum. I also purchased a book on the trolleybus service in Brisbane, so I will also conclude with the story and photos of the trolleybus.


LZ Blogger said...

Wazza ~ WOW was that ever a trip down memory lane for me too. By “Trains, Planes and Automobiles?” I was glad you included the dunny (outhouse) explanation too. I actually thought that is what it meant, but was NOT positive. My grandparents’ farm is the only place I remember having ant out house though. I can remember when I was about 4-5 years old being chased by a goose every time I RAN for the outhouse. I am still not a big fan of GEESE even today! ~ Nice post. I loved Brisbane by the way! ~ jb///

Peter said...

Hi Wazza, yet another well researched and interesting post, there was a lot of stuff in there that I knew nothing about including the single rail trams.

Puss-in-Boots said...

Hi Warren.

Loved the photo of the houses with all the dunnies out the back!

Trams and trolley buses...what a trip down memory lane...wonderful post, Warren. Thanks.

Lee said...

Great post and pictures, Wazza. I was living in Brisbane when the trams stopped. And now they on their way back again.

Merle said...

Hi Warren ~~ Great post about the trams and things in Brisbane. All
very interesting. There are still trams in Melbourne and I don't think they ever stopped. I like the house your Mother lived in and I guess you still miss her. Take care Warren,
Regards, Merle.

Jim said...

Warren, this is a wonderful write-up on the trams. Including the some of the history of Brisbane as a time line made it very interesting.
We called the trams 'street cars' in Nebraska and the dunnies 'outhouses.' I did ride on a cable car in San Francisco and several trolleybuses in Omaha and El Paso (Texas).
One of my Dad's uncles was a street car conductor in Omaha.

My April 10, 2007, blog has a picture of the outhouse we used back on the farm.

So, I'll wait for the trolleybus story now.

Jim said...

Hi Warren, I though maybe you'd like to visit my blog and confess some of your blogging sins today?

Peter said...

Hi Wazza, as well as my dad driving MMTB bus's Alans wife Lyn's dad is the electrical eng who keeps the tram park in Perth running and one of Marcus' mates drives the replica tram around Perth, see here.

Meow (aka Connie) said...

Great post, Wazza ... it's interesting to read and see all about the Brisbane trams. As you know, Melbourne still has trams ... sometimes I'm not sure, though, if they are a help or a hindrance ... I personally hate them, particularly when I am driving past one, and it decides to stop ... then I have to, too !!
I grew up living on the same block as my grandparents, who had an ancient house in North Blackburn (Melbourne), which had a backyard dunny. I still remember a time, when I was sitting there, doing my bit, and the back door opened and the night-watchman took out the pan ... hope he didn't see my bare bum !!! I was only a little kid, and it was pretty scary !! Fortunately, the house got an indoor loo shortly thereafter, but it sure was an interesting experience ... what's with all those spiders making their homes in the outhouses !!!
Take care, Meow

Meow (aka Connie) said...

Oooh, I just remembered ... about 12 years back, hubby and I took part in the Make-a-wish Bush Run, similar to the Variety Club Bash, and I spent the day as a guest in an old VW combie, which was made to look like a Melbourne Tram ... gosh that was fun !!
Just thought I'd mention it !!
Take care, Meow

Anonymous said...

Wazza, a trip down memory lane alright, well done. Do you know where the photo of the row of houses and their dunnies was taken? Would be interesting to see how the suburb developed/progressed?? Laurie