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4 May 2009

Melbourne Trams

CRAIG TOOKE: This is the Hawthorn tram depot which houses Melbourne's heritage trams.

BERNADETTE NUNN: How many trams have you got in here?

CRAIG TOOKE: Well, we've got a marvellous collection Bernadette of over twenty trams here.

This tram actually dates from 1890 and, in fact, was originally drawn by a cable, a marvellous, incredible piece of machinery.

The driver, who was known as a grip man, would grab one of these levers and actually grab hold of the cable which would pull the tram along the street. When he wanted to stop he would release the grip on the cable and apply the brake.

BERNADETTE NUNN:: So the tram was driven from the centre here?

CRAIG TOOKE: Amazing piece of mechanical engineering. It was truly a marvel.

BERNADETTE NUNN: Were there lots of trams in world when Melbourne had trams then?

CRAIG TOOKE: No, tramways were very much in their infancy. Melbourne, by the time it was fully developed and extended, had one of the largest cable tram systems in the world.

Well, Bernadette, Melbourne's trams started in 1885 and, in fact, a lot of the trams were not only cable trams but they were horse drawn trams.

It was the era of the horse and buggy and Melbourne's horse drawn trams, in fact, lasted until 1923 when the last one sadly closed.

The trams themselves are, in fact, not all that heavy in weight and they were pulled by one horse and in some cases teams of two horses. They would only generally do one round trip before they were rested.

With the advent of technology and the marching of time the 20th century saw the introduction of electricity to power Melbourne's trams and here we have an example of one of Melbourne's very, very first electric trams.

This is Hawthorn tramway trust No 8, built in 1916, it began in the late 1920s through til 1940 when the last cable tram line was converted in Melbourne and electric trams are still with us to this day.

This is one of Melbourne's famous W class trams. Built in 1923 to replace the cable trams, they were the first uniquely Australian designed tram. This design of tram features an enclosed compartment at either end known as a saloon and an open drop centre.

It was unique because it allowed for Australia's hot and cold climate and it was indeed copied in many cities around Australia.

BERNADETTE NUNN: So you were in here when it was hot, in there when it was cold?

CRAIG TOOKE: A great place to be.

We have things like the restaurant tram.

We have a tram with decorations to do with Pakistani culture.

We've had trams that have been painted by notable artists and indeed most recently we've actually donated a tram to Princess Mary of Denmark.

MAN: I know the weight is 17 tonnes so I'm sure this is the heaviest gift the Crown Prince has probably received altogether.

CRAIG TOOKE: W class trams are an important part of Melbourne's history and we believe they are a perfect gift for a couple that I suppose has got everything.'

They're an essential part of Melbourne's tourism. We have not only W class trams still in regular service but we have a free city circle service that operates with special burgundy-coloured trams, most unusual and different to the standard green W class trams, that serve as mobile platforms for people to look at the sites of Melbourne.

It's essential that we keep these heritage trams. They've been a vital pat of Melbourne since 1885.

We can't live in the past. These old girls have done really well. They've served Melbourne well but in many respects they've had their day and like anything we have to move on.

In the early 1970s it was realised that Melbourne's trams were here to stay and the government of the day initiated the construction of this prototype of tram and it is the forerunner of the present day tram fleet in Melbourne.

Trams are of course the most efficient form of public transport. A steel wheel rolling on a steel rail is by far the most economic way of moving large numbers easily, cheaply and environmentally friendly, particularly when they can carry such large numbers of passengers in the one vehicle at any one time.

It is one of the largest tram systems in the world. We have 250 kilometres of tram routes in Melbourne and 458 trams in regular operation. It is essential that we keep modernising, updating our service to ensure that they are around for future generations to enjoy.