Trams of Australia

Adelaide's Tram History

Adelaide is flat. So horse trams worked really well here, and Adelaide developed Australia's first permanent (and largest) horse tram system. It grew to 82 route kilometres. By 1883 there were eleven companies operating horse trams. The lines were taken over by the Municipal Tramways Trust (MTT) and electrified from 1908.
Preserved horse trams
Adelaide, Unley and Mitcham Tramway Company horse tram 15 is preserved at the Australian Electric Transport Museum. Adelaide and Suburban Tramway Company horse tram 18 is preserved by the National Trust of South Australia.

Electric trams

Two tram types were introduced on the newly electrified lines. There were 70 California combination cars, (later called type A) and 30 toastracks (later called type B). The toastracks were not popular, and were later converted to A1 and A2 types.

Later, two-bogie trams were introduced (50 type D and 20 type E). A further 4 type D trams were bought from Melbourne in 1926.

After WW1, the MTT urgently needed new trams, but could not afford bogie cars, so 20 type C cars were purchased. These were fitted with motors removed from the type E , which meant they were fast, so they were known as Desert Golds, after a racehorse of the era.

In the early 1920s the four-motor drop centre types F and F1 trams were introduced. These became the mainstay of the Adelaide fleet, with some 84 trams.

Needing smaller cars for operation on the isolated Port Adelaide system, the MTT imported 4 Birney cars, which served the area until they were sold to Geelong in 1936.

In 1929 the MTT ran its first tram to Glenelg, having taken over a heavy rail line, converted it to 1435 mm gauge, and electrified it. (See also: more detailed history.) For this service, the type H tram was introduced. This line is the only one to survive: all other lines closed by 22 November 1958. The type H trams are still running today, which, since the retirement of Melbourne's W2 trams, makes them the oldest trams serving in the country.

In the late 1970s, it was planned to extend the Glenelg tram line through to the north-eastern suburbs along the Torrens river valley. The plan would have required tunnels under King William St in the central city extending from the current terminus to the river parklands. The plans got as far as commencement of trial borings in 1979. However, there was a change of government and the project was replaced with the O-bahn guided busway.

Thanks to Tim Blythman and John C Radcliffe for much of the historical information on this page.