Saturday, December 04, 2010

Catch a Sydney Tram

I came across a list of the world's largest tram systems. It rather depends how they are measured. If it is based on double track length, Melbourne wins. By other critera, other European places win. But one stat I had not seen before is number of passengers.

We Melburnians complain about our crowded trams, and they are crowded. In my memory, they were always crowded in peak times, but now they are crowded all the time, day and night, one reason why I favour our passing bus service over trams.

So by passenger numbers per year, St Petersburg, 879 million. Right down at tenth is Melbourne with 180 million, but we are still ahead of Amsterdam with 130 million (pokes tongue out at Peter).

The only other Commonwealth city in the running is Toronto with 105 million.

But get this. How many passenger trips per year were there on Sydney's tram system at its peak? No less than 400 million. If you consider the much smaller population sixty plus years ago, that is an impressive figure. Rhetorical, but how did it all go so wrong? Oh, you do want to know. Essentially the system was run down so much during the depression and the war years, it would have required massive expenditure to bring it up to an efficient standard. Ever so much cheaper and practical to introduce modern and flexible buses. Do I believe that? No, no one said everything had to be done at once to modernise Sydney's tram system in the fifties. Public transport should always be under renewal and improvement, an ongoing process. From my knowledge, while Sydney's tram system was run down, it was still a fast and efficient way to get about, right to the bitter end.

It is suggested by some that Sydney's narrow streets were a big problem for trams and cars to mix. Well, in my experience, Sydney's narrow streets are a big problem for buses and cars to mix.

Ah, ok, I know by now you are begging me to know what a Sydney tram looked like. Here is one that was prepared earlier some sixty years ago. For its time, it was very modern. It is last model tram made for Sydney, the R1 class. While clearly this one was saved, most were just burnt at Sydney's Randwick tram workshops. All that dry wood and they went up like the proverbial Hindu widow.

Oh dear, my photo taken at the Sydney Tram Museum is an R class. I will have to hunt on the net for an R1 class. They are not so different.

And this is an R1 class from a bus website. Don't ask. Look at that filthy diesel fume spewing beast next to the glorious Sydney tram.

But look, if you are in Auckland, you can go to the excellent tram museum there, Museum of Transport and Technology, MOTAT, and see a Sydney R1 class and a Melbourne perhaps W5 class. I knows me Sydney trams better than than me Melbourne ones. The Sydney tram looks like it will slice through an obstacle and proceed, whereas the Melbourne tram looks like it will just bash into an obstacle and maybe just push the obstacle along in front of it. As an often motorist, I find it best to stay out of the way of trams. Looking at one less than a metre behind me in my rear view mirror terrifies me. I know what they are capable of.

Friday, December 03, 2010


ABC News 24 covered the memorial service for the dead miners on New Zealand's south island today. Just an observation from someone overseas, interesting that none of those killed looked like they had foreign or Maori heritage. Is New Zealand mining a closed shop for white New Zealanders? Or won't the Maori or foreign types work that sort of job?

I could check who he was but there was one speaker at the service who was distinctly Maori. He spoke well and looked very regal. Perhaps he was the Governor General? If he wasn't, he could be.

The sky was blue with fluffy clouds. The sun shone, but not too hotly, with a temperature just below 20 deg.

Tributes were read out from leaders around the world, including three from their royalty, Liz, Chaz and and one of Chaz's kiddies.

The setting at the racecourse just outside Greymouth was just stunningly beautiful. Maybe the racecourse can be seen in this photo by David Wall. You can certainly see some big hills. Doesn't it look so pretty.

Well, another day, another disaster. Forty Israeli fire fighters killed in the line of duty, but Israel is not quite as close as NZ is to Australia.

Tips for Oprah Guests

American tv talk show host Oprah Winfrey is gracing our fair Australian shores along with a few hundred guests she is bringing with her. Here are a few tips for her guests to make them feel welcome and familiar once they land.

While we don't dress like this all the time, you will find us wearing our national costume on Sundays and for special occasions. PS, Clothes are cheaper in the US, so buy yours in advance before you come.

It will be very cold at this time of the year, so bring plenty of warm clothes, coats, scarves, mittens etc. This range is called the Blue Mountains.

We have many beautiful buildings here. This one is right next to our very special opera house. It's easy to get to. Simply catch a train to the suburb of Redfern and wander the streets at your leisure. There lots of nice and expensive shops in Redfern, so take lots of cash and impress the locals with your finest jewellery.

