Trams in Ballarat

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Ballarat Tramways
Ballarat tram 26.JPG
Ballarat Tram No.26 in the Wendouree Depot
Locale Ballarat, Victoria, Australia
Ballarat Tramway Company era: 1887 (1887)–1902 (1902)
Operator(s)Ballarat Tramway Company
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in)
Propulsion system(s)Horse
Depot(s)Gillies Street
Track length (total) 6
Electric Supply Company of Victoria era: 1902 (1902)–1934 (1934)
Operator(s)Electric Supply Company of Victoria
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in)
Propulsion system(s)Electricity
SECV era: 1934 (1934)–1971 (1971)
Operator(s) State Electricity Commission of Victoria (SECV)
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in) standard gauge
Propulsion system(s)Electric
Ballarat Tramway Museum era: February 1, 1975 (1975-02-01)–Present (Present)
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in) standard gauge
Track length (total) 0.85

Trams in Ballarat were first used for public transport in 1887. They ceased to operate as a means of public transport in 1971, but a section continues to be operated today as a tourist attraction.


At its peak in 1937, the Ballarat tramway network was the largest in Australia operating outside one of the capital cities, [1] with 7 principal routes and more than 24 kilometres of track. [2]

Most of the network was closed and replaced with buses on 19 September 1971 [3] after which the Ballarat Tramway Museum preserved a single electrified track along Wendouree Parade at Lake Wendouree to operate a tourist service. From its depot adjacent to the Ballarat Botanical Gardens, the museum operates its historic collection of electric trams from around Australia, including some that were operated on the original Ballarat system. [3]

1880s — origins and the horse-drawn tramway

Ballarat horse tram on 125th anniversary of the opening, 26 December 2012 Ballarat horse tram.JPG
Ballarat horse tram on 125th anniversary of the opening, 26 December 2012

In an 1884 council meeting, the City of Ballaarat decided on the establishment of a tramway to meet the growing city's transport needs and a Tramway Committee was formed. [4]

Tenders were called in 1886 to operate a tramway in the city. The successful tenderer was Mr. Thompson, of Adelaide who proposed a horse drawn system. [5] He was granted a 30-year licence for the sum of £1575 per annum, after which the system would be handed to the council. Provision was to be made in future for the rolling stock being powered by other means. [5]

Thompson and business partner Moore formed the Ballarat Tramway Company which built and promoted the tramway. The first line was opened at a banquet in the Botanical Gardens on 26 December 1887. The six mile (9.7 km) standard gauge line ran from Sturt Street to the gardens and around Lake Wendouree. The rolling stock consisted of double-decker trams built in Adelaide, each drawn by multiple horses. [6] The company constructed and operated a maintenance facility north of the gardens. [6]

Tram on the Soldiers Hill line at the corner of Lydiard and Sturt Street c.1905 Sturt and lydiard streets in 1899.jpg
Tram on the Soldiers Hill line at the corner of Lydiard and Sturt Street c.1905

The tramway was immediately popular and it was not long before work began on extensions for the southern branch line to the town of Sebastopol via Skipton Street Redan and Albert Street, and two northern branch lines to service the city's suburbs along Drummond Street North and Soldiers Hill. [6]

At its peak, the horse-drawn system had 19 trams, servicing 5 principal routes: Drummond Street; Gardens; Lydiard Street; Sebastopol; Sturt Street West. All were double decker, with the exception of the Drummond Street tram. [7]

1900s — electrification

In November 1900, the Ballarat City Council gave permission to the British Insulated Wire Company Limited to build an electric tram network. The building was done by its subsidiary, the Electric Supply Company of Victoria, [8] :13 which was also to supply electricity to the town. A bluestone power station was built at the corner of Ripon Street and Wendouree Parade in 1901 to provide the electricity supply. [9] The company took over the running of the horse trams from the Ballarat Tramway Company in December 1902, and work on the electric network began in November 1904 and the first electric trams went into service on 18 August 1905. [8] :15 The whole tramway was electrified and the rolling stock was replaced by electric trams operated by the Electric Supply Company of Victoria. [10] The last horse tram ran in August 1913 on the Sebastopol line which was officially opened as an electric tramway on 14 August 1913. [8] :16

Electrified on Sturt Street near the Town Hall in 1917. Town hall and sturt street ballarat 1917.jpg
Electrified on Sturt Street near the Town Hall in 1917.

