Monday, December 20, 2010

Sydney, Rozelle Tram Depot, A brief history

Victor kindly pointed out a blog post to me but I did already know a little about Rozelle tram depot. At the bottom of this post you can see a photo of what the depot looks like now. I have been advised that it is considerably tidier than it was before it was used for some photo shoots, a couple of dance parties and as a background for 'If you think you can dance' promos.

One source tells me the depot is owned by Sydney City Council, another that it is owned by the NSW Harness Racing Club who obviously would own the adjacent Harold Park racecourse.

Let us go back. Construction of the depot was completed in 1904 and the depot became an operational tram depot for electric trams. It was enlarged in 1909. The trams serviced the Leichardt tram line and later the Abbotsford line as it was converted from steam tram to electric and extended. It also assisted with the supply of trams for Balmain and Drummoyne lines, the latter later extended to Ryde. It was all hands on deck when there was racing at Harold Park and nearby boat races. The depot closed when its tram lines were closed in 1958.

I seem to recall that it was used as a bus depot for a while, but I can't confirm that.

October, 2008, ABC Online (includes the tram depot)

Sydney's historic Harold Park trotting track at Glebe is up for sale.

The New South Wales Harness Racing Club plans to make Menangle Park in Sydney's south-west its new headquarters.

Chief executive John Dumesny says it is becoming harder to bring horses into the city.

"The inner-city is rather congested with traffic and when you are pulling a horse float with valuable livestock on the back it does become difficult and the horses do become unsettled," he said.

Mr Dumesny says the land will not be sold for anything less than $150 million.

"It's not an unrealistic figure. Were sitting on 27 acres, or 11 hectares, of property here right here in the city," he said.

"It's the biggest freehold parcel of land available."

April 2009, Sydney Morning Herald

It's a real mess," said Howard Clark, chairman of the Sydney Tramway Society, which owns five of the trams.

The depot site, set alongside parklands, is owned by the NSW Harness Racing Club, which bought it in two lots from the Roads and Traffic Authority for a reported $2.3 million.

Development proposals that included multi-storey apartments, car parking and commercial studios were submitted in 2005 but ran into opposition from residents.

May 2009, Sydney Morning Herald (how do you steal a tram?)

SYDNEY tram enthusiasts have issued an appeal for help in a last-ditch attempt to save six heavily vandalised historic trams left to rot in the derelict former Rozelle depot in Glebe.
Unforgivably, he explained, they include the most historic of Sydney trams: No. R1 1995, which was the last to run, in February 1961, to La Perouse, before entering the Randwick workshops to be sold or scrapped.

Bought by a Southern Highlands farmer, R1 1995 served as a haystore and shearing shed at Joadja for several years before being brought back to Sydney. It was restored and put into work on a tourist line at Port Kembla. Its next stop was a Newcastle tramway museum, from where it was stolen. On being recovered, it was used in Hay Street by the city council to promote the opening of the new light railway, before being returned to the depot.

August 2010, ABC Online (oh god no, not a working party)

The City of Sydney Council has created a working party to explore new uses for six trams that have been housed at the former Rozelle depot since 1995.

September 2010, source unknown (I forgot to note it, ok! And WhereTF is Menangle)

Harold Park Raceway will go on the market for development today, bringing Sydney's newest inner-city, high-density suburb one step closer.

The NSW Harness Racing Club will call for expressions of interest for the 11-hectare site after the club agreed to planning rules put forward by the City of Sydney and the Central Sydney Planning Committee.

Though the agreement is yet to be formally endorsed, the draft planning controls include that 35 per cent of the site be set aside for public open space while the rest provides dwellings for thousands of residents in buildings up to eight storeys high.

About 1200 residential dwellings are expected to be built on the site, plus a 5000 sq m building for affordable housing. Under the draft plans, the tram sheds will be converted for a mix of community and commercial uses.

Councillors voted on Friday to endorse the plans and give the go-ahead for a draft planning agreement to be drawn up and exhibited with a planning proposal.

At Friday's meeting, the lord mayor, Clover Moore, said the controls achieved a balance between ''community needs and amenity, while helping the city to meet residential and worker targets set by the state government and by Sustainable Sydney 2030''.

