Last week on 2SER Breakfast Nicole talked about the development of the City Circle line, and over the weekend an amazing new work made up of the old timber treads from the original escalators by artist Chris Fox was installed at Wynyard station.
The escalators were such an important part of the Modernist design of the station in the 1930s when it opened, and its great to see them celebrated in this way rather than lost. The work uses 244 of the original treads and is called ‘Interloop’. The photos look spectacular and there’s also a fascinating video of the work being installed by Sydney Trains available online here.
Another bit of Sydney’s transport infrastructure was also revealed to the public over the weekend when pedestrians were finally given access to a couple of blocks of the light rail tracks on George Street, so I thought it would be timely to review the history of Sydney’s trams.
Sydney’s first trams were drawn by horses when they were introduced in 1861, but this service only lasted until 1866.
A steam tram was introduced in 1879 – as is so often the case, the impetus for the new infrastructure was a big public event. Enormous crowds were expected for the International Exhibition in the Botanic Gardens in 1879 and the tram service was proposed to bring people from the railway terminus, close to the current location of Redfern station, into the city almost to the gates of the Garden Palace.
Despite some initial scepticism from the public, the line was an immediate success and the original plans to demolish it once the Exhibition had closed were abandoned. In 1880 the government decided to build on its success and committed to building more tramways in the city and further into the suburbs.
Sydney’s extensive tram network was at its peak in 1922, but the Depression, followed by WWII, saw the geographical spread of the network halt. By the 1950s a number of factors including the decentralisation of industry and the rise in ownership of private automobiles meant that government priorities had changed and in the early 1960s we pulled up the tracks.
But now they’re back! Trams won’t be running on the new tracks until 2019 so it will be a while yet until we know what its like to catch a tram down George Street.
In the meantime, you can walk on some of the tracks, visit the Tramway Museum in Loftus, go down to the revamped Tramsheds at the Harold Park development and eat in a restored tram, or admire one of the many tram waiting shed that are dotted around the city and currently serve as old bus shelters, like the stand at the intersection of Park and Elizabeth Streets.
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