Compiled for OzSportsHistory by Brian Membrey


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ADDED : February, 2019

 



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Left : A rather apprehensive looking Mayoress of Preston, Mrs Llewellyn Jones at the control of the ribbon-breaking ceremony as the tram enters Preston for the first time.

Right : The iconic “Hump” constructed by the Railways Department at the Trust’s expense after it refused to allow tramlines to pass over railway tracks at level crossings

An Opening Day in 1920

After many delays, the Fitzroy, Northcote and Preston tramways opened on 1 April, 1920, around three months after the operation of all Melbourne’s Tramways Trust passed to the newly constituted Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board.

A successful trial run was staged on Tuesday, 27 January, 1920, just a week before the MMTB took over the line; this remains as the only time a tram operated under The Fitzroy, Northcote and Preston Tramways Trust created by an Act of Parliament in 1915.

The Argus suggesting car No. 1 (the only one then completed) ran well along the entire route … "even the formidable "switchback" where the railway line is crossed at Northcote being traversed without a hitch".

The line officially opened on 1 April; the line as double track from Barkly Street, North Fitzroy to Miller Street, with a crossover at Woolton Avenue for traffic at the so-called "Fitzroy" racecourse in Croxton. The service initially operated with eight cars built for the Trust by James Moore and Sons, South Melbourne and fitted out at the Malvern workshops.

St. George’s Road was a double track built on the western side of the Yan Yean pipeline, but the branches from Miller Street to East and West Preston were single track, in each case with passing loops at Bell Street and Murray Road. The branches were progressively converted to dual tracks between 1926 and 1929, both having a crossover at Bell Street which allowed some services in peak hour to terminate and return to North Fitzroy without having to continue via the lightly populated sections to the north.

The services were operated from Preston Depot (then for housing cars only, the workshop came later) using the rolling stock ordered by the Trust, the remainder of which were completed by the MMTB:               

Due to the presence of a large water main under the median strip in St Georges Road from the Merri Creek northwards, the track was laid on the western carriageway, with the result that south-bound trams to Fitzroy actually travelled head-on towards outgoing north-bound road traffic, althougg with the buffer offered by the north-bound track).

The Mayors of the three suburbs and predictable collection of dignitaries assembled, and despite it being All Fool's Day, the weather proved ideal for the occasion.

The honour of cutting the ribbon to let the car pass through the boundary of each municipality was performed in turn by Miss Ottrey, daughter of Cr. Ottrey (Fitzroy and former Chairman of the Trust), Miss Caroline ("Carrie") Membrey, daughter of James Membrey, M.L.A., and Mrs Llewellyn Jones, wife of the President of the Preston shire.

The new route offered a six minute service during peak hours along St. George's Road and twelve minutes at other times of the day; the branch lines between 12 and 24 minutes.

The lines met the terminus of the North Fitzroy cable tram at the corner of St. George’s Road and Barkly Street in North Fitzroy. meaning passengers to the city had to change cars (common on many routes as all of the inner connections to Melbourne were still cable), but the construction of an electric tramway along Holden Street in North Fitzroy to Nicholson Street in 1924 eliminated the need for the changeover.

The through fare from terminus to terminus was 3d., but penny sections of roughly a mile in length operated - from North Fitzroy to Kemp-street (and the racecourse), then to Bell-street on the east Preston branch and Oakover-road on the west.  Fare comparisons suggest the secondary trip from Barkly Street to the city was another penny. Within the first month of operations, the best service day was Good Friday with 11,930 passengers carried.

(The sections and fares were laid down in the Agreement for Construction gazetted 30 October, 1916 – this allowed children under four years to carried on a passenger's lap free, otherwise those under 12 one penny for two continuous sections, or two pence for three sections)

The Leader in reporting the occasion noted that already extensions had been asked for - to  Edwards Park Lake on the west (still waiting), and to Mont Park on the eastern run (eventually extended to Latrobe University in 1985.  

The Trust emanated from the Northern Tramways Extension League formed in 1912 with representatives from several northern municipalities and prominent citizens.

The Fitzroy Northcote and Preston line was their sole success - other rather more optimistic new lines suggested by the League were east from High street along Dundas-street to Victoria-road, and then south to Heidelberg-road or perhaps Westgarth Street; an east-west line from Heidelberg to Essendon via Darebin-road, Victoria-road, Clarendon-street, Normanby-avenue and Moreland-road to Essendon, and several suggestions for linking the Preston line to the Coburg service.  

Heidelberg to Essendon was never going to happen, the Dundas-street - Victoria-road idea perhaps appealed to locals, but the reality is that very few tram services have ever been financially viable without a connection to the central business district.


 Darebin’s Transport : Tall Tales and True