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Tram Finds Its Way To Queensland

Highfields Pioneer Village Manager Ray Ashford with Melbourne tram

The Volunteers of Highfields Pioneer Village, Museum & Park Inc. are very excited to announce their latest acquisition… a W Class Melbourne Tram from VIC Track!

The W-class trams are a family of electric trams built by the Melbourne & Metropolitan Tramways Board (MMTB) between 1923 and 1956. Over the 33 years of production, 752 vehicles spanning 12 sub-classes were constructed, the majority at the MMTB’s Preston Workshops.

A small fleet continues to operate on the tramway network of Melbourne, where they are used on the City Circle tourist route and the Colonial Tramcar Restaurant service. The W-class tram is a cultural icon to Melbourne; those that remain in Melbourne are classified by the National Trust of Australia. As well as Melbourne, W-class trams operate on tourist and heritage systems across the world.

In October 2016, the Victorian government announced the formation of a reference group to formulate a strategy for the over 237 in-store at Newport Workshops.

In 2018, the results of the condition audit were published as part of the Daniel Andrews State Government’s Retired Trams Strategy.  The audit found there were 237 W-class trams in storage in 2018, with most not in a suitable condition for tourist operations.  Of the 237, 17 were operational for use on the City Circle line or the Colonial Tramcar Restaurant, 134, had a condition or significance that did not lend itself to being preserved for operations in any way. 

These trams were offered to the public by the State Government under an expression of interest process, with trams offered for free to schools, community groups and non-profit organisations. Private buyers and business could purchase a tram for $1,000 plus the cost of transport, with owners having to explain how they would restore, repurpose and maintain the trams for use. A panel was established to assess applications, with priority given to maintaining public access. Trams were expected to be used for purposes like cafes or classrooms.

“More than 1,500 applications were received through the process and Highfields Pioneer Village was successful in our application”. Volunteer Manager Ray Ashford OAM says.

The first two W-Class trams to leave Newport Workshop under the process were acquired by the City of Launceston in Tasmania in 2019 to be restored and used in a public space.

“The Tram is an SW-6 class and were introduced in 1939 and were followed by the W6-class which were produced between 1951 and 1955, 150 were built in total”. Ray says.

At their introduction, W6-class trams were popular with passengers and crew alike for being fast, smooth and comfortable. The cab controls are the same as of other W-class trams. The first 40 had flip-over wooden seats in the end saloons, the remainder having upholstered bus seats. All had wooden seats in the centre saloon until the 1970s when the entire class was refurbished with upholstered seats throughout.

As of January 2020, one tram (961) remains in service with Yarra Trams in original conditionTwo W6 and twelve SW6 trams are in the hands of preservation groups, one of which is used as a café tram in Bendigo. Three SW6-class trams also operate on the Colonial Tramcar Restaurant service.

When asked why a Melbourne Tram? Ray comments “The Melbourne Tram is a wonderful piece of Australian History and deserves preservation. The Tram will be a unique venue for Weddings, photo shoots, birthday parties and an asset to our educational program for school groups as well”.

Highfields Pioneer Village volunteers are seeking donations from local businesses and individuals to help with the restoration of the tram, Highfields Pioneer Village is a registered charity and all donations are tax deductible. For more information please contact the Village office on (07) 4696 6309.

Submitted by:
Jody Dodds
Treasurer
Highfields Pioneer Village, Museum and Park Inc.
Non-profit organisation run entirely by Volunteers.
Open 10am to 4pm Daily

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