Most Adelaide residents would be completely unaware that Adelaide had a huge and well developed public transport system over a hundred years ago. In fact one could argue that the transport system then was more widespread and reliable than what exists today.
As early as 1878 horse drawn trams operated to North Adelaide, and before long there were services to Mitcham, Hindmarsh, Walkerville, Burnside, Prospect, Nailsworth, Enfield, and Maylands. Later additions to the network included Henley Beach, Paradise, Magill, Glen Osmond, Clarence Park, Hyde Park and Walkerville.
While all this must have been incredibly convenient, it surely would have got up people's noses with around 1,000 horses urinating and making deposits of around ten pounds daily without visiting a bank.
By the late 1800's electric motor technology had advanced to the point where it could replace the slow moving horse carriages, and in 1906 the State government purchased all the tram networks and created the Municipal Tramways Trust (MTT) to operate them. In 1909 the government launched the first electric tram, although it was five years before all horse drawn trams were replaced.
The MTT had its headquarters in the Goodman Building on Hackney Rd near where the impressive Bicentennial Conservatory stands today in the Botanic Gardens. Enormous tram barns to house the trams and workshops to service them were located nearby, and part of the original structure remains. The buildings were constructed to a high standard of Edwardian utilitarian design, and are now used by the Botanic Gardens.
Tram Near Temperance Hotel, Albert St Mitcham Around 1910
The benefits of a fast electric tram service to the suburbs must have been dramatic, and public transport would have been very incredibly popular. Indeed Wikipedia reports that by 1945 the MTT was collecting fares for 295 trips per head of population each year.
An old photograph shows a tram built in the 1920's turning the corner onto Princes Rd next to the Mitcham Cultural Village, where the Mitcham Markets are now held. The group of shops on the corner still look much the same today.
A Tram Turns from Welbourne St Mitcham onto Princes Rd
A street map from 1940 shows the route that trams took along Unley Rd, then turning onto Princes Rd, Welbourne St and finally terminating at Albert St. The bus route and possibly even the bus time table are based on this even today.
Tram at Albert St Mitcham Terminus, Possibly Early 1950's
Other suburbs in the north, east and west were similarly well serviced by a comprehensive network of tram lines.
The MTT was so well organised that they even created a poster illustrating what musical instruments required a fare when travelling with their owner. The owner of a bass drum, kettle drum, harp or tuba all had to pay 3d (two cents), although there was no mention of organs or pianos.
Trams Passing the Salvation Army Sunset Lodge Rest Home on Unley Rd in the 1950's
In the 1950's the lower cost and increasing availability of cars caused a loss of patronage for the public transport network. Some routes were converted for use to electric trolley buses, which increasingly were replaced by motor buses. Tram lines were progressively ripped up and scrapped.
A 1922 Type F Drop Centre Tram, Wellbourne Street Mitcham
After around 50 years trams have now enjoyed a resurgence of popularity, and the government has made noises about putting new lines in to a number of areas. Many operators find it difficult to adhere to the bus timetable whereas trams seem to be much more successful at that.
The rail network too has been run down, and will pretty much grind to a stop early in 2013 due to track works in several locations. By contrast the trams of Adelaide provided a great service for many years. It's a pity that the network no longer exists.
To think that I only associate trams with Melbourne. Now I wonder why Melbourne's extensive tram network managed to survive the modern technological advances.
Now I have a burning question about your writing Dave. Was it your plan to photograph the Goodman building (reputedly haunted btw) and then you decided to visit the conservatory on the side? And all primarily because you had this article on trams planned ahead of time? Maybe Carramar was a coincidence or was it part of your big plan?
Those 1910 "rocker" trams were still being used at peak periods in the early 1940s when I went to school in Adelaide High. They only had 4 wheels.
Naughty boys would get in the rear driver compartment and bounce the tram until the front wheels would lift off the rails.
A well written and thoroughly researched article as usual Dave. It is indeed ironic that some of the tramlines are now being extended. However Unley Road is congested enough without trams, let alone with them. The picture you have captioned "Tram at Albert St Mitcham Terminus, Possibly Early 1950's" would have to have been taken post 1958 because the car next to the tram is a Simca Aronde P60 which would have been built between 1958 and 1964 at Mile End.
A 1922 Type F Drop Centre Tram, Location Unknown - this photo is at the corner of Prince's Road and Welbourn Street in Mitcham. Behind the tram is the Mitcham Institute and to the right are shops - one was a deli and the other a butcher. Beyond the tram is Torrens Street.