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Sydney Tramway Museum

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by Gary Brown (subscribe)
I am a freelance writer and photographer from Sydney who has now had five books published on fishing. I also write for the NSW Fishing Monthly, Visit the Shire, Fisho App & Tackle Tactics. I also like to travel and experience new things to do.
Published December 21st 2014
I have often wondered what would it had of been like to travel on a tram in Sydney back in the early 1900's. So when the opportunity came up to pay a visit to the Sydney Tramway Museum at Loftus I couldn't resist.
Take a tram ride into history. Visit the Sydney Tam Museum.

The Sydney Tramway Museum is Australia's oldest tramway museum and the largest in the southern hemisphere.The museum was officially opened at its original site on the edge of the Royal National Park by NSW Deputy Premier Pat Hills in 1965. It was then relocated to a larger site across the adjacent to Loftus Railway Station and was opened on 19 March 1988.

The Sydney Tram Museum is easily reached either by car or train and if you are travelling south from Sutherland you will need to look out for Rawson Avenue which will lead you to the entrance of the museum. The Museum buildings can be seen on the right just before Rawson Avenue joins the bypass.
Location of the Sydney Tram Museum near Loftus

The Museum is located adjacent to the Illawarra line, south of Sydney. You will need to catch a Waterfall service and alight at Loftus, one stop past the junction at Sutherland. You may also catch a Cronulla service but change at Sutherland for the Waterfall train.
The Sydney Tram Museum is located not far from the Loftus Railway Station

City Rail's suburban services provide a half-hour service to Loftus during the day. The journey takes about 35 minutes from the city. The Museum is right next to Loftus station and the main entrance is just a short 75 metre walk from the station.

When I arrived I was not quite sure whether I could park inside the gates so I decided to park on the side of the road near the entrance. When you first walk in through the gates you will notice a sandstone façade that has been brought in piece by piece. This historic structure, which stood in the middle of Railway Square (near Sydney's Central Station) from 1907 to 1973, has been painstakingly re-erected at the Museum.

Care does need to be taken when walking up to the visitors centre as the trams use the lines when they are open on Wednesdays and the weekends. One line runs 1.5 km north towards Sutherland Railway Station and the second utilises the Royal National Park branch line constructed in 1886 before the line closed in June 1991. The Museum converted the line to light rail standards and connected it to the existing museum line to establish what is now one way of accessing the RNP.
Keep an eye out for passing trams.

The museum has an extensive collection of trams from Sydney and cities in Australia and around the world in the Display Hall, railway carts, buses, hhistoric photographs of Sydney's street transport during the tramway era, tram rides, books to buy from the souvenir shop, covered picnic areas, electric BBQs and a small kiosk.
Books for sale at the souvenir shop

All aboard for the tram ride into history.

If you are after a short tram ride to experience what it was like to ride a tram back in those early years you could travel in a northerly direction past the TAFE College and the Army depot to their present terminus about 800 metres south of Sutherland railway station. One of their next objectives is to complete the tramline by extending the track under the railway bridge and into the Sutherland shopping centre to terminate outside the original steam tram starter's building adjacent to Sutherland railway station. This would then give you an opportunity to explore the township of Sutherland.

In the other direction is Parklink, the former railway line which stretches two kilometres into the Royal National Park and terminates at the old railway station platform. From there, it is a short stroll to the Bungonia lookout.
The end of the road. You will now have to walk to get to the Audley Weir.

Cars stopped at the crossing to the RNP

Depending on how fit and nimble you are you could walk a further kilometres downhill to Audley weir where you could have a picnic or even go for a fish below the weir. Maybe you would like to try either rowing a boat, paddling a kayak or a canoe from the Audley Boat Shed. If that doesn't take your fancy to might like to have a bite at the Audley Dance Hall and Cafe or call into the RNP Visitors Centre to find out what else is on offer.

Their Parklink trams depart at a quarter past each hour, beginning at 10.15am each day we're open with the last one running at 4.15 on Sundays and at 2.15 pm on Wednesdays or other weekdays.

On Sundays and public holidays, three trams are usually operational; on Wednesdays, this is reduced to two. A variety of different trams is usually available for these services.

Have you got some spare time on your hands and you don't know what to do. Maybe you have a trade background. You may be a tram or transport enthusiast and you would like to help out.
Countless hours have ben put into the restoring of these items in the museum.

The only way that the Sydney Tram Museum will keep going into the future so that all people of different ages can enjoy what they have on offer is to get more volunteers. Due to the aging populations of the current volunteers (the oldest is 80) the museum urgently needs more volunteers to fill vacancies in a variety of positions in the museum.

No matter what your skills are they should be able to find a worthwhile job for you to do. You could be involved in tram restoration or repairs, site maintenance, cleaning, recycling of waste materials, painting, electrical or mechanical duties, fund raising, administrative or secretarial duties or dealing with the public. The possibilities are endless.

