The Plot

To set the context for Tramway Anzacs, we wanted to provide exhibits that explore the social history of Melbourne, the impact of the war on everyday life, and the tramway systems that opened and operated at the time.

Melbourne had several tramway systems during World War One; there was the cable tramway system in the inner parts of the city, and the electric tramways fanning out into the new suburbs, owned by a mix of city councils and private companies. The Victorian Railways also operated a reasonable (steam-hauled) suburban rail service, and an electric "street railway" between St Kilda and Brighton Beach. A small number of petrol and horse drawn vehicles also operated in local areas.

In the curation and research team, we reasoned that the best way to demonstrate what travel in the era was like would be through a historically accurate map; designed with familiar modern conventions, but also reflecting the design trends of the time.

Several books about the cable and electric tram networks have included track maps, complemented by the old Osboldstone, Sands & McDougall, and Mullens maps. But these only showed the streets and roads along which tram tracks were laid, not the specific routes that operated. 

Drawing inspiration from the current Public Transport Victoria/Yarra Trams map symbology for the Melbourne Tram Network, and using the Mullens map of the era as a base, I plotted out each route using a geographically accurate projection. I used this particular combination rather than the topological 'diagrammatic' style of the current tram network map, given that this style championed by George Dow and Harry Beck did not see widespread use until the 1930s.

Finding out where the specific routes ran and their numbers/identifiers was actually quite difficult; the books I used as reference were often not specific enough! Finding the routes of the Prahran and Malvern Tramways Trust in the south-eastern suburbs was a particular challenge; and in a cruel twist, once I had completed the first substantive version of the map and the detailed research of where each route ran, I discovered a copy of the Osboldstone pocket rail and tram map (c. 1916) in the Peter Watson Duckett collection that we house in our archives. It listed each of the routes and the streets they travelled in. Luckily all of the long-hand research turned out to be correct…

I selected colours for the cable tram route lines from the colours that the trams themselves were painted in. When the cable tram system was first built in the 1880s a large chunk of the population was illiterate, so they could not read destination signage. To remedy this the Melbourne Tramway and Omnibus Company (MTOC) painted the trams in distinctive colours for each route, also displaying a lamp of that colour at night (with use of these colours repeated on different city streets). At the time, the cable 'dummy' and trailer sets only operated on specific routes, and so did not require changeable destination signage.

Electric trams used a mix of changeable destination blinds, route numbers/letters, and coloured lights, dependent on the operator. A great example is the lines of the Hawthorn Tramways Trust (HTT) which operated from Princes Bridge (modern-day Federation Square) along Swan Street to Camberwell, Norwood (Burwood), and Wattle Park. For these route lines I used the coloured light combination that would be shown corresponding to the destination; I also used the same for the routes of the PMTT (solid colour route lines were routes that used two lamps of the same colour). Curiously the Melbourne, Brunswick, and Coburg Tramways Trust (MBCTT) used a Sydney-style destination system with coloured shapes and destination text; I used these colours for the route lines along Lygon Street.

This may very well be the first time all of the tram routes that operated in WW1-era Melbourne have been plotted together on the same diagram!

Interesting Observations
- The PMTT services using Glenferrie Road Malvern as a key corridor, and how far the network had expanded into the eastern and south-eastern suburbs
- St Kilda being a very popular destination and the utility of the services to St Kilda Esplanade from the suburbs. Apparently these were very popular on Sundays.
- Through-routing of cable services through the city
- Use of Lonsdale Street in both directions for cable services
- The number and pattern of routes operated by the Hawthorn Tramways Trust (HTT). This was the only electric network to run into the CBD from its inception
- The location of the cable/electric tram system interchange points and the routes that served these

We'd love to know what you think! And printed copies of this map in A2 size are currently available for sale in our gift shop.