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Adelaide Tramway Museum

Home > Adelaide > Trains | Museums | Kids | Fun for Children | Family | Escape the City
by Dave Walsh (subscribe)
I enjoy writing about Adelaide and its many attractions. If you think Adelaide is boring, the problem is not with Adelaide. adelaideunearthed.blogspot.com.au/
Published August 12th 2012
Take a ride back 100 years
tram, adelaide, st kilda tram museum, trolley bus, convertor station
1925 Type G Birney Safety Car


Few people in Adelaide would be aware that Adelaide has had a public transport network for around 130 years, and that at its peak in the 1950's there were around 24 tram lines radiating from Adelaide in every direction to service major suburbs.

tram, adelaide, st kilda tram museum, trolley bus, convertor station, st kilda
Beautifully Restored Wooden Interior of Tram


The Adelaide Tramway Museum at St Kilda is run by a group of dedicated volunteers and brings you an incredibly detailed historical collection of Adelaide trams, trolley buses and other mementoes. I visited on a weekday while the museum was closed, but there were still several people busily cleaning and restoring the exhibits.

tram, adelaide, st kilda tram museum, trolley bus, convertor station
1952 Map of Adelaide Metropolitan Tram Routes


The first horse drawn tram line to North Adelaide began service in 1878, with new lines opening to other suburbs progressively over the years. By the early 1900's the public was becoming disenchanted with the slow horse drawn network, not to mention the 5kg of manure that each horse deposited daily. To make matters worse the tramways operated on unsealed roads to improve traction and better absorb the horse urine. The roads were muddy in winter and created a dust problem in summer.

In 1906 the government bought all existing tram lines and assets from private operators and created the Municipal Tramways Trust to operate the entire network. The network was progressively electrified between 1909 and 1914 and converter stations were built around Adelaide to convert mains AC power to 600V DC to power the trams.

tram, adelaide, st kilda tram museum, trolley bus, convertor station
Former Converter Station Used as Scout Archive Centre


One of the converter stations at 19 Reedie St, Henley Beach still exists and is used by the Scouts as an archive centre. Another was Converter Station No.14 on Derwent Ave Magill, built in 1948 and now converted into a Tuscan style residence.

During the 1930's the high cost of laying tracks prevented the MTT from expanding tram services, but trolley buses were trialled successfully instead on some lines. Buses were also used on some routes to supplement the trams and to reduce competition from private bus services.

tram, adelaide, st kilda tram museum, trolley bus, convertor station
Type F Drop Centre Tram on Goodwood Road, Courtesy Peter Gutteridge


Despite this trams remained popular until 1951 when wartime petrol rationing finally ended. Coupled with the falling cost of motor cars, this resulted in a steady loss of patronage on public transport. The last Adelaide tram to be produced in the 20th Century was the Type H1 tram which was completed in 1952 and used on the Kensington and Henley North Lines.

tram, adelaide, st kilda tram museum, trolley bus, convertor station
The Only Type H1 Tram Produced


Until 1939 the River Torrens did not have a direct outlet to the sea, as the coastal dune system caused the river to disperse into swamplands. Travelling to Henley Beach on the tram involved passing through an area known as the Reed Beds at HMAS Australia Rd on a viaduct until the late 1950's.

tram, adelaide, st kilda tram museum, trolley bus, convertor station
Trolley Bus Outside Largs Pier Hotel (Courtesy Tramway Museum)


While many who visit the Tram Museum are passionate about the trams themselves, for me the highlight was getting glimpses of how the trams impacted on people's lives in the past. It's also fascinating to see how familiar places around Adelaide like Semaphore and Largs Bay have changed over the years.

tram, adelaide, st kilda tram museum, trolley bus, convertor station
Trolley Bus and Red Hen Train at Semaphore (Courtesy Tramway Museum)


Apart from the multitude of trams and trolley buses you can see, there are many informative displays about the trams and their historical context. They include lots of photos of trams in familiar locations around Adelaide from days gone by.

tram, adelaide, st kilda tram museum, trolley bus, convertor station, st kilda
Double Decker Trolley Bus


From the point of view of the children who visit the museum, the highlight must be the chance to ride on one of the fully restored trams to the St Kilda Adventure Playground. If your children like the Dunstan Adventure Playground in St Peters, they will go wild at St Kilda's. The slippery dips, maze and other play equipment must rate as the best in South Australia.

tram, adelaide, st kilda tram museum, trolley bus, convertor station, st kilda
Part of St Kilda Adventure Playground


After visiting the Tramway Museum and the Adventure Playground, why not visit the St Kilda Beach Hotel for lunch? It's really the only option around unless you want to settle for pies from the Bait Shop, and looks to have been nicely renovated.

tram, adelaide, st kilda tram museum, trolley bus, convertor station, st kilda
St Kilda Beach Hotel


If you are still feeling energetic after lunch, there is a Mangrove Trail and Interpretive Centre a short distance away.

tram, adelaide, st kilda tram museum, trolley bus, convertor station, st kilda
St Kilda Mangrove Trail and Interpretive Centre


Or you can catch the tram back to the Tram Museum and pick up a memento of your visit, perhaps a DVD of trams around Adelaide in the 1950's. It makes fascinating viewing.

tram, adelaide, st kilda tram museum, trolley bus, convertor station, st kilda
Tram Overpass at Railway Station (Courtesy Wayne Morris and Johnny's Pages)


For those with an interest in the subject, there is a wealth of knowledge and pictures at Johnny's Pages, and this forum also has plenty of historical information. This forum is also worth a look for more images.
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Why? Explore the museum, then take a tram ride to the St Kilda Adventure Playground
When: The Museum is open from 12 noon to 5pm on Sundays and public holidays
Phone: (08) 8280 8188
Where: St.Kilda Road, St.Kilda, SA
Cost: Admission fees: Adults $10.00 Concession $7.00 Family $28.00
Your Comment
Thanks for the tip Lexa, it's a great concept and sounds rather good fun.

Recently I've been flat out writing and researching, but I have bookmarked this because I do think it's a cool idea. Will come back to take a closer look a bit later on.

Cheers for the thought :)
by Dave Walsh (score: 4|10303) 1786 days ago
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