Stepping back in time for George Street tram anniversary

22 November 2018

A loaf of bread cost 15 cents, Baystone galloped into the Melbourne Cup history books, and Robert Menzies was returned as Prime Minister in the 23rd federal election.

November 1958 was also a noteworthy month for Sydney’s public transport network. On 22 November, trams ceased running along George Street, bringing an end to Western Line tramway services to the likes of Glebe, Balmain, Lilyfield, Leichhardt, Haberfield and Millers Point.

Sixty years after that historic last journey, George Street is preparing to welcome trams back into the city as light rail construction progresses in the CBD.

The new Citadis X05 vehicles bear little resemblance to the old O-class and R-class trams that rattled their way past Town Hall and the QVB through the city, laden with passengers heading between Circular Quay and the city’s west.

The Sydney Tramway Museum will take a trip back in time this weekend to mark the 60th anniversary of the last George Street tram journey, inviting visitors to the Loftus museum to enjoy nostalgic tram and double deck bus rides on 25 November.

Both the O-class and R-class of tram were synonymous with George Street back in the 1950s, and event coordinator David Critchley said visitors would get the chance to ride in both on Sunday.

A lack of track maintenance on the tramway system during war years made for a bumpy ride in the last years of trams in the city, a situation that eventually led to the closure of the network.

“The George Street Lines were the first big closure, other lines were closed progressively over a number of years and by the time they got to 1961 there were only lines out to La Perouse and Maroubra,” Mr Critchley said.

The event will be held in cooperation with the Sydney Bus Museum and the Powerhouse Museum.

Visit www.sydneytramwaymuseum.com.au or the Sydney Tramway Museum Facebook page for more information on Sunday’s anniversary event.

Historic image of trams running on George Street courtesy of David Critchley.