Sydney’s Transport History – The Development of the Tramways

Sydney was once home to one of the largest tramway network in the world. Back at the hight of the operation, over 400 million journeys were made each year over 291km of track. Today we take a look back at the development of the Sydney Tramways.

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Circular Quay at the height of the tramways in 1923

The first tramway opened in Sydney in 1861. It was a horse drawn line between the Old Sydney Railway Station in Redfern and Circular Quay along Pitt Street. It was short lived and closed in 1866 after complaints about the damage the tracks caused to wagons and a fatal accident.

In 1879 the tramways returned, this time with a steam tram line between Redfern Station and Hunter Street in the Northern CBD. The success of this line quickly lead to many lines being developed throughout inner Sydney. Initially throughout the 1880s and 90s, the lines were built as steam lines.

From 1898 the network began to be electrified, with most of the System converted by 1910. Lines from Circular Quay to the Eastern and Inner Western suburbs throughout the life of the network. Many well known lines included the one to Bondi, which reached the Beach in 1894. The lines to Coogee and La Perouse line, which opening in Stages from 1880, being the first Suburban tram line in Sydney and containing what may have been the first tram balloon loop in the world. The lines reached Coogee in 1883 and La Perouse in 1902.  The line to Ryde was the longest line in the network, at nearly 20km long.

From 1886 lines operated on the North Shore from Millions Point, until the Sydney Harbour Bridge opened in 1932, when most services were redirected to Wynyard and connected with the mains system south of the harbour. Lines from Manly began in 1903, and operated along the Northern Beaches seperate from the main system. Also isolated from the main system were the Southern suburbs lines, operating as rail feeder services for the Illawarra line.

The Tramway network reached its fullest extent in 1923, with over 291km of track. At the time nearly 1600 cars were in service at any one time. The network was the second largest in the Commonwealth of Nations, after London and the largest in Australia.

This article just scratches the surface in the development. For information on a specific line, let us know and we will give you information. image.pngimage.pngimage.pngimage.png

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