Have you ever dreamt of learning to become a conductor and perhaps work towards becoming a driver, there's a lot you can learn so that this information and skills can be passed down through the generations? Maybe you would like to dress up like the way they did in the days of old and sell tram tickets, using a change bag and ticket book, so you need to be able to give your passengers the correct change doing the sums in your head. No calculators allowed on this tram!
You too can be a volunteer conductor

At present generally there are people working behind the scenes at the museum on Wednesdays and Saturdays, although we are only open to the public on Wednesdays, Sundays and public holidays. You do not necessarily have to attend on the same day every week. It is up to you. The hours that you work can also be tailored to suit you. Naturally if you wish to be involved in operating the trams you have to undergo a training program, and you would need to be available on those days when we are open to the public.

For those that may be interested you could click on the LINK or call the recruiting hotline 9542 3604 where they can arrange an interview for you. Monday to Friday during business hours is best.

Now if dealing with the public isn't your thing, there is still plenty of satisfying things you can lend your hand too. What about working on their new track towards Sutherland, we're putting in new timber sleepers. Some easy preliminary steps disconnect the old sleepers from the metal track then clears the path alongside. Then some good sideways whacks with a sledgehammer and its moving! It might be a new skill and you'll discover you've got muscles you didn't know about but you'll have the satisfaction of a short stretch of re-strengthened track that you've helped re-build.
Heavey work may not be your cup of tea. There are plenty of other things you could volunteer to do

Maybe you are good at weilding?

On the other hand, some of the work doesn't involve heavy work but is still important. The chap welding is skilled at that task but for much of the time he needs an assistant to keep the work in position. You'll be given whatever safety advice is needed, such as looking away from a welding flame.

People with a mechanical bent or even a trade in the area are always welcome in the workshops, where there is always something that needs doing.

While going through the Display Hall I came across a character by the name of Rod Burlin. Now this gentleman was in his seventies and had his hair tied up in a pony tail. A well kept beard and reading glasses that hung on the bridge of his nose.
Rod has been a volunteer at the Sydney Tram Museum for over ten years and has many different projects on the go and one that rod was working on was the complete renovation of a tram that was built in Sydney back in 1899. When this particular tram is finished it will be going over to Christchurch to once again become a working tram. I thought how cool is that!
Rod and his favourite tram

The tram was originally built for the NSW Government Railways by Clyde Engineering who was an Australian manufacturer of locomotives, rolling stock, and other industrial products. From here it was sold to the North Coast Steam company and was used to transport passengers to the end of the wharf at Byron Bay. Then the Parramatta Park Steam Train got hold of the tram and from there it ended up at the Canberra Trade Union Club as a dining car. In April 2010 the trams next stop was the Sydney Tram Museum where it's started its new journey to Christchurch in New Zealand where it will start working again as a fully operational tram.

Rod has been working on this particular tram for well over three and a half years and is hoping that the job will be finished in early 2015. Over the years he has scraped, cleaned, washed, painted and re painted so many parts of the existing tram that it is almost a new one. He has replaced and even re-made panels, the floor, seats, parts of the motor, stained glass windows, cover strips and rails. There has been thousands or new brass slotted screws been screw in to hold metal cover strips on. These counter sunk screw holes had to be filled, sanded and painted to come up the same as the originals.

Rod is a perfectionist in any job that he takes on and for a seventy plus year old he has a memory of an elephant. During the process of pulling apart and putting back together Rod has had to remember where everything goes, and when I was there the parts were all over the place. Rod knew where everything was and what had to be done next.

On another note while talking to Rod I found that we both have a love for fishing and in particular, chasing Pigs (Drummer) off the rocks.

The Sydney Tramway Museum is a registered charity in New South Wales. Donations of $2 and over are tax deductible, and should be made payable to THE TRAMWAY MUSEUM FUND at the Museum's address.

You can also become a Friend of the Museum - you can e-mail their Membership Secretary or write to him at P O Box 103, Sutherland NSW 1499. If visiting the Museum, advise any of the Traffic Team and they'll be more than delighted to give you a membership form. As a Friend, you can simply show your support financially or actually become involved in the preservation, restoration and operations activities of the Museum.

The Museum entry fees:
Adults $18
Seniors and concession card holders $12
Children who are enrolled at school $10
Preschool children Free
Family tickets: 2 adults and 2 children in the same family, additional children in that family $46
My tram ticket for the ride

Admission covers entry to the Display Hall, unlimited tram rides on both the Museum's and the Royal National Park lines, and use of picnic area, electric barbecues and other facilities on the day of your visit. A souvenir shop and kiosk are also provided.
For the convenience of visitors to the Royal National Park, an independent return fare of $6 adults, $4 child/concession is available on the Parklink service. Single (one-way) fares are $4 adults, $3 child/concession.

So the next time that you are looking for somewhere to go and step back in time or maybe you would like to become a volunteer at the Sydney Tram Museum, why don't you hop on a train or get in your car and pay a visit to the museum.

Maybe you will meet up with Rod or one of the other volunteers at the Sydney Tram Museum!
Seventy and still riding the rails.
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When: Weekends, Wednesdays and school holidays
Phone: (02) 95423646
Where: Sutherland Shire - Loftus - RNP
Cost: Refer to web site
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