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Australia's Steam Trams

Sydney’s love affair with trams really began in 1879 when four steam tram-motors were imported as a temporary transport measure to cater for the large numbers of visitors to the city for the Sydney International Exhibition of that year. These were in effect like little trains transferred to the street with a steam tram-motor hauling double-deck carriages. The motors were built by Burnham, Parry and Williams & Co at the Baldwin Locomotive Works, Philadelphia, USA, and comprised a small saddle-tank locomotive enclosed in a wooden cab. Coke, and later coal, was carried in a bunker on the rear platform and water in the semi-circular tank over the boiler.

The Sydney steam tramway was supposed to operate for the six months’ duration of the exhibition only. However, it was so efficient and popular that an extension to Randwick was opened the following year. By 1894 the tramway network had increased to 65 km, the peak period of steam trams in Sydney. At this time there were over 100 steam-tram motors in service, carrying 60 million passengers per year.

The express commuter steam tram which sped in from Bondi each weekday morning reputedly at speeds of up to 80 km/h, gave rise to the famous Australian slang term ‘shoots through like a Bondi tram’. Intense competition from the privately owned horse buses saw the government trams racing buses along various routes. Gradually the trams forced the buses to the outer limits of the city in a pattern that steam would later follow as it was forced out by electric trams. Steam trams never became popular in the other state capitals, but were successfully used in Newcastle, Maitland and Broken Hill in NSW and Rockhampton in Queensland.

This article is courtesy of the great book ‘On the Move, a history of transport in Australia’, by Margaret Simpson’ and is brought to you by Tram Scrolls Australia, specialists in premium quality replica tram and bus scroll art.

Brought to you by blue horizon Printing, specialists in premium quality canvas art prints and offering Australia’s largest and best collection of tram and bus scrolls.

https://bluehorizonprints.com.au/ 1300 632 332

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