Monday 22 February 2021

Steam Trams and The Bridge Street Yard

The Bridge Street Yard from a nearby building (looking north). Taken c. 1899 and sourced from the "Trams Downunder" website.

Marty McFly knew all about going backwards to make any progress. Sydney goes backwards. Sydney goes around in circles. And sometimes just this propulsive need, pushes the city forward. At the moment, we are constructing a tramway system through the retail and financial heart of the city. But, hang on a tick, some of you may cry. Didn't Sydney have an extensive tramways system... shhh ... shh ... backwards, remember. One must go backwards to get to the future.

The first tramway in Sydney lasted from 1861 until 1866. It closed down because other "road" users were inconvenienced by the rails .. and the competition. Just like in the mid-1950s, the NRMA set up a hue'n'cry about the trams, and how they inconvenienced citizens devoted to the family car, and the supremacy of the individual vs the collective. So that second go at a tramway in Sydney lasted from 1879 until 1961. Steam trams pulled the carriages from 1879 until about 1905, when electricity took over. Coal fired, got it?

Top - This photo is off-putting as it distorts the intersection. The telegraph polein Bridge St and it goes up'n'over and continues on to the top right. Meanwhile, Phillip St comes in from cenrtre left and goes out the bottom right (before 1902, sourced from SR-NSW)
Bottom Left - This is a Henry King photo held by the PHM and dated 1890. It shows one steam tram going into the yard, and another coming around the corner of the Colonial Secretary's building ready to cut diagonally across the intersection and follow suit.
Bottom right - This image is undated, and is sourced from John Cowper's Flickr A/C. We are looking straight up Phillip St (south) and the steam tram is disappearing into the yard on our left.

Steam trams came into the city on their various routes, and had to wait somewhere before the return jpourney. Their crew needed facilities. This yard was their waiting shed.

Now Sydney is a very beautiful city, situated as it is on a harbour. But that harbour occupies a drowned valley, a very deep drowned valley. Sydney has been built on all the ridges and valleys that remeined. It is very tortuous. Beautiful, but rugged. Not all lines could adapt to the steam-tram as they were too steep. The Edgecliff to Erskineville Street Wharf tram had to be pulled by cable to get it up and over William Street.

No comments: