Sunday, April 6, 2008

Cheltenham's Lost Steam Tramway

Sometimes you read an article outlining the loss of something of historical significance and you really, reeeeeeeeally wish for a blue police phone box just for the opportunity of going back in time and slapping that idiot someone/somebody upside the head.
This is one of those moments.

When the Melbourne Benevolent Asylum in North Melbourne was deemed unfit for man or beast, The Powers That Be decided to start from scratch and build the whole thing again in Cheltenham, to become what is now known as Kingston Centre.

But the sandy soil made the roads a fair bugger to transport a man on a horse, let alone tonnes of building materials from the train station to the building site, 1 mile distant.

So a steam tramway was constructed, narrow gauge of course, tootling along from the Cheltenham train station in Park Rd (then known as Tulip Rd) never getting up much steam or speed - very Occ. Health and Safety! - as it chugged along Centre Dandenong Rd to reach the intersection of Warrigal Rd (Old Moorabbin Rd in the old money).
Hanging a very slow - but entirely safe - left hand turn, the tram would putt-putt it's way to The Melbourne Benevolent Asylum For The Aged and Infirm (that's Kingston Centre to you).

A 4 acre plot of dirt, on the corner of Park and Charman Rds, was bought and used for goods sheds, engine house and to store supplies.

Although it was initially intended only to transport building equipment, almost from the beginning it became the only steam passenger tramway in the whole of Melbourne, giving lifts to visitors for picnics held in the grounds of the new Centre.

At the completion of the building works in November 1910, after the Asylum authorities knocked back the offer of buying the tram and track - like most other historic Aussie thingies and whatsits - it was ripped up only weeks later to be lost forever.

For further details and some fantastic photos of the 2 steam engines used on the line click HERE.


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