Trams of Australia

Brisbane's tram system

Brisbane established its first horse tram in 1885. It's a hilly city, so this must have been tough for horses. Electric operation was introduced in 1897 with some imported trams, but local construction soon began. From 1907, single truck ten-bench trams were introduced, and in 1908, the two bogie dreadnought commenced service.

In 1923 the tramways were brought under one management, the Brisbane Tramways Trust, but two years later, the Brisbane City Council took over. It immediately set about modernising the fleet. The dropcentre tram appeared that year, and in 1938 the new streamlined FM was introduced.

By 1952, the network had expanded to 109 route kilometres (199 km of track). Ten years later, Brisbane trams were still going strong, despite the fact that trams had disappeared from many other Australian cities, and in spite of being under the control of a fiercely anti-tram Lord Mayor. Mayor Clem Jones, a member of the Labor Party, had views on public transport which were directly opposite to most in his party. He was quoted as saying that his ideal was for the working man to be driving his own car, not catching a tram.

But disaster struck. On 28-Sep-1962 Paddington tram depot just happened to catch fire, and burnt to the ground, destroying 65 trams. Old Dreadnought trams were pressed into service, and 8 replacement (Phoenix) trams were built, but Jones began to close lines almost immediately. Final closure came in April 1969.

One of those "Alice Through the Looking Glass" experiences that one often has when looking at Queensland politics has come again. The former National Party (conservative) State Government portrayed itself as pro-public transport, and the (then) opposition Labor Party as anti-PT (a la Clem Jones, 30 years ago), a claim which has a credibility problem anywhere else in the country. It proposed a new tram system for Brisbane, BrizTram, as an election stunt, but few people outside Queensland expected that it would ever be built afterwards (and perhaps few in Queensland either). But that government did not survive the election, and the new Labor Government has killed off the proposal. The Nationals can still claim that they are pro-public transport (since they did not have to follow through), and that Labor is anti- etc. etc. Everyone is happy. But there are no trams.

Brisbane's tram fleet

Early trams

Preserved early Brisbane trams

Ten-bench single-truck crossbench

28 of these open toastrack trams were constructed between 1907 and 1921.
Preserved ten-bench trams


Nos: 121? - ??

This tram is called the "Centre Aisle" tram, but it is generally known as the dreadnought. It is a two-bogie saloon car, first introduced in 1908. 44 trams wre built up to 1920, and a further 21 built in 1921/25.

Preserved Dreadnought trams


Nos: 196 - 318 (hand-braked), 319 - 386 (air-braked)
First introduced: 1925
Last withdrawn: 1969

This is Brisbane's two-bogie drop-centre tram, although it has much in common with Sydney's toastrack L/P trams. The first to be introduced was No. 231, (trams not numbered sequentially???) At first, despite their weight, the trams were equipped only with hand brakes; air brakes were a late refinement. Later, air brakes were fitted to hand-braked models in reverse order. This process got as far as tram No. 276 before it stopped.

Preserved Dropcentre trams


Nos: 400 (prototype), 401 - 546, 547 - 554 (Phoenix)
First introduced: 1938
Last withdrawn: 1969

The name FM came from the fact that these were four-motor trams. They were also referred to as 400-series trams. They were a streamlined drop-centre saloon car, which hinted at the shape of Melbourne's future Z-class trams.

Phoenix trams
[Link to picture of Phoenix tram] Nos: 547 - 554
First introduced: 1963
Last withdrawn: 1969

These trams were FM cars built after the Paddington depot fire, using components and bogies salvaged from the fire, and they were painted in a different colour scheme, including a symbol of a phoenix, to indicate that they had 'arisen from the ashes'. [16]

But the writing was on the wall for the Brisbane trams, and the Phoenix trams had a working life of only 6 years.

Preserved FM trams

[4] Thanks to Barry Ollerenshaw and Dewi Williams for information about Brisbane trams in NZ museums.

[7] Thanks to Tim Blythman for other information about the whereabouts of Brisbane trams.

[16] Thanks to Ian Stevens and the Sydney Tramway Museum for this picture.

[18] Thanks to Eric Junkermann for the correction "Baby Centre-Aisle". Thanks to Mick Topp for the correction to the date of the Paddington Depot fire.