Sunday, October 12, 2014

Steaming down King William Street

Those Adelaideans are funny people. They decided that the steam train running down the middle of King William Street to Glenelg should be converted to an electric tram line, and so by 1929 it was and the tram from the city to Glenelg is all that remains of Adelaide's substantial electric tram and trolley bus* network. I think it would be very interesting to see a steam train running down King William Street now.

Although we visited the tram museum in Adelaide's St Kilda area, I am not very knowledgeable about the Adelaide tram system. I am about to know more. Firstly I looked at a map and the system was huge and radiated out from the city like wheel spokes. Port Adelaide had its own small system, with trams running from Largs and Semaphore to Albert Park and Rosewater. The system was closed down quite early and a trolley bus routed through from the city to Port Adelaide.

I believe Adelaide had three tram depots but I can only find two. Maybe the three includes the Port Adelaide Depot. One was in the city in Angas Street, right next to King William Street and the other in Hackney Road just to the north east of the city. This photo of the city depot is labelled 1940s.

Even by 1985 the scene was not so different. By 2006, the road had been widened taking away the depot frontage and tracks but the tram shed was still there and had all it door shutters down, as this photo in the Trams Down Under archives taken by Mal Rowe shows.

Eight years later the location is not recognisable now, as you can see on Street View.

The Hackney Depot sat in the Botanical gardens.

The people did not want to lose the tram depot building.

After most of Adelaide's tram system was closed down, the depot was used as a bus depot but is now in use as the State Herbarium. The very handsome Goodman building on the left once housed tramways administration.

Let's have a look at the routes. We begin with the north.
Cheltenham, using Hawker Street and Torrens Road.
Prospect, using Prospect Road.
Enfield, using Main North Road and Princes Highway.
Walkerville North, using Walkerville Terrace and Main North East Road.
St Peters, using Harrow Road and Sixth Avenue.
Paradise, using Payneham Road and Lower North East Road.

Morialta, using Magil Road, St Bernards Road? and Moules Road? with a short line off to Magil.
Kensington Gardens, using The Parade?.
Erindale, using Kensington Road?, with an early branch off down to Linden Park and a later branch off to Burnside.

Glen Osmond, using Glen Osmond Road.
Springfield, using Fullarton Road.
Kingswood, using Duthy Street.
Mitcham, using Unley Road.
Hyde Park, using King William Road.
Colonel Light Gardens, using Goodwood Road.
Glenelg, using the old steam train reserve.

Keswick, using Anzac Highway? to serve the showgrounds.
Richmond, using Cowandilla Road? (Richmond Road?) and Marion Street.
Henley North, using Henley Beach Road (now Sir Donald Bradman Drive?) and Seaview Road.
Findon, using Manton Street and Grange Road.

So the next time you are travelling on an Adelaide bus, have a think about why it follows a certain path. It may be following an old tram route.

Within the city, trams ran along King William Street, North Terrace, Grote/Wakefield Streets, West Terrace, Hutt Street and of course Hindley/Rundle Streets. There were a couple of other city streets too, but I can't work them out.

We visited Adelaide in 1983 and rode into town from Glenelg on H Class trams, two joined together as this photo from a tourism website shows.

Our next and last visit was in 2011. By then the H class trams were off the rails and in storage and the tracks were dominated by 15 (or 11) Bombardier built Flexity trams. These began service in 2006 and it was soon discovered that their air conditioning was not up to the task of dealing with Adelaide's summer heat. People fainted within the trams. A darker tint was put on the windows, which helped little. Eventually the government bit the bullet and had the air con systems upgraded.

The global financial crisis hit Spain hard and a planned tram extension did not go ahead, leaving Madrid with six surplus Citadis trams. South Australia bought these trams to improve the service and have sufficient trams for the new line extension from to the Entertainment Centre to the north of the city in 2009. A further extension is planned.

Adelaide trams carried the maximum passenger numbers during WWII with 95 million passengers trips annually by 1945. However, as happened everywhere, the 1950s saw the decline of tram use and the rise of the motor car and motor bus. The decision was made in 1953 to progressively close the system down and replace trams with buses and by 1958 they were gone, with the last tram running to Cheltenham on the 22nd November. While closing the Glenelg line was mooted, it was decided that as the city had some quite new trams, the H Class, that the line was mostly in a reservation and it made the trip to the seaside quite quick, it was kept. The trolley buses continued on until the early 60s, whereupon they too were replaced by motor buses.

What at terrible loss, and like most cities that rid themselves of trams, from a very smug me who lives in the city that did not rid itself of trams and has the (disputed) largest system in the world, I am sure Adelaidians came to regret the decision.

Apologies for errors. I am hampered by my lack of local knowledge. 

*electric bus powered like a tram but no tracks


  1. I travelled on those H class trams to/from Glenelg on my only visit to Adelaide (so far). They seemed more like a short train they were so bulky.

    1. Victor, I can't really remember our ride but I know what you mean by them been bulky, although I believe they are a little narrower than Melbourne's and Sydney's.

  2. I have a soft spot for Adelaide and must go back. I even have a brother who lives there - and it is still more than twenty years since I have visited the city. And would like to see trams here. I won't - but I would like to see it.

    1. EC, peace from tradies today? You may well see trams in the ACT. More talk a few days ago.

  3. Agreed totally. What a terrible loss, and like most cities that rid themselves of trams, I too am sure Adelaidians felt betrayed. Cars clutter the CBD, buses stink and trains are limited to the lines that were built ages ago.

    Last year I went on the Glenelg tram and to the tram museum. Loved both.

    1. Hels, it is astonishing how many light rail/tram systems are being built in the US. Of course they had lots of trams there, all removed.

  4. You know more about my city than I do. I just live here, I'm not one for taking much notice of things that don't directly affect me.
    When we did have a tram system I would imagine South Terrace had a line too, that would complete the square you started with North Terrace, West Terrace and Hutt Street which is East Terrace at the Northern end. I don't know about most of the suburbs, but I'm fairly sure The Parade, going through Norwood, had a tram.
    We left Adelaide in 1958, (I was six), going to Port Pirie, then apart from a short shopping visit in 1971, I didn't get back here until 1986, with hubby and kids. Then we lived away from the city, way down south in Reynella.
    Still, I've been here 28 years now, you'd think I'd know more. I do like the trams though and wish the entire system could be reinstated. With buses to go down streets where trams don't go and the entire city square closed to cars.

    1. River, I am sure I don't know more. It was just research. I've checked again and there was nothing running east west below Grote Street, apart from a couple of very short bits. So nothing in South Terrace. Closing off a good part of Melbourne makes sense, where there are lots of pedestrians. Adelaide would have to also have the number of pedestrians. Is the market in Grote Street? I think that is a street that could be closed off, or cars be heavily restricted.

    2. Yes, the market runs right through from Grote Street to Gouger Street which is full of Chinese restaurants.

  5. I mean buses through the suburbs, the city square wouldn't need any.

  6. In my opinion tram system should be in every big city. I love your old trams. Lovely

    1. Gosia, you are very fortunate to have kept and expanded tram systems in Europe.

  7. That's interesting history on trams in Adelaide. No trams here anymore, hasn't been for a very long time.

    1. WA, I guess you know the chat about a new line for Hobart. I think only Hobart and Launceston had trams. I think there is quite a good tram museum in Launceston. We returned a rental car in Lonny and the rental place was either next to or in the old tram sheds.

  8. Sydney hasn't had trams for many years but I do like them better tan trains and buses.

    1. Merle, 1962 was the infamous day when your last one ran. It is such a pity.

  9. Great photo series and history. Love comparing the old with the new. Those black & white photos are even older than you, birthday boy!

    1. They are indeed older than me. Today's photography will be overwhelming for future generations, but twentieth century photography must be treasured.