The Last Remnant of Adelaide’s Tram Network

Combination Tram

St Kilda Tram Museum

St Kilda Road, St Kilda
Open Times: Sundays & Public Holidays 12:00 noon to 5:00 pm

Okay, the title to this post doesn’t take into account the tram line that runs from the Adelaide Entertainment Centre through the city to Glenelg, but from around 1956 to 2010 this was little more than a tourist line which ran a number of H-Class trams between City and the beach at Glenelg. As a kid this was one of the rides that our mum would take us on during the school holidays, usually accompanying a day trip to the beach.
H Class Glenelg Tram
One of the old H-Class Trams at Victoria Square
The tramline was extended down King William Street and North Terrace in 2007 and in 2010 was further extended to the Entertainment Centre. It was somewhat amusing when I was wondering through the museum and I saw pictures of the tram lines on King William Street being ripped up in the late 1950s only to be laid back down in 2007.
Adelaide, like a lot of Australian cities in the early 20th century, had an extensive tram network, however due to losses and low patronage, as well as the rise of the motor car, meant that the trams become unviable and the lines were progressively shut down until there was only the said Glenelg line remaining. It is interesting that there is now talk to resurrect these old tram routes and to bring a tram network back to Adelaide. However, much of the history of the Glenelg Tram and the former Adelaide Tram Network can be found on Wikipedia so I will not repeat any of that information here.
Adelaide Tram Network 1950s
The extent of Adelaide’s Tram Network (minus the Port Adelaide Trams)

It has been quite a while since I last visited the Tram Museum (I suspect I was a kid at the time), and in many ways it has become the home of many of Adelaide’s former trams. The museum itself has three pavilions, one containing trams, one containing an old horse drawn tram, and one containing trolly buses.

Horse Drawn Tram
Horse Drawn Tram
Trolley Bus
Trolly Bus
Along with a number of trams (not including the ones still in the workshop in the process of being restored) there are also displays of old tickets and other memorabilia from a bygone age as well as information about the former days of Adelaide’s tram network. However, while the children (as well as us adults) wonder through these old trams, the one draw card of the museum is the operational trams that they run down to the St Kilda township every half hour. Normally they have four trams operational and they rotate through each of these four trams throughout the day. The admission price includes unlimited rides on the trams, with the driver and conductor wearing the old tramways uniform. The four trams that were running the day we visited the museum was the ‘Open Crossbench’, the ‘Combination Type I’, the ‘Bogie Saloon’, and the ‘Melbourne 294’ (called as such because it was, and on some routes still is, used in Melbourne).

Bogie Saloon
Bogie Saloon


Melbourne 294
Melbourne 294


Open Crossbench
Open Crossbench

Mind you, a museum isn’t a museum unless you discover something new. Okay, maybe I am exaggerating a bit because I have certainly discovered a lot of new things with the creation of Wikipedia, however with museums you are not necessarily looking at plaques and computer screens (unless, of course, it is a really boring museum) but you are also looking at the things that the museum has on display, in this case it is trams.

I’m not sure what the trams in Adelaide use as warning devices, but the Melbourne trams, including the latest models, still use bells. One of the things that I love about the Melbourne trams are the bells that seem to ring throughout the city centre. What I discovered was from where these bells originated. The old trams had a little button on the floor that the driver would press with their foot which was cause a bell in the undercarriage to ring. When we discovered that we would stand in the driver’s cabin pressing the bell to no end (and you probably would not be able to tell us apart from the children who were doing that as well). Here is a video:

Oh, and the driver’s cabins in these old trams were also really, really cramped. Here is a picture of me in one of those cabins.

Driver's cabin
I feel sorry for the drivers stuck in here on hot days
I’m not really sure what all of those knobs and wheels did (with the exception of the button on the floor that rang the bell) but from what I can see from trams they appear to be very similar to trains in that they basically follow the tracks, so the only controls would involve them going faster and slower (and if you wished to go in the opposite direction you would have to go into the cabin on the other side). As for the seat, it was a really small metal contraption that would fold up against the wall, and appeared to be little more than a narrow rest rather than a full fledged seat.
I also ended up having a chat with one of the operators because I had noticed that trams no longer use trolley poles but rather devices known as pantographs.

Trolley Pole
Trolley Pole

I was a little curious as to why they no longer use trolley poles (unless of course you are on Hong Kong island because the tram that runs through there still use trolley poles, but then again they are also using original trams, most likely as a tourist attraction as opposed to a mass transit option, though the tram can be more convenient than the MTR) so I asked the operator who told me that the problem with trolley poles is that when the tram goes in the opposite direction they have to lower one trolley pole and raise the one for the opposite direction whereas the pantograph allows to tram to go both ways without changing the facing of the pantograph.

Trolley Bus Pavilion

Then there were the Trolley Buses. I never knew that Adelaide used to have Trolley Buses – the first time I ever encountered them was in Athens where they are used extensively (and despite having never seen one before for some reason I knew they were called trolley buses). Anyway, a trolley bus is a normal road bus that runs on electricity through the use of overhead wires, much in the same way that trams are powered. However I suspect that many modern trolley buses also have diesel engines for use when the power lines are not available.

It was interesting reading an old argument supporting the use of trolley buses over diesel powered buses, being that they are much quieter and also much cleaner than their diesel counterparts. These are similar arguments that are used today in support of electric powered vehicles. What I found interesting though was looking inside the trolley buses because there seemed to be a lot less controls than modern diesel buses have (though I suspect it may be because they have yet to be fully restored).

Trolley Bus Controls
It could also be because this is a really old bus

The other interesting thing was seeing some of the really old advertisements on these trams for Telecom and Medibank Private (which were both owned by the government at the time).

Anyway, no blog post of the tram museum would be complete without a couple of videos of the trams in operation, so here is the Open Crossbench leaving St Kilda Playground to head back to the museum:

and here is the Bogie Saloon leaving the tram museum to travel to St Kilda:

As for the location, well, as mentioned above, it is located around the halfway point on St Kilda road between Port Wakefield Road and the St Kilda township, but anyway, here is a map:

H-Class Tram source: Simon Lieschke use permitted under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

Adelaide Tram Map source: Peripitus use permitted under Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. If you wish to use this work commercially please feel free to contact me. All images on this post are © and/or ™ their relevant owners. If you are the owner of any of the images used on this website and wish them to be removed then please contact me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s