Porche is a very common car here and note, we take law and order very seriously. You vill obey.

Some of our food, such as burenwurst will make you feel quite and home.

But then some of our breakfast staples may seem a little different to you.

One thing you can relax about, we drive on the same side of the road as you, so you don't have to be so concerned when crossing the road. If you wear something that readily identifies you as American, can drivers will usually stop and let you cross the road anyway. Just do it like in Vietnam, walk slowly across the road and everything will go around you.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

A faint cheer for Soccer

Australia has put in a strong bid to host the FIFA World Cup in 2018 or 2022, but the competition and the bribes and back room deals are strongly against us. One reason I can suggest that we won't win is that the result will be announced at 2 o'clock in the morning our time. There won't be too many around to cheer. Just from the bits I hear, the whole awarding of who gets to host the World Cup is corrupt as it could be, regardless of whether Australia wins.

Our final video submission has been described as crass, cringeworthy, tasteless and downright embarrassing. The video went for all the stereotypes but hey, it is not made for us. I expect foreign types will enjoy it. The stereotypes are what attracts people to Australia. Once here, I hope people discover there is a bit more to us.

The vid is particularly impressive as it managed to get a black man, a Muslim woman, an Asian heritage person and our indigenous, all within about 30 seconds.

Here is the vid.

Tran Tran

The name seems to have changed from Tran Tran to just Tran. Feels odd just saying Tran. The first Asian restaurant I can recall visiting in Victoria Street, Richmond was Thy Thy 2. It was upstairs, loud, noisy and chaotic and incredibly cheap. We tried quite a few different places along Victoria Street over the years, but we kept returning to Tran for good food, good service and ok prices. How long have we been going there? At least fifteen years.

We had a break for a couple of years though. I am not sure exactly what happened, but our brother friends had some problem with either a drug user or dealer after we parted ways one night after our meal. They decided to not go to Victoria Street anymore, however this time they decided to relent.

Just a couple of weeks ago when R and I visited the new Daiso store in Victoria Street we were standing at the tram stop on the corner of Lennox Street and a guy was openly selling drugs. We overheard him say that his stash is a bit down the (Lennox) street to a buyer. There is obviously some police tolerance going on here but I wonder how the restaurateurs feel about it when open dealing is going on and smack heads hanging around drives some of their customers away?

To our surprise Tran has had a big makeover. It did have a repaint once before but his time it was the fully monty. The owner remembered us. Fourteen months since it has been renovated, the owner explained. The back wall is interlocking stone from Japan and he could only find specialist installers in the Victorian regional city of Shepparton. He had to accommodate and feed them while the did the job. He was replacing the acoustic tile false ceiling when he discovered a beautiful intact ceiling above the false ceiling. The plans had to be significantly altered but I am sure you think the effort was worth it. It was a chapel, he said, and it certainly looks like it was. I think he had the clerestory windows added, not sure. I couldn't get a good distance to get a proper photo of the ceiling, but believe me it is good and not out of keeping with an Asian restaurant.

Tran was still quite cheap, the food and service good, although a bit noisy but not unbearably so.

How very modern, a rusting sign at the front.

As well as the interior back wall, some of the Japanese interlocking stone tiles were used along the front.

It was bit cool this evening, but the windows at the front all open up.

The ceiling. I can't imagine the weight of it or the value of the timber.

I always have a tapioca drink at Tran. I must eat/drink it with the spoon.

Across the road is The Vic. It used to be a Thai restaurant I think. The Vic looks pretty cool. I wonder if the Mamma San who owned the Victoria restaurant set it up?

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Just a Name

I am fine with the major streets of the western end of Melbourne's city streets, but for some reason, the eastern ones are problematic. I know Russell Street and Exhibition Streets are between Swanston and Spring Streets, but I could never remember the order. Like more recently when one of my blog mates told me a way or remembering how to spell Woolloomooloo, sheep toilet, cow toilet, I needed a reminder method. I invented my own, RES. Russell, Exhibition, Spring.

Then there are places that confuse me.

I struggle with Whittlesea and Winchelsea.

Patterson Lakes should have a nearby Taylors Lakes, but it doesn't. Diametrically opposed and a couple of hours distant.

New housing estates have their own names but umbrellared by a suburb name. Where Mother lives in an old farming town but there are many new estates. A small shopping centre Mother drags me to at times is called Heritage Springs. I thought it was Lakeside. Given that I never saw a lake, I should have twigged.

