Friday, March 14, 2008

The Tram to Balmoral

For twenty years the residents and the local council of the Sydney seaside suburb of Balmoral agitated, lobbied, pestered, made deputations, petitioned and never let up the pressure for an electric tram to their suburb. For twenty years routes were discussed, costs were discussed, plans made and plans discarded. Finally in 1922 their tram line opened. Why was it so hard? Remember this tracing and I posed the question as to why the tram took such a circuitous route?

Cliffs and steep slopes my friends. Sydney has a lot of very steep areas around the edge of the harbour and the open sea areas, both north and south of the harbour entrances.

While it not so much of a problem now, back then trams could not go down or up very steep hills. Remember my post on the Balmain counterweight tram? They would just slip when trying to climb a hill, or slide when going down.

Eventually route planning and funding was finalised and the new tram line opened on the 29th of May, 1922. Unlike most Sydney tram line openings, the opening was without ceremony. Politicians did not want to give an opportunity for criticism as to why the line took twenty years to build.

No longer did residents have to walk the to the nearest tram line in Military Road. I think Balmoral Beach must have been quite a nice place to visit. Once the tram line opened with a fairly infrequent service, the service had to be rapidly increased, especially on weekends.

Here is a quote from one of the newspapers of the day:
In its tortuous descent to the beach, the new line headed at different stages of the route towards almost every point of the compass, revealing scenes of surpassing beauty at every turn.

Here is a map with the streets and route of the tram. Once it reached the sea, it took a level, curving path along the coast to Rocky Point and a rotunda I think. To the top of the map is Mandolong Road, an obvious route for the tram to connect to Military Road tram on the far left, and travel directly to the beach, but it was far too steep.
This picture by Tim Boxsell of Sydney shows one of the cuttings that was blasted and hacked out of rock to make a path for the tram. After the tram stopped running the cutting became overgrown and almost impassable. Mossman Council recently cleared the cutting. I don't believe that these tracks are the original.
This picture is lovely. A tram travelling through bushland to Balmoral. Picture courtesy The North Sydney lines.

This is one of a tram descending a steep and curving hill. Picture owner unknown.

One thing for sure, the tram line would have never have happened if not for the lobbying and though it took twenty years, it was successful. Take note Doncaster residents, Monash students and Rowville residents who want a train.

The last picture shows at tram at repose at the Balmoral Beach terminus facing the steep slopes it will soon climb. The last tram to Balmoral ran on the 28th of June, 1958. Picture courtesy City of North Sydney.


  1. Anonymous4:37 pm

    A truly beautiful section of Sydney. It's a really big shame that Sydney's once extensive tram network was obliterated. See how stupid governments can be?

    1. Anonymous3:03 pm

      They were removed as a method of halting the increasing power of the Transport Unions.

    2. By a Labor Government? The replacement double decker buses were still government owned and the system run by the government. I can't see it myself, but thanks for the comment.

  2. I love the Balmoral Beach :)


  3. I'm going to try planting a tree in the middle of the tram lines in Fleetwood. Alternatively I could plant one of the local chavs. Either way it should make for some enjoyable entertainment.

  4. Anonymous8:58 pm

    Balmoral Beach would have to be the most beautiful beach in Sydney, and only the mega-rich (and apparently very influential) can afford to live there.

  5. It is sad Reuben. All shut down just near when I was born.

    Your home area Keshi? It looks nice.

    Plant a chav at equidistance Brian.

    It was the cheap burbs back then Anon.

  6. How pretty! Blah, stupid govts.

  7. There are so many pretty parts of Sydney around the harbour, north and south along the coast.

  8. Did the route run from Balmoral Beach to Wynyard, or did it go somewhere else? I was thinking that because of the way it came about it might have operated only from Military Road to the beach and back again. Do you know if the whole route walkable these days? It looks like it travels across private property.

    Once again an interesting tramway archaeological post.

  9. Once the bridge opened, I believe there were services to Wynyard. There was also a Chatswood Balmoral service and an Athol Wharf Balmoral service, probably only until the bridge opened.

  10. As a child I travelled to school by tram and loved it. I wanted to grow up to be tram driver and was devastated when trams were removed from Sydney. Despite Sydney's narrow winding roads and hills I think there is still a place for a modern tram system here.

  11. Lucky you Victor. They must have been fun. Trams run in many cities with narrow streets, even Melbourne has trams in narrow streets.

  12. laurie6:52 pm

    I went to Mosman school & we caught the tram to Balmoral for swimming.

    1. Laurie, that must have been terrific fun, to wind through the area and end up at the beach. A few years after this was written, we did walk from I think a bus stop in Middle Head Road to the beach by following the tram route. Search for Balmoral on my blog, if you are interested.