Friday, September 28, 2012

The Phoenix

Must be time to visit way up north again, well write about it. Let me see. The last thing I can recall writing about Brisbane was about the Whisky au Go Go fire. No, later about two women breaking the no women in hotel public bars rule.

I'll go back further this time to another fire. On this day fifty years ago, the inner suburban Paddington tram depot in Latrobe Terrace was destroyed by fire, precipitating the closure of the whole tram system by 1969. Sixty five trams were destroyed in the fire, a quarter of Brisbane's fleet of trams.

It is rumoured ahead of the fire that the Mayor of the Brisbane at the time, Clem Jones, would find it very convenient if something dire happened to some trams. Mayor Jones had some financial interests in petrol stations. Should the tram system close, more people would be in cars, using more petrol.

With a fanfare of publicity, the mayor acquired some buses from Sydney to replace the destroyed trams, which was rather odd, as Brisbane had spare buses sitting in storage. Some older trams in storage were also brought back into service. Eventually eight trams were able to be rebuilt from what was salvaged at the depot. They were known as Phoenix Trams and had this gorgeous little emblem on a exterior panel.

A later quote from Mayor Jones was that  that the trams had to go because they were dangerous and that
there were many accidents involving trams.

Another was along the lines that he was a Labor man and he wanted Labor people to drive cars, like the rich folk, but the trams were in the way and so they had to go, to encourage his folk into cars. 

There is a great little video about the fire from Channel 7 in Brisbane. Apparently many of the ex tram drivers went on to become bus drivers, some less than successfully. Click here to see the 2.30 video. 

This photo has no more relevance than it is Brisbane and I like the photo. It is somewhat alarming that the tram is travelling along the wrong side of the road against oncoming traffic. The tram depot was in Ipswich Road, Buranda, now the site of a shopping centre. I think this is looking east in Cornwall Street with Ipswich Road crossing between the tram and the depot. Anyone confirm or deny? To say the scene looks quite different now is a massive understatement. I would guess the photo is about 1964. Funny, if you watched the video, you would have seen that the Paddington Depot also became a shopping centre, as did Sydney's huge South Dowling Street Depot when it closed.

Once the Paddington Depot burnt, it only left the Ispwich Road depot and another smaller one in Light Street, Newstead. The Light Street Depot seems to now have an Audi car showroom on its site.

I enjoyed putting this together. I hope you enjoy the smattering of Brissy history. OMG, I have written about the Paddington Depot fire before and it was only last year. How could I have forgotten.


  1. Clem Jones was an interesting character. He also worked as a curator at Brisbane's cricket ground preparing test wickets.

  2. Colin7:42 am

    As I only came to the area know north of "The Tweed" as Qld in 1980, I can't recall any trams at all.
    As for Clem Jones, well he left millions in trusts for various causes and he is more or less considered a Saint up here in Brisbane.
    He also put sewerage into Brisbane! Victor is correct, he was the curator of the Brisbane cricket ground. I often have wondered when reading about him and listening to the 'old hands' if the man ever slept!

  3. Colin2:57 pm

    The Hotel in Brisbane where the two ladies chained themselves to the bar was the Regatta Hotel and I think the mother (this could be totally wrong) of one of them was the mother of Maxine McKew! The person who toppled John Howard. She, the woman at the bar chained was the mother of some parliamentarian of the future, after the deem was done! ha ha.

    1. Onb Monday, I enjoyed lunch at the (recently reopened) Boatshed bistro at the Regatta Hotel. Highly recommended! There is a picture of the two women chained to the public bar. One of them was the mother of actor, Sigrid Thornton.

  4. Colin2:59 pm

    Sorry "deem" should read deed!

  5. Victor, I can't remember him. Colin's information is interesting.

    Colin, I know little of him and the impression I have is that he was corrupt, but many were back then, and that he was responsible for closing down the Brisbane tram system.

    You were half right about the ladies. If you clicked the link to the post at the time, you would see that it was the Regatta Hotel and one of the women was Merle Thornton, mother of Sigrid.

  6. Colin6:00 am

    Sorry about my slip up. I did google Maxine McKew but the only Brisbane reference was that she was an old girl of "All Hallows" College here - A prestigous Catholic girls college.

  7. The Whiskey Au Go Go nightclub in Fortitude Valley was only 39 years ago, a snippet in time. Often imes I think destruction in Queensland was politically motivated and arranged, as you mentioned with the trams and as I would add with Cloudland Ballroom. But not Whiskey Au Go Go.

  8. Hels, I did make mention of Cloudland in a post once.

    All those against Regent Cinema in Brisbane being Knocked down! A mega 7,600 members. I will guess that it will be saved. I recall some pretty nasty protests when Bjelke Petersen allowed the demolition of the Bellevue Hotel and he can also be remembered for the demolition of Cloudland Ballroom. Evil and corrupt man. Don't let it happen again.

  9. The photo is interesting because it shows tram 400 which was the class leader of the FM (four motor) class. It had recessed destination indicators, clearly shown in the photo. The Cornwall Street line connected Ipswich Road Depot and Dutton Park terminus. Yes, trams ran against the traffic when running from the depot to Dutton Park! It was not used in regular service. Brisbane trams closed on 13 April 1969. The are few traces of the tram network in Brisbane today.

    1. Thanks for the extra information Paul. So that track would not have seen a lot of use then, maybe a few trams daily. Perhaps it is just as well.