We can never travel to ABI Brother's house without a childish smuttish snigger as we pass by a new estate, Falling Waters.

Any of your own that leave you confused, wrong or never quite sure?

Brumby's Demise

I am not sure Big Ted is going to be able to fix all the problems in our city and state. His intentions sound good and so far he is not spooking the horses, but time will tell.

So why did we vote Brumby and the Labor Party out?

People mention water and the Desal plant, the North South Pipeline, public transport, congested roads, a lack of services especially to new suburbs, high stamp duty on property (well something has to pay for facilities for new areas), health care and hospital waiting lists, inappropriate higher density construction in inner areas, loss of our green wedges. You know all these things.

There is a common thread. Too many people. While I don't let the previous government off the hook, with our state and city's population growing at the pace it is, it would be an exceptional government who could keep up with supplying what the rapidly growing population wants and needs. Clearly the previous government failed to keep up.

The Premier to be Baillieu assures us that the financial accounts seem to be in order, so I suspect there is rather a lot of money in the state government's pockets.

Meanwhile our economy rolls along nicely, being supported by housing and building construction. So long as we keep our population growing, all will be well. If population growth stops though, just watch the house of cards fall. Of course eventually population growth must slow or stop. With barely any manufacturing now, we will be dependent on income from agriculture which won't keep too many of us in fine jewellery for long.

Ah well, something will turn up. It always does. Back to the sand pit for some head burial.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Where am I?

Coming across a public space like this is very unusual in Melbourne. It is not a hard quiz. You will either know or your won't.

Later Edit: I recall the Hawthorn Station became very run down, maybe in the 1980s. I think a new station was proposed but the local residents wanted their old one restored and successfully argued their case. Well done Adam and Daniel for a quick answer.

I am not so keen on the grubby looking timber but overall, the station is quite nice. Not quite so nice is the graffiti. The bricked up arches are interesting. It would be very interesting if they were open to the outside and people could just stroll across the track. Ted, get onto the graffiti will ya.


C'mon. Like I am qualified to talk about them. Yes you with the filthy mind. Note, fanny means something different in Australia to what it does in many places.

This used to be Fanny's, the upstairs part anyway. One night I was passing by in a tram and smoke was pouring out of its windows. It was not a chef burning a chop but a genuine fire. It re-opened but in 1993 it closed. Just in May this year, the owner and big boss in charge, Gloria Staley, died at around the age of ninety. She was diminutive but fearsome.

Speaking of hospitality type peoples deaths, I note Kath Byers died recently, the long time publican of the Notting Hill Hotel, at the age of 98. Notting Hill Hotel was one of my father's favourite watering holes. He liked Kath in an unqualified way. Can't get much better recognition from my father.

Fine dining in Melbourne has re-invented itself, mostly based at Crown Casino. I have never really been fine dined. Value for money prevents me. I can get a nice pork roast at my local pub, and if I want beautiful strawberries or mussels fresh from the ocean, I just ask Sister to bring. She is proud to show off the wholesome produce from the Bellarine Peninsula.

Fine dining was big in Melbourne in the 1980s. There was the afore mentioned Fanny's, Miettas, Two Faces, Maxims, Glo Glos and one I can't quite remember, but one of you will. It was in Peel Street in Collingwood and ex politician and 'close friend' of Shirley McLain, Andrew Peacock, had some involvement with it. I just cannot remember the name but it was a two storey Victorian building.

Now the late, suicide, Fred Podgornik, who demolished the Case of Bananas, sorry, Casa de Manana hotel at the corner of Park Street and St Kilda Road South Melbourne and built his own office building had something to do with a fine dining restaurant too. Which one was that?

Another was maybe Walnuts at Camberwell Junction? Did Vi Greenhalf (heart?) have something to do with that?

Seems very little about these places show up with Google. It all really needs to be on the record, so if you can fill in some gaps???

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Qantas fail and a tosser passenger

"My luggage (complete with house keys) has been missing since 2pm yesterday and, according to Qantas, some 400 bags were misplaced yesterday and the issue is still occurring today and therefore building up," Mr Wood told Fairfax Media.

Maybe the chappie has had minimal experience in air travel, but I would have thought everyone would know that air line companies lose luggage. Fancy putting your house keys in your checked luggage. I always make sure I keep the essentials with me and don't check them in as luggage. This includes pc and phone chargers, heavy though they are.

Rules on Public Transport

I have yet to notice anyone ever getting fined on a tram for putting their feet up on seats. I know they have been on trains. Often people don't ever bother to guiltily remove their feet from tram seats when a staff member boards the tram.

