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The Melbourne, Brunswick and Coburg Tramways Trust was constituted by the Melbourne, Brunswick and Coburg Tramways Act 1914. Its Board consisted of a Chairman (Thos. O'L Reynolds, Esp., J.P., 1914 to take-over), plus two Councillors from each of the interested Councils. Over the years under review, the constituent Councils were represented on the Trust by the following named gentlemen :-


Ald. Sir D.V. Hennessy,         1914 to take-over.

Ald. John Gardiner, J.P.,        1914 to take-over.


Cr. F.T. Hickford, M.A.,          1914-1917.

Cr. J. Millward, J.P.,               1914 to take-over.

Cr. A.G. Wales,                     1918 to take-over.


Cr. A. Bush,                          1914-1918.

Cr. H.J. Richards, J.P.,           1914 to take-over.

Cr. W.E. Cash,                      1918 to take-over.

The Act incorporating the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board passed through Parliament and the Board came into being on the 1st November, 1919, taking control of the Cable Tramways as from that date, whilst the Electric Tramways were merged under the one control as from the 2nd February, 1920. The Government appointed the Chairman of the Trust, T. O'L. Reynolds, Esq., as a member of the new Board.

Opening of The Line

The work of designing and construction the tramways was commenced in June, 1914. The Coburg section, viz., that in Sydney Road between Moreland Road and Bell Street, was opened for traffic on the 27th April; the section from Bell Street to Bakers Road came into use on the 14th May, and the section from Sydney Road to Park Street on the 14th August. Difficulties in the supply of carious materials delayed the official opening; however, the tramway was completed to Queensberry Street and the undertaking officially declared open on Tuesday, 31st October, 1916, by the Hon. the Minister for Public Works, Mr. W.A. Adamson, M.L.C.


In 1916, it was fully recognised that an extension of the system from Queensberry Street along Madeline (now the northern section of Swanston Street) and Swanston Street to Lonsdale Street would be of great advantage to the Trust and a convenience to the travelling public, but to carry this out it would be necessary for the section of the cable tramway from Queensberry Street to Lonsdale Street to be vested in the Trust. With this object in view, a deputation waited on the Minister of Public Works and laid the proposal fully before him, and he undertook to bring the matter before the Cabinet. This extension was considered of the greatest importance, and it was hoped that the negotiations which were proceeding, would have resulted in putting the Trust in a position to be able to provide a convenient City terminus to its system, which would have proved a source of public satisfaction and advantage to the Municipalities constituting the Trust. To facilitate traffic in the meantime, a system of transfer tickets was inaugurated, and it enabled passengers who wished to travel on the electric cars to journey on the cable car from City Road, South Melbourne, to Queensberry Street, Carlton, or vice versa, for 1c.

During 1917 and 1918, considerable negotiations took place in connection with this proposed extension, but further considerations by the Government was deferred pending the constitution of a central Tramway Authority, but as the proposed Bill was held up indefinitely, negotiations were resumed, with a view to the much desired extension being brought about.

Another extension planned was from Bakers Road, alond Sydney Road, to the New Melbourne General Cemetery, at Fawkner, about one mile in length, the preliminaries had been arranged by October, 1916, and the various councils agreed to indemnify the Trust against loss up to a fixed sum per annum over a term of four years. In 1917, the draft agreement for the extension was submitted to the Councils and the Trust and this agreement was sealed by all parties during 1918, and the Trust, through its Chairman, had several interviews with the Minister for Public Works, who undertook to bring the question before the Cabinet with a view to the project being included in the schedule of Tramways authorised to be constructed in the Tramways Bill before Cabinet. However, the trust was duly informed by the Department that it had been decided not to grant any extensions pending the passage of the Bill through the House.

The southern terminus of the system was extended in 1918 for a short distance south of Queensberry Street, and afforded a much appreciated convenience to passengers changing trams at that point.

Proposed Tramway

A report, dated 25th October, 1915, was made on a proposed Tramway, by Valentine J. Crowley, A.A.I.E.E.

The route was to run up Queen Street from Flinders Street to the Melbourne Cemetery (now part of the Victoria Market), the along Franklin Street to William Street, thence to Royal Park corner at Flemington Road via Howard, Courtney and Errol Streets, though Royal Park to McVean Street, Brunswick, along Brunswick Road to Grantham Street, then along Dawson Street to Pearson Street (taking in a twenty-foot strip of ground belonging to the Hoffman Brick Company in Dawson Street). Continuing north along Pearson Street, it reached Moreland Road by a westerly deviation from Albion Street to Forbes Street. It then ran along Donne Street, Coburg, to Sussex Street, at the corner of Gaffney Road, which was to be the proposed northern terminus. A spur track was to be build down Moreland Road from Forbes Street, Brunswick, to Sydney Road, to allow the cars to reach the sheds belonging to the Trust.

The total length was estimated to be 8 miles 23 chains 25 links. Of this total, 5 miles 3 chains 75 links was to be double track, and 3 miles 19 chains 50 links in single track, making a total track length of single and double track of 13 miles 27 chains. The proposed Tramway was, naturally, to be similar to the existing lines, consisting of 600 volt direct current overhead line, and standard gauge rails, the track to be set on 10ft. centres. Both bogie and single truck rolling stock were to be provided, the cars collecting current by means of a trolley from figure 8 copper wire, supported by tubular steel poles in the City, and round wooden poles in the suburbs.

Description of The Undertaking

A thickness of 8 inches of ballast was provided under the sleepers, and to ensure the foundation remaining hard and dry, a subsoil drain of 3 inch agricultural tiles was provided under each track, with frequent outfalls along the route. Redgum, grey box and ