STEAM POWERED PEOPLE MOVERS FOR SYDNEY
We learn that the Works Department is making arrangements for the construction of a temporary tramway from the Redfern terminus to Hunter-Street, to be used by visitors to the International Exhibition. They expect to be able to get the motors from America, and it is probable that the rails and other material can be obtained in the colony. Evening News (Sydney Friday 21 February 1879.)
Four steam powered motors were imported from Philadelphia. The rails were produced by the Eskbank Iron Company at Lithgow and laid on red gum planks.
Some saw the trams as the only positive to come out of the Exhibition, held at the ornate Garden Palace.
We are divided into two parties here; those who say that the Exhibition is a gigantic fraud, and others who swear that it is an unpararalleled success, “by which I mean to remark, and my language is plain”, that the former have the greatest amount of truth on their side. It is a big thing no doubt – too big for this small colony -but what good will come of it at last nobody knows. The £800,000 which it will cost the country will only have one immediate result – the introduction of a tramway system around the city. This, to Sydney with its long, straggling suburbs, will be a great boon. The tramway now working from Redfern terminus to the Exhibition is as great a novelty to many as the show itself.
Straggling suburbs eh? Well, it’s all relative I guess.
Anyway, the innovative transport system was a great success, as reported in The Evening News on Tuesday, September 30 1879;
The steam tramway, which first came into operation on Sunday last is receiving a lion’s share of public patronage. On Sunday last no less than 2700 persons travelled on it, yesterday the number exceeded 3700, while today the patronage is larger.
Lots of people missed out and had to fall back on the omnibuses….not nearly as exciting. Given the fashions of the day, I can understand why there are only men on the ‘upper deck’.
Below is a tram travelling along Broadway.
And here is an engine hauling two carriages in Market Street. It must have been an amazing sight for Sydneysiders.
Inevitably there were traffic concerns, especially when a horse-drawn omnibus was confronted by a steam puffing ‘monster’ at a street crossing without warning;
And yes, only a few weeks later there was a serious accident. A horse-drawn cab shied at the sight of an approaching tram. The terrified horse backed the cab onto the line where it crashed into the tram;
The steam-motor came into collision with it and smashed it and knocked it right over on the side, breaking the shafts off, so that the horse remained standing.
The occupants of the cab, a couple called Green and their two children, were badly shaken. Mrs Green was cut on the forehead from the broken glass of a window. However, the person who came off worst was the driver, Mr Fogarty. He was knocked unconscious. He was taken to the infirmary with injuries to his, wrist, forehead and back. The steam tram and its passengers apparently escaped unscathed.
Despite such mishaps, the trams were so popular that they became a permanent feature, with an ever expanding network.
I was delighted to discover that one of those very first steam trams survived, and is on display at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum.
Eventually the steam trams were superceded by electric models. Finally, they too disappeared.
But hey…..we’re getting new ones! Here is an artist’s impression of what they will look like in George Street…..just hurry up please!