What would be the best way to get people to remove their feet from seats? I have seen one tram official in a joking and jovial manner get someone to remove their feet from a seat. I have also seen another abruptly order someone to remove their feet. I have also seen someone informed of the amount the fine would be if they were caught again. For mine, I would just fine them.

Crowding around doorways is probably something that can never be stopped effectively by any rules. But there are some rules that could be introduced and enforced that would make a tram, train or bus trip more pleasant for everyone else.

Eating and drinking on public transport should be banned. It is not tolerated in many cities and should not be here. The stench from take away food can quickly fill a whole vehicle and be quite revolting. School kids and adults alike leave drink containers, take away containers and wrappers behind. Sometimes there is spillage and because of the movement of vehicles, liquid can spread over a large area quickly and often the floor ends up very sticky. Bottles roll around the floors. Just today a saw a middle aged woman on a bus eating a salad from plastic container. She dropped something from her plastic fork. She was concerned about where it touching her blouse, but left whatever fell on the floor.

Newspapers? You bring them on, you take them off.

Loud phone conversations? The culture of mobile phones is too embedded to stop impolite usage of phones now, but it could well be moderated by an advertising campaign.

Taking that last drag of a cigarette, throwing the butt on the ground and then exhaling the smoke inside the vehicle all over people is not nice.

Sticking gum on the underside of a seat doesn't worry me, unless it is a seat that automatically folds up when you stand up. Yuk.

A little contentious because I doubt everyone will agree with me, it is ok to sit in an aisle seat with a empty window seat beside you. You may be going a short distance and it will be a lot easier to get out. You may feel claustrophobic and trapped if you are in the window seat. Whatever, but wherever you sit you need to cheerfully co-operate to let people in or out and nor do you have your bags on a seat when people are clearly looking for a seat.

Just using some thought when you are travelling would make it much better for everyone else.


The Victoria restaurant was a favourite with gay men, possibly due to the very bitchy Asian born owner who could trade insults with the best that any gay queen could dish out. She was also very friendly and welcoming, flirty and quite charming. That is how I remember her anyway. She sold the restaurant and I was told she opened a new restaurant nearby and of course took all her customers with her. The Victoria did not last too long after that. The new shopping centre with Daiso occupying an area at the top was under construction when I took this.

Wow, Tran Tran has had a big makeover. We ate there last night. More on that later.

I think this is the hotel where Dukes was, a gay bar with drag shows on the bartop. It used to be jam packed in its heyday.

A bit of art deco.

I wonder what the purpose of the door at the top of this shop would have been? Loading in hay?

These two building were ugly when they were built and must have been recognised as such as they have not been maintained. I will guess they will be demolished, sooner rather than later. It was no where near nine o'clock.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Crying at the Movies

River recently wrote about easily she cries of late. I recall crying as a kid when I watched Lassie Come Home. I never saw Bambi, but I expect I would have cried had I seen it. I cried at my grandfather's funeral when I was 17 because I was worried who would look after my grandmother, but otherwise I don't recall crying much at movies or tv.

Whatever you may think of ex Prime Minister Bob Hawke, he kind of made it ok for men to cry after he cried when talking about his daughter's drug addiction and again after the appalling Tiananmen Square slaughter of its own citizens by the Chinese government.

After that, the next time I can recall crying was when I saw a production of Madame Butterfly on tv.

I did cry at Dame M's wake. But that was alcohol related and a friend set me off when she started bawling. Actually, that was an occasion when I did not just tear up, but had a full on sobbing session with our friend.

But now, even just watching the news on tv I tear up at sad events. I have been accused of being hard hearted, non caring, insular. I don't think I am. I expect my job has a lot to do with the way I come across, or I may be thought of. I have to be hard hearted at work. My work has shaped my personality in a way I don't particularly like.

I am glad that Australian men have moved on to the point where they can cry. There is no shame in it. I used to be embarrassed if I cried. Now, I just don't care. If I cry and it is a problem for someone it is their problem, not mine.


How well have grevilleas flowered this year! They are making hay while the sun shines, or rather when the rain falls. I cannot remember them being as brilliant ever before. I was a bit slow off the mark as these ones at the Prahran Police Station are just past their prime. They looked stunning at their peak.

The white roses were planted as a memorial to police officers Steve Tynan and Damian Eyre, killed while on duty in Walsh Street, South Yarra.