Compiled for OzSportsHistory by Brian Membrey

Ex-CDA comments, suggestions, criticisms

 Darebin’s Transport : Tall Tales and True

ADDED : February, 2019

This new section carries a few snapshots from the three PDF documents available via our DOWNLOADS page.

1889 : The Railway Cometh - The Railway Cometh.pdf

A railway line through Northcote and Preston to the Plenty Valley was first mooted in 1865 when there were proposals to install a track along the horse-drawn tram track in St. George’s Road and Plenty Road which had been used in the early 1850’s to haul material for the construction of the Yan Yean reservoir.

As the history explains, there were many variations and proposals before lines to Heidelberg (1888) and Preston/Whittlesea (1889) finally opened (the latter the last to new line to be established in Melbourne).

The routes chosen were not what we recognise today : after crossing the Merri Creek, the line detoured west through North Fitzroy, North Carlton and Royal Park to link up with existing north-western lines to Essendon and Coburg in North Melbourne and then to the terminus at Spencer Street.

This was never popular given the time taken and with passengers being deposited at Spencer Street and in many cases requiring a cable tram to reach the main shopping, business and entertainment centre of Melbourne.  The next battle was for a more direct route to Prince’s Bridge, for Heidelberg passengers via a Clifton Hill-Collingwood-North Richmond route, but with Preston patrons having wait a few more years for the loop linking Northcote station (now Merri) to Clifton Hill.

Even this did not satisfy many, and even as late as the early 1920’s, consideration to a line via Young Street in Fitzroy as an alternative.

1888 : Fares, please!. A history of Northcote’s Cable Trams. - Fares, please! Northcote's Cable Trams.pdf

Sometimes called the ‘on again, off again” tram service, this was the only cable track in Melbourne to be constructed by a private syndicate - it opened in 1890 between the Merri Creek bridge along High Street to Dundas Street, but with the economic depression of 1892, lasted less than two years, leaving Northcote Council with the predicament of what exactly it should do with it.

Several lessees came and went before the Council itself took over the operation in 1901, running it successfully until all Melbourne tram operations were taken over by the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board in November, 1919.

The Northcote line met up with the Clifton Hill - Collingwood - Collins Street cable service, the two joined to a single route in 1925 and continuing as a cable service until 1940, the second last to close.  It was replaced by double-decker buses in that year, the route finally converted to an electric tram which commenced operating through to East Preston in 1955.

1912-20 : “Never a Paying Customer” - Northcote and Preston Electric Tramway.pdf

This release of February, 2019 covers the history of The Fitzroy, Northcote and Preston Tramway Trust.

The Trust was formed by an Act of Parliament in 1915 after the Northern Tramway Extension League persuaded a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Railways as to desirability of both establishing a tramway from North Fitzroy to East and West Preston via St. George’s Road in Northcote.  Originally it was hoped that the lines would be operating within two years, but with shortages resulting from the First World War and a number of other reasons (including the necessity of rebuilding the bridge over the Merri Creek), the lines did not open until 1 April, 1920, by which time the Melbourne and Melbourne Tramways Board had assumed control from the Trust, the latter’s one operation a trial run a week prior to the takeover..

One obstacle struck was the Railways Department’s refusal to countenance a tramway crossing its Whittlesea track, resulting in the local icon known to most as “The Hump” in Miller Street, but later to workers at the Preston Workshops and Depot as “Mount Buggery” (all is explained in the PDF, folks!).

The Workshops were constructed in 1925 and provided an instant boost to local development with many locals employed there. Now Victorian Heritage listed, it remains the only purpose-built tramway workshop still operating anywhere in the world


1929 at the Junction.

A rare image of both an East Preston electric tram and a Northcote cable tram (centre background).  W. J. Davis, Chemist on left, the three or four double-storey buildings opposite included the original Thornbury Theatre of 1911. Miller Street and the fenced but undeveloped corner block that later became the Planet Theatre on right.