Thursday, 17 September 2009

Those who cannot remember the past


"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" aphorised George Santayana.


The old Rozelle Tram Sheds are alongside the Johnson Creek canal tucked in behind Harold Park Paceway. They have been vandalised in an overwhelmingly tragic and demeaning manner. Trams are a sorely missed iconic reminder of our city's past: a reminder of the foolish deeds of politicians and the futile fad-following of the hoi polloi.

Many thanks to Peter Liebeskind for the above two images. He has been most generous with access to his Flickr site
During the 1950s the motor car ruled the roost, and the NRMA pressured the lilly-livered pollies - the likes of Cahill, Heffron, Renshaw and Askin - into removing this cheap and efficient means of mass people movement from our streets, to make way for the ascendency of cars and their concrete flyovers. The tramway was in place from 1861 until its winding down in the 1950s and closure in 1961. It had a maximum street mileage of 291 km in 1923 and at one time could boast in excess of 1,500 trams!


The Rozelle Tram Sheds opened in 1904 and closed in 1958. Ownership rested with the government for 50 years until being transferred to the NSW Harness Racing Corp in 2002. The damage had been done during those 50 years of neglect. Now these buildings and their contents cannot be given away.


Here, in 1955, an O class tram (thanks to Bruce Caspersonn who corrected an error in the text here) rattles out of the sheds, along the canal and into The Crescent heading up Ross Street towards Parramatta Road and, thence, into the city to its terminus at Fort Macquarie (Bennelong Point). This trip was two sections and cost 1/-.

With all the developments in the preceding 54 years, it is difficult to reproduce the '55 image. The curve is now underneath the circular overhang of the pacing track - it was too dangerous to venture under there. Standing as close as I could - would that I had the guts to jump into the canal! - I took a photograph to the south (the concrete monstrosity) and to the north (the canal).


Such a sobering set of images ... Let us pay tribute to the past and to its people.


Image 1: Taken in 1930 as a tram heads West up Broadway just prior to turning into Glebe Point Road. Sydney University is on the left.
Image 2: Taken in 1957 as trams turn to their right from Parramatta Road into Glebe Point Road.
Image 3: Taken in 1958 as a tram progresses along Glebe Point Road.
I also wish to extend my appreciation to LindsayBridge for access to the superb set of tram images on his Flickr site

23 comments:

Vogon Poet said...

Great post, excellent images. Same story here, I can't remember trams because I were too young, but I saw the rails pulled out the streets few years later. For a bit we had trolleybus, gone forever a the end of the sixties. We even had a light railway to the beaches of Tirrenia, which would be fashionable and useful today.

Ken Mac said...

fantastic sad history, wonderful shots. Even though they are scarred by graffiti, they still hold a certain eerie beauty. Great report.

J Bar said...

Thanks for the history Julie. Graffiti is just everywhere now and completely out of control.
Sydney - City and Suburbs

Jacob said...

When living in Los Angeles back in the late 40s, trams were ubiquitous. I wish that our cities had them now.

I'm just overwhelmed with these photos...it's like the end of the world, a gory, ugly, godforsaken mess! What a shame!

Joan Elizabeth said...

Julie, the grafitti shots are superb, I love them. They make me feel exhiliarated not sad.

Luis Gomez said...

Great images. Thanks for all the information. I wish cities had more trams.I kind of like the images but I do understand the feeling of anarchy they can portray.

altadenahiker said...

This leaves me speechless and very sad.

J said...

The indecent haste with which public transport was downgraded (not just in Australia) was, well, indecent, but I actually love your photos of the graffiti covered trams and sheds. Instead of being ignored, at least they're giving a canvas for experimentation, expression and riotous burst of colour.

Julie said...

There seems to be a great divide here: you either love it or are appaled by it.

The images of the trams themselves hightlight the colour and the vibrancy. However, to squeeze throught that opening and enter into that mausoleum is heart breaking. It is the depths of squalor. And for someone who loves trams as much as I just so so distressing.

I have a trip to the Tramway Museum on the agenda just to brighten my spirits.

Expect a few more of these longer reports: I can probably manage something of this size once per week. History cannot be done in one image along: a partnership between image and text is my style.

Leif Hagen said...

Holy graffiti mania! Spectacular artists of the spray can! Groovy - cool!

Mirela said...

Wonderful images! Those graffiti trams are just amazing. I was about to ask you if it's a dangerous hobby to go around such grounds on your own with an expensive camera....

mindy said...

Really excellent photos, i've never seen the Rozelle trams like that.

Julie said...

Mirela: It actually did not occur to me to be scared. I was there in the middle of the day, but the place was deserted. oops ...

Mindy: good to see you come off the bench and get into the game. I quite like you pink photo of Blackwattle Bay.

David C. said...

Julie,
These images are both tragic and fascinating.

In the small American town where I grew up, the main street was brick, with train tracks down the middle of the street. The trains were called interurbans here, and had disappeared before my time. Eventually, the tracks were removed and the bricks were covered with asphalt.

diane said...

Interesting to read your comments, the for and against the graffiti on the old trams. You are so right about the pollies giving in to the lobbyists. The same thing happened here in Brisbane. In Melbourne and Europe the trams are a great way to travel around cities. It would be great to see these old trams in a Museum. I can see how you feel about the vandalism but your photos actually have an excitement about them. I used to travel up broadway by bus to work at the university back in 1961.

AB said...

What an amazing anarchy of colours those disused trams are!

Over in Europe, trams are making a comeback. Saarbrücken threw out its trams in the 1960s and brought then back at great expense in the 1990s - Tram in Saarbrücken

Angie said...

Love all your photos (and your blog!). As for the graffiti trams, sad to loose them but they now history themselves. The Tram Sheds now look like a gallery & maybe should be made safe & opened for more graffiti 'artists' to express themselves.

DelBoy said...

Wow, I was blown away by these images. They are so full of colour and beauty, yet so sad and full of tragedy.

BANJO52 said...

I suppose it's irrelevant to the content, but I like the way the lines lead with such mathematical precision to the chaos of the four "graffitied" buses.

Pat and Bruce Caspersonn said...

Record me as one who loves trams. I started work with the NSW Public Service in 1952 in the office at Randwick Tramway Workshops. I can still remember the names of some of the files. Abrasive brake shoes for "O" type tramcars etc.
Nothing can move a crowd like a few coupled sets of "O" types.

Bruce Caspersonn

Julie said...

I had a tour over what was left of the Randwick Depot earlier this year. I am hoping to do some posts about trams next week. Then and now type images. Thank you for your contribution. It is very much valued.

Pat and Bruce Caspersonn said...

I knew Wal Carter, the Chief Traffic Manager of the Dept.Road Transport & Tramways, in the 1950s...When they started ripping up the tram tracks, he said to me "Bruce, one day they will regret this." How right he was!
The 1955 photo shows a coupled set of "O type" tramcars, not "R" which were the more modern corridor type
Bruce.

Julie said...

Thank you for that correction, Bruce. I have adjusted the text. I must admit that, not being knowledgeable on tram details, I simply take the title of the image as it is sent to me. I will check each one now that I know they can be in error. Much appreciated.