Sydney Tramway Museum

It’s the last day of 2014 and what better way to end it than with a short travel adventure? A very short travel adventure and one not too far from home!

I was born in a city famous for its trams and have caught trams in cities across Australia and the world. But I’ve never before visited the Sydney Tramway Museum, despite it being quite close by.

Sydney once had a very extensive tram network that could take you most places you’d want to go in the city. But in 1961 the last tram plied the tracks until 1997 when light rail returned. Now further lines are planned across the city, but to recreate the network of yesteryear would be prohibitively expensive and disruptive.

The Tramway Museum, located adjacent to Loftus Station, preserves a number of Sydney’s trams from the cable days to the end of the electric network. There are also models from interstate and overseas, including Germany and the United States.

Many of the trams are housed in a large shed with their interiors open for inspection. One of the attendants managed to frighten Alex by telling him about a person locked for years inside the tram. Of course, it was only a mannequin, but who would have guessed they would have a dedicated prison tram with locked cells?

The museum has a functioning line running up from the Army depot towards Sutherland Station to the old Royal National Park station. From the transplanted Railway Square Waiting Shed we jumped aboard an old wooden R class tram for the ride into the National Park. Alex was excited by the level crossing over the busy Princess Highway and the wind blowing through the open doorway besides which we sat.

It’s not the most scenic part of the world’s second oldest national park, low scrub and dead grey trees burnt by fire. The terminus, only 10 minutes away is a too high platform with a rusting metal canopy. It once served the military and then visitors to the park, before the railway line closed in 1991.

But there is something special about these rattling wooden cars. They have character, a sense of adventure, that the airconditioned modern tram can’t replicate. Sure, you rather be in something comfortable and fast on your everyday commute, but they are definitely a fun way to get around.

The trams were driven by old men and I suspect many of the passengers were related with one young enthusiast amongst them. But there were passengers from elsewhere.

On our return to the Museum we finally managed to buy our tickets from the office, with the attendant apologising that it was so late in the day. Didn’t matter as I knew the money was going to worthwhile cause in my eyes.

After an ice block we then caught a more modern and less, in my eyes, characterful Bribane “Four Motor” car up towards Sutherland and then, as Alex slept on my lap, to the Royal National Park and back again. One of the nice things was that the interiors were done up with old posters and signs.

With the tram runs finished for the day Alex and I returned to Loftus Station, and then on to Sutherland and Miranda, where we had hot chocolate and churros and joined B to watch Big Hero 6 at the cinema, which looked like it was falling apart.

And so that’s it for 2014. Happy New Year!