Sydney trams are under way. There has been some controversy, especially on time issues and the time it takes to get from one place to another.
I recall in 2011 – this is nine years ago – from my archive, the Sydney Morning Herald's John Huxley revealed that more than a century since it was built, and more than half a century since it was towed into retirement, Sydney tramcar No. 805 is being prepared to shake, rattle and roll into service once more.
In their heyday, trams carried millions of Sydney siders to school, work, shows, sports and beaches. Quite what happened to all the old trams is not known. But he knows the whereabouts of the historic last one to run in Sydney, No. 1995, which was part of a convoy that ran to La Perouse in 1961.
It is one of half a dozen corridor-style trams left in the old Rozelle depot at Glebe. Vandalised, virtually stripped bare and covered with graffiti, the trams are in 'very poor condition’. Rescue plans have been hindered by ownership and access issues, Huxley explained in his article, by the cost of restoration and storage, and by uncertainty over the future of the shed, which was recently sold to developers by the NSW Harness Racing Club.
Tram No. 805, painted in its 1920 olive drab and fawn with red trimming, is now in the Loftus workshops where its electrics and mechanicals, its power and braking systems, went through a thorough check.
The O-class, Bondi ''toast rack'' model will be one of the stars on show at a two-day festival in February to mark the 50th anniversary of the last tram ride in Sydney, on February 25, 1961.
Howard Clark, the chairman of the Sydney Tramway Museum, noted that the O-types were the iconic Sydney trams.
Clark explained that because these trams worked in multiple units, they were huge people-movers. A couple working in tandem would have a 'crunch load' of 160 passengers seated, with probably the same number again standing. At the end the redundant trams were stripped and burned, four at a time, in giant bonfires at workshops in Randwick.
Somehow, No. 805 escaped. In January it was transported by low-bed trailer from its owner, the Powerhouse Museum's store at Castle Hill, where it has stood unmoving for several years, to the tramway museum at Loftus for the inspection and repairs.
In 2011 there was talk of bringing back a tram system in Sydney which the then Government was considering.
My question is - who can remember the Sydney trams as two generations have come and gone since these trams were taken out of the Sydney transport system.
My grew up in Mackay, Queensland and my parents took the family to Sydney, this was the 1960-61 Christmas-summer holidays. We visited family and friends as we headed to Sydney, then onto Canberra and the apple country of Tumut-Batlow.
During that trip, we stayed with a relative in Bondi and I recall how the family regularly rode the Bondi Tram as it was by far the easiest and most accommodating way to get around for a north Queensland family unaccustomed to the city.
I can even recall the public outcry when the trams were finally removed, less than two months after our Sydney visit, as my parents spoke of it at length.
One of the fascinating side issues of the Sydney tram network, are the Christian church records that show that a surprising number of Sydney siders used the trams to go to church or their mid-week or youth meetings.
My late mother, as a teenager newly arrived from England in the 1930s, would probably have travelled to Church and her beloved hockey matches on the trams.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand. Dr Mark Tronson’s Press Service International in 2019 was awarded the Australasian Religious Press Association’s premier award, The Gutenberg. In September 2020 Summer Moore presented her commission portrait of Dr Mark Tronson holding the Gutenberg plaque. The above photo is the upper part from this portrait.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at: http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html