Councillor Chris Harris said he and fellow Greens councillor Irene Doutney did not support the plans because they felt eight storeys was too high, the development could cause traffic problems, and they feared that the tram sheds may become a supermarket.

Leichhardt's mayor, Jamie Parker, has also raised objections, saying the density will be equivalent to dropping a ''new suburb'' on the site.

The racing club's activities will be moved to Tabcorp Park at Menangle.

A University of Sydney spokesman said it was still interested in the site for student housing.

17th December 2010, ABC Online

Thousands of fans of harness racing are expected to turn out tonight for the final night of racing at Harold Park Paceway in Sydney's inner west.

The property developer Mirvac won the rights to develop the Glebe site into a residential area.

Racing started at the track in 1902 and by the 1940's huge crowds turned out for night racing.

In 1960 a world record crowd of more than 50,000 watched the Inter Dominion final.

Redevelopment work is expected to start on the site in 2012.

And so ends a significant slice of Sydney's tram and horse racing history.

As for other Sydney tram depots, you can stick that in comments. From memory, Rockdale Depot was about to be demolished a year or so ago. Waverly Depot is now a bus depot. Dowling Street Depot is where Moore Park Supa Centre now sits. Leichhardt Depot became a bus depot. Ultimo Depot became Powerhouse Museum. Randwick Tramway Workshops became smart apartments. Bridge Street depot in the city became government offices. Fort Macquarie depot, the mega tram depot to end all tram depots, was where Sydney Opera House now sits. North shore depot in Military Road, Manly lines etc, no idea. Rushcutters Bay depot, over to you Victor. Now, I must have missed one or two.

Pics from Sydney Morning Herald. Maybe all that paint will have preserved the timber underneath. That is a seriously erect pole on one tram?

R1 class tram 1995, the last tram to officially run in Sydney being transported to the Depot. Its last run was to La Perouse. Our ex NT policeman/politician friend can recall being taken for a tram ride to La Perouse by his recently deceased mother.

Sydney tram staff took pride in the appearance of their tram depots, certainly at Dowling Street and as this photo by Mr E. Skiller illustrates, Rozelle Depot did too.


  1. Don't know whether to laugh or cry - those administrative shenanigans would be amusing in a 'yes minister'-ish kind of way, if they didn't almost add up to active inertia...

    Fascinating history though!

    Merry Xmas!!

  2. Menangle is sort of inland from Wollongong, I think.

    I am not really unhappy with that entire area going to yuppie housing. It would have been nice as a park, but acceptable if the Glebe foreshore is integrated and expanded. The estate will be accessible by lite-rail.

    At least Mirvac got the contract and not that other lot who are doing their darndest to turn Waterloo and Redfern into a disaster.

    I have hundreds of tram images on my hard drive. I am on a tram chain where I receive 5 or 6 emails a month.

    Thosee trams are gone. We have to build infrastructure for the future. This might involve trams, you realise. So long as it does not involve more tunnels for more cars.

  3. 'Tis rather Yes Minister Red. Cheers for christmas to you too.

    Julie, I don't actually know details of what is proposed, but if residents are agin it, then I am instinctively sympathetic. I have a couple of hundred Sydney tram pics, my favourites being trams going into the Harbour, but the Balmain dummy is interesting too. I am just trying to think if there is a mid city exist in the Cross City Tunnel. It could be turned over to trams.

  4. Rushcutters Bay Depot became a bowling alley and Travelodge for a while and now is a hotel and apartment block.

  5. Menangle is inland from the Royal National Park and lies south east of Camden so I suppose it is regarded as south west of Sydney.

  6. Thanks Victor. I guess the original depot building was pulled down?

  7. Yes, the depot building went decades ago.

  8. The North Sydney depot is now a bus depot, just next to the Big Bear shopping centre in Neutral Bay.
    The Manly depot was used as a bus depot for a while, but is now used as a Harris Farm Market. With both, the original buildings appear to be intact, although modified, especially the Manly one.

  9. Thanks Tavis. It is good to hear that the buildings have survived.

  10. Is there a walking tour that includes this site and the Graffitti tunnel at the University?

    1. This was written years ago and I am thousands of miles away. No idea.