1930s — SECV era

Old sign from the Ballarat tramways Ballarat tram sign.JPG
Old sign from the Ballarat tramways

The State Electricity Commission of Victoria (SECV) acquired the network in 1934. [11]

In 1936, the state government proposed to extend the Lydiard Street route to the Ballaarat New Cemetery and Ballarat North. [12]

Despite strong patronage, the system posted its first significant loss in 1937 of £6013. [1] At the time, the Ballarat network was one of the largest such systems in Australia, behind that of Sydney (182 miles (293 km)), Melbourne (143 miles (230 km)), Brisbane (65 miles (105 km)), Perth (57 miles (92 km)), [13] Adelaide (35 miles (56 km)) and Hobart (18 miles (29 km)), but larger than that of Newcastle, Launceston (11.3 miles (18.2 km)), Geelong (11 miles (18 km)) and Bendigo (8.1 miles (13.0 km)). [1]

1970s — closure and preservation

Throughout the 1960s, passenger patronage fell and operating losses mounted. From 1962 onwards, the SECV and the Victorian government attempted to close the system but did not have the required parliamentary support in the Legislative Council. After winning control of the Legislative Council in the 1970 election, the Bolte government had the numbers to close the tramways in both Ballarat and Bendigo. In 1971 the government announced that the tramway system would be closed and replaced by buses. In September 1971, a large contingent of the Ballarat population turned out to farewell the last trams after the government systematically shut down the network.

In May 1971 the Lake Wendouree Tramway Museum Committee began negotiating with the SECV to continue to maintain a section of track. [8] :41 The Ballarat Tramway Preservation Society was also formed in 1971 to start, and run, an authentic tramway. [8] :44

The Ballarat Tramway Preservation Society's original plan was to keep all the tramway that ran around the shores of Lake Wendouree. However, after discussions with the SECV and the City of Ballarat, only the section of track in the Botanical Gardens was retained. The first trip on the museum's tramway was in December 1974, and the track was officially opened on 1 February 1975. [8] :48 The first tram to run was Ballarat No. 40, which had been the last tram to run on the SECV network. [14] :14

Ballarat Tramway Museum 33. (type that operated in the city in 1935 passing the Lake Pavilion on Wendouree Parade in 2009) Ballarat tram.jpg
Ballarat Tramway Museum 33. (type that operated in the city in 1935 passing the Lake Pavilion on Wendouree Parade in 2009)

The Society changed its name to the Ballarat Tramway Museum. It operates trams on weekends, public and school holidays. In December 2014, the Museum installed an 18 kW solar power system, with 72 solar panels, which allows the trams to operate on renewable energy.

In 2018, 280 metres of the 1.3 km preserved tramway was replaced with new rails using the latest construction methods. This project replaced track laid in 1905.

Revival proposals

Since the 1990s proposals have been put to the City of Ballarat to reinstate sections of the network. Many of these focus on trams as a major tourist transport facility and tourist attraction. Others support a return of trams as a viable component of the Ballarat public transport system. Proposed destinations include Ballarat railway station, Sovereign Hill, Lake Wendouree loop, Bridge Mall and Sturt Street.

In 2001 there was a strong push to reinstate a tram system. [15] By mid-2001, a vocal lobby for a tourist route through the CBD had gained the support of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Australian Hotels Association and the Ballarat operations of transport manufacturer Alstom. [16] [17] Financial assessments completed in 2002 deemed the $20 million project viable with a projected profit of $150,000 per annum, though dependent on a grant from the state and Commonwealth. [18] Public support for it was also high. [19] The chosen route would have run from Ballarat Railway station at Doveton Crescent, along Lydiard Street, down Mair Street, Peel Street, through the Llanberris reserve to Sovereign Hill and the Gold Museum. Ballarat City Council voted down the proposal in 2002, stating that the idea would not be reconsidered for at least a decade. [20]

Submissions relating to the reinstatement of trams along Sturt Street during the City of Ballarat's CBD Strategy consultation in 2009. The project had been costed at $70 million and deemed as too expensive and inflexible for the local council to maintain in the final report. [21]

The Sturt Street route proposal was dismissed by Ballarat MP and Regional Australia Minister Catherine King in the lead up to the 2013 Australian federal election, claiming that at a cost of $90 million, the project would be too expensive, indicating instead a preference to invest in local sporting facilities. [22]

Calls were renewed in August 2014 with news that a feasibility study would be undertaken to extend Bendigo's network. A circuit route was proposed from Ballarat railway station to Lake Wendouree via Mair Street, Dawson Street, Sturt Street, Bridge Mall and Lydiard Street back to the railway station. [23] However, this proposal once again met with ambivalence from the council and members of parliament over issues such as the route and cost, and no commitment to a project was forthcoming.

A discussion group on the reasons for an expanded Ballarat Tram Network [24] has been formed.

Historic extent of the network

Size of Network by year
18876 miles (9.7 km) [5]
193410 miles (16 km) [25]
193615.1 miles (24.3 km) [1] [26]
19750.85 miles (1.37 km) [8] :56

At its peak, the Ballarat network included seven main routes some of which shared the same sections of track:

The operation was mostly running recycled rolling stock from both Adelaide and Melbourne with a wide variety of tram models in service. Further background reading on the extent of the network can be found on Historical Tramways of Ballarat [27]

Surviving trams

There are a number of trams which operated on the Ballarat tramways which have survived, and some are still in service.

Ballarat Tramway Company

The Ballarat Tramway Company operated 18 horse-drawn trams in Ballarat. After the introduction of electric trams some horse trams were used as trailers and towed behind the electric trams. Tram 1 was used by the company to transport the crew's bicycles between the depot and the main terminus. It was then sold for use as a backyard shed. It was later rediscovered and returned to the Museum where it was extensively restored.

Electric Supply Company

The Electric Supply Company operated 23 trams, including some that had been converted from old Sydney cable trams.


The SECV purchased a large number of old trams from Melbourne, Port Adelaide, and Adelaide, which were then used in Geelong, Bendigo and Ballarat. Tram No. 37 was used in Melbourne, Geelong, and Bendigo before being moved to Ballarat in 1960. [28] :133

Ballarat Tramway Museum

As well as its collection of original Ballarat trams, the Ballarat Tramway Museum also has several Melbourne trams and an original Geelong tram:

Ex Melbourne Metropolitan Tramways Board

Ex Melbourne Electric Supply Company (later SECV) - Geelong Tramway

Cycling controversy

Roadworks in Ballarat, Victoria, to realign road and tram track crossing. Roadwork and tram track.JPG
Roadworks in Ballarat, Victoria, to realign road and tram track crossing.

A section of track at Wendouree Parade has caused controversy since 2011 due to a notorious blackspot for cyclists—a curved track intersection emerging from the Tramway Museum depot. Several local cyclists who have been injured due to their bicycle wheels slipping on the track have called for a solution. The City of Ballarat spent more than $15,000 in 2011 investigating solutions, with limited success. [31] In November 2014 the council carried out extensive roadworks at the intersection. The tram tracks were left in place, but the road was realigned 12 metres west. This changes the angle at which bicycles cross the track and should make it safer. The roadwork was completed on 23 December 2014 and cost $420,000.

See also

Related Research Articles

The Tramway Museum Society of Victoria Incorporated (TMSV) owns a large collection of trams from Melbourne, Ballarat, Geelong, Adelaide, and Sydney as well as preserved buses and other work vehicles.

State Electricity Commission of Victoria

The State Electricity Commission of Victoria is a government-owned electricity supplier in Victoria, Australia. It was set up in 1918, and by 1972 it was the sole agency in the state for electricity generation, transmission, distribution and supply. Control of the SECV was by a Board of Commissioners appointed by the Victorian Government. After 1993, the SECV was disaggregated into generation, transmission and distribution companies, which were further split and then privatised in the mid to late 1990s. However, electricity supply agreements with the Portland and Point Henry aluminium smelters were retained by SECV, which continued as their electricity supplier.

Ballarat railway station

Ballarat railway station is located on the Serviceton line in Victoria, Australia. It serves the city of Ballarat, and it opened on 11 April 1862 as Ballarat West. It was renamed Ballarat in 1865.

Trams in Adelaide Overview of trams in Adelaide, South Australia

This article is an overview, spanning 143 years, of Adelaide's trams and tramways. Links to several more comprehensive articles are in the following panel.

W-class Melbourne tram Electric tram family built in Melbourne, Australia

The W-class trams are a family of electric trams built by the Melbourne & Metropolitan Tramways Board (MMTB) between 1923 and 1956. Over the 33 years of production, 752 vehicles spanning 12 sub-classes were constructed, the majority at the MMTB's Preston Workshops.

Prahran and Malvern Tramways Trust

The Prahran and Malvern Tramways Trust (PMTT) was a former tram operator in Melbourne, Australia. The trust was formed in 1907, with its first line operating in 1910. Its functions were taken over by the Melbourne & Metropolitan Tramways Board in 1920.

Trams in Australia

The earliest trams in Australia operated in the latter decades of the 19th century, hauled by horses or "steam tram motors". At the turn of the 20th century, propulsion almost universally turned to electrification, although cable trams lingered in Melbourne. In cities and towns that had trams, they were a major part of public transport assets.

Trams in Bendigo

Trams in Bendigo have operated since 1890. They ceased to operate as a means of public transport in 1972 but part of the main network continues to operate today as a tourist attraction. Limited trials have also been made in 2009 with operating commuter service, but with minimal usage by the public.

Soldiers Hill, Victoria Suburb of Ballarat, Victoria, Australia

Soldiers Hill is a suburb of Ballarat, Victoria, Australia located directly north of the Central Business District. At the 2016 census, Soldiers Hill had a population of 2,803.

Trams in Geelong

The city of Geelong in Victoria, Australia, operated an extensive tramway system from 1912 until 1956, when the service was replaced by buses. Unlike Victoria's other major regional cities, Ballarat and Bendigo, which have kept some track and trams as tourist attractions, no trams or tracks remain in Geelong.

Ballarat Tramway Museum Tram museum in Ballarat, Victoria

The Ballarat Tramway Museum is an operating tramway museum, located in Ballarat, Victoria, Australia. The museum is run by volunteers and has a fleet of trams which operate on part of the original horse tramway around Lake Wendouree and the Botanical Gardens. It has a large research collection, archive of information and more than 3,500 items about the Ballarat tramways. The trams in Ballarat operated on a large network through the city from 1887 until 1971.

Duncan & Fraser

Duncan & Fraser Limited was a vehicle manufacturing company founded in 1865 in Adelaide, South Australia that built horse-drawn carriages and horse trams, and subsequently bodies for trains, electric trams and motor cars, becoming one of the largest carriage building companies in Australia.

C-class Melbourne tram (first)

The C-class was a group of 11 trams built by Duncan & Fraser, Adelaide for the Prahran & Malvern Tramways Trust (P&MTT) in 1913, numbered 25 to 35. All retained their fleet numbers when passed to the Melbourne & Metropolitan Tramways Board (M&MTB) on 2 February 1920, after it took over the P&MTT. They were designated C-class sometime after October 1921, and by late 1923, all M&MTB drop-end-and-centre Maximum Traction trams were grouped together as C-class trams. The 22E Maximum Traction trucks were of JG Brill design, although manufactured by Brush in England.

E-class Melbourne tram (first)

The E-class was a group of 10 trams built by Duncan & Fraser, Adelaide, for the Prahran & Malvern Tramways Trust (P&MTT) in 1914, numbered 36 to 45. Number 36 was converted to a different form by the P&MTT circa 1916, and was later designated D-class. All retained their fleet numbers when passed to the Melbourne & Metropolitan Tramways Board (M&MTB) after it took over the P&MTT on 2 February 1920, and they were designated E-class sometime after October 1921. By late 1923, together with other all M&MTB drop-end-and-centre Maximum Traction trams, they were re-classed as C-class trams. The 22E Maximum Traction trucks were of JG Brill design, although manufactured by Brush in England.

J-class Melbourne tram

The J-class was a class of twenty trams built by the Meadowbank Manufacturing Company, Sydney for the Prahran & Malvern Tramways Trust (PMTT). All passed to the Melbourne & Metropolitan Tramways Board on 2 February 1920 when it took over the PMTT becoming the J-class retaining their running numbers.

M-class Melbourne tram

The M-class was a class of 17 trams built by Duncan & Fraser, Adelaide for the Hawthorn Tramways Trust (HTT) as numbers 1 to 10, and 33 to 39. All passed to the Melbourne & Metropolitan Tramways Board on 2 February 1920 when it took over the Municipal Tramway Trusts, becoming the M-class and being renumbered 107 to 116, and 183 to 189.

P-class Melbourne tram

The P-class was a class of eight trams built by Duncan & Fraser, Adelaide for the Hawthorn Tramway Trust (HTT) as numbers 25 to 32. All passed to the Melbourne & Metropolitan Tramways Board on 2 February 1920 when it took over the HTT becoming the P-class and being renumbered 131 to 138.

Tramway Museum, St Kilda Tramway museum in St Kilda, South Australia

The Tramway Museum, St Kilda is Australia's principal museum of the 19th and 20th century trams of Adelaide, South Australia. It is situated at St Kilda, 24 km (15 mi) north of the centre of Adelaide. Most of the trams operate when rostered along a 1.6 km (1.0 mi) purpose-built track that runs between the museum and a large adventure playground.

This article describes the tram types in Adelaide that have operated for the past 143 years: from early days when they undertook a major share of the public transport task before car ownership was well established; through the 49-year period when only one tram line operated; to the city's 21st-century tramways revival.

The Melbourne tram network began in 1884 with the construction of the Fairfield Horse Tramway. However, the purpose of the line was to increase land prices in the area, and it soon closed during the depression in 1890. The first genuine attempt to construct a tramway network was the construction of the Richmond cable tram line by the Melbourne Tramway & Omnibus Company in 1885. Over the next few years, 16 more cable tram lines were constructed, as well as numerous other horse tramways. The depression of the early 1890s slowed further expansion of the cable network. The first electric tram line was the Box Hill and Doncaster tramway which opened in 1889. This was a pioneering line in what was then the countryside and thus didn't receive much patronage. It closed in 1896. The next attempt at an electric tramway was Victorian Railways' St Kilda to Brighton line, which opened in 1906. Later that year, the North Melbourne Electric Tramway & Lighting Company opened lines to Essendon and Maribyrnong. Many local councils formed their own tramway trusts and built tramways within their own constituency. The most successful of these was the Prahran & Malvern Tramways Trust.


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