Feature Article - Hobart's trams
Reproduced from The Mercury, Newspapers in Education web site
History was made in 1893 when Hobart became the first Australian capital city to establish an electric tramway system. The first tram rattled through the streets of the city on 21 September.
Early trams were double-deckers and looked very clumsy and dangerous as they bucked their way along streets on a two-rail system, drawing their electricity from overhead power lines suspended above city streets. Drivers and passengers on the lower level had little protection from the weather. Those on the top level had no protection at all.
The three original routes were from the corner of Park and Liverpool streets to the Cascades; Sandy Bay as far as Heathorn Ave; and Moonah as far as Albert Road. At that time there was only about 12 kilometres of track.
Until the Hobart City Council took over in 1912, the tramway service was run by the Hobart Electric Tramway Company.
The first of the single-deck trams was built in 1906, and electric trolley buses were introduced in 1935.
In 1960, after 67 years of service, trams were phased out. Electric trolley buses remained until September 1968, when the network of overhead wires disappeared and conventional diesel buses took over the public road transport functions.
On 29 April 1960, a few months before the last trams were due to be withdrawn, an accident occurred in Hobart’s Elizabeth Street. A tram and a vehicle collided near Warwick Street, and the tram raced out of control back down towards the city. The driver was hurt and dazed in his wrecked cabin, and the conductor rushed to the other end of the tram in a vain attempt to work the hand brake.
Some passengers jumped off the runaway tram, while others braced themselves under seats. Meanwhile, the conductor stayed at his post, calming passengers and clanging the foot bell to warn pedestrians and vehicles. He was still there when the tram crashed into another tram near Bathurst Street. The two trams hurtled, still on their tracks, almost as far as Liverpool Street.
Several vehicles, including a bus, were hit by the trams. The conductor was killed and more than 40 people were treated for injuries in the Royal Hobart Hospital.