Saturday, November 20, 2010

9d Fare to Watsons Bay

Gosh. I haven't posted anything about Sydney's trams for ages. Yesterday somebody! distracted me with YouTube vids of the old and long gone Victorian Railway trams in Melbourne's southern suburbs. Maybe I will write about them in the future. Well, I probably have before.

One of the highlights of our trip to Sydney last year was travelling to Watson's Bay by bus. We sure know how to live. While the bus did not follow the old tram route all the time, it did at times and it was a great bus trip. How much better would it have been on the Watson's Bay tram.

The earlier city tram terminus for the Watson's Bay tram was Erskine Street and the wharves on the western side of the city, quite close to where the Sydney Aquarium now is and the Pyrmont Bridge that the Monorail travels over, the tram travelled eastward along King Street. Motorists, police, organisations, shopkeepers and big business had long lobbied to get rid of the tram from King Street and eventually they were successful and the line was truncated to Queens Square on the eastern boundary of the city. This made the tram much less useful and naturally patronage dropped. One can't help suspect it was 'part of the plan'.

In 1949 the Watsons Bay line was cut back to Rose Bay but those affected lobbied furiously and had the tram reinstated. Authorities learnt their lesson and subsequently when tram lines were closed, the last tram was followed by a crew behind removing the overhead power wires. Sometimes the tracks were quickly concreted over. I recall reading of one case where the power was shut off prematurely for the removal of the overhead wires while a last tram was still in service and it had to be ignominiously towed for the remainder of its last journey on that line. I expect a 'much more efficient' Sydney double decker was already running over the route.

Here is a map showing the Watsons Bay tram route.

View Watsons Bay line in a larger map

But better still, if you have a highish boredom threshold, here is a YouTube vid of bits of the trip. Of course I watched the whole nine minutes of it, but I don't expect most of you will. Here are some salient bits from the trip to Watsons Bay.

It begins with some footage of trams at the Rushcutters Bay Depot.

At 2.00 minutes, a nice view of Rose Bay where the Catalina flying boats used to skid across the water.
2.14 Climbing the hill on the curvy road from Rose Bay.
2.26 A view of the Harbour Bridge in the background.
2.35 The Rose bay flying boat hanger.
3.02 The tram travelling along the cliff top.
3.30 The tram rounding curves to soften the steep decent to Watsons Bay.
5.25 On the return journey to the city a dog bravely crosses in front of the tram as the tram travels through a cutting.
6.28 A quite deep cutting.
6.34 With a nice backdrop of the harbour the tram climbs a very steep hill. If it was a steam train, it would be muttering, I think I can, I think I can.
7.00 Gawd, do hills in Sydney ever finish? Do views ever finish?
7.30 Approaching the South Head Signal Station.
8.18 A leftie into Darlinghurst Road and a right into William Street.
8.34 The good old days when there wasn't as much traffic and every motorist and pedestrian were well behaved and considerate of other road users. It seems rather that the tram would not stop for any obstacle.
9.24 I don't believe what I think is a P class Sydney tram operated on the Watsons Bay line when this was filmed and I don't think the Watsons Bay tram ever went to Circular Quay, but no matter, here is a coupled pair of perhaps P class trams descending the steep Young Street and down to the Quay.

July 1960 saw the last tram to Watsons Bay. What a bugger.


  1. I remember Watson's Bay. Sort of. First hubby was posted there from Brisbane, so we all moved down, (of course) and he went to Watson's Bay and back every single day from out-in-the-sticks Glenfield where the Army had found us a home.

  2. Much as I don't like getting stuck behind them at times I have to admit we are lucky we've kept them in Melbourne.

  3. Ditto Loz above!
    I nominate we ban all cars from all CBDs everywhere and reintroduce trams.

  4. I used that line in my early school days. We lived at Potts Point at the time and my school was at Edgecliff so I travelled by tram between Kings Cross and Edgecliff. My child's fare was 1d (a penny).

  5. River, it is a very attractive place now, and feels quite peaceful too.

    Yep Loz, I avoid them like the plague when driving, but yes, we are fortunate.

    Starting with our CBD Jayne.

    Any attractive conductors Victor?

  6. Well I watched the whole thing! Paused and rewound and watched some more! Found some more clips just the same but different routes and watched them too! Saw the Bondi tram disappear into a cutting at the top of Campbell Parade where it meets Bondi rd, and also saw the Bronte tram in the Bronte cutting.

  7. Ian, all exactly as I did. The full trip to North Bondi via Bellevue Hill would have been good to see and another would be to Balmoral Beach, Mosman, where the tram went through bushland and cuttings. Oh, and Athol Wharf at Taronga Zoo too.

  8. Andrew - I would only have been 8 or 9 at the time. As early as my sense of sexuality did kick in I doubt I would have noticed the attractiveness or otherwise of the conductors in those days.

    Ian - there is a terrific DVD sold by the Tram Museum which runs for several hours that has vision of practically every bit of the extensive Sydney tram system. I view my copy every year or so and get a kick out of it each time.

  9. I lived in Vaucluse and caught the tram to school in Watson's Bay every day. It was a lovely trip, ocean on one side and then glimpses of the harbour. I remember my mum getting very annoyed when the fare went up from 1 penny to threepence!

  10. Thanks Robyn. Did you imagine one day it would be all gone? Trippling the fare sounds a bit rich.