Sunday, May 11, 2008

Bendigo Trams

Beginning way back in the dark ages of 1890 Bendigo streets were graced with chugging battery powered trams for a whole 4 miles of track.
Unfortunately, while the batteries in the trams might have been simply grand on the flat, the up hill and down dale terrain of Bendigo proved too tough (even with a tail wind), leaving the trams (and passengers) stranded at the Eaglehawk end of the track where the driver would grab any horse ambling past and turn it into a horse-drawn tram for the return trip.

After a very short 13 months the Sandhurst and Eaglehawk Tramway Company found their finances as flat as the tram batteries and were bought out by the Bendigo Tramway Company.

This new business saw the writing on the wall for the batteries and, instead, made it over into a steam- engine driven tramway which proved a winner with everyone.

Sadly the fire went out of the steam tram business with the depression and, once more, the business was up for sale when it was gobbled up by the Electric Supply Company of Victoria in 1897.

Now, an electric company isn't going to see a steam-driven tramway as good advertising for it's own product so, of course, the trams were electrified.
With plans to scurry their trams all over the place, more land was bought for routes, generation plant, tram depot, etc.
The electric trams were a huge success.

There were no specific route destinations, the trams carried their passengers either north-south or east-west, with Charing Cross in the heart of Bendigo being X marks the spot where all the routes met, shook hands and continued on their way.

When the govt-owned SEC came into being it took over the Electric Supply Company's assets, including the Bendigo Trams. A shedload of dosh was needed to be spent on upgrading the equipment and spend it the SEC did, albeit reluctantly.

With the increase in popularity of that nasty, foul smelling motorised thing, the motor car, profit from passengers started to fall off prompting the SEC, several times, to try to close down the tramways, finally getting permission from the oh-so-forward thinking Victorian Govt (nice to know some things never change!).
A massive crowd turned out to farewell the trams on April 16, 1972, with massed pipe bands leading the last trams from Quarry Hill and massed brass bands leading the last trams from Eaglehawk, while a solo piper played Will Ye No Come Back Again as they disappeared from view.

Bendigo only has the Talking Tourist Trams today due to the Bendigo Trust listening to very vocal public opinion (something the State Govt seems to be forever deaf towards) and proposed to retain the whole kit and kaboodle, which was approved by the Govt (hooray for small mercies) the same year that the line was closed, 1972.

Map courtesy of Google and fantastic research courtesy of that splendiferous lad, Andrew.


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