Trams of Australia

Ballarat's tram system

Horse trams

Ballarat, which claims to be Australia's largest inland city, was founded in 1837 (as Ballaarat, from the Aboriginal Balla-arat, meaning ??) but really took off with the gold rushes, from 1851 onwards. In the mid 1880s the council decided on a tramway system. The cable system being built in Melbourne looked too expensive, and council was impressed with Adelaide's horse system, so in 1887, the Ballaarat Tramway Company Limited started operations with horses. Horse cab drivers were less impressed, fearing loss of business, and tried to obstruct the first trams, but the service succeeded. There were 17 double and 1 single-decker horse trams, with around 50 horses.
Preserved horse tram
Horse tram number 1 has been restored and is operated by the Ballarat Vintage Tramway.

Electric trams

The tram system was taken over by the Electric Supply Company of Victoria, which electrified it in 1905. The company's main interest was not the trams, but in selling electricity to customers along the route. The first trams were rebuilt cable trailers and electric trams bought second-hand from Sydney, starting what seems like an unbroken record of second or third-hand trams being operated in Ballarat.

In 1932, the company's operations were taken over by the State Electricity Commission of Victoria. It operated 3 tram systems (Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo) which was a lot for a body which was not interested in running any at all. However, it replaced all of Ballarat's ageing fleet with surplus trams from Melbourne, Adelaide and Geelong, all of which were built around the time of the first World War, and kept them going all the way to final closure in 1971. The single-truck trams, mostly ex-Melbourne old A-class, were supplemented with some double-truck trams (ex-Melbourne C-class, of similar vintage) in the late 1940s.

More history is available on the Ballarat Vintage Tramway's own home page.

Here is a map of the Ballarat system just before closure (thanks to Chris Brownbill) [Map of Ballarat tram system]

Preserved electric trams
Many trams from the Ballarat system have been preserved and restored to their conditions at different periods of their history. They can be found at Ballarat Vintage Tramway. In addition, No. 12 (the second No 12?) and the second No. 37 can be found at the Sydney Tramway Museum.

Thanks to Chris Brownbill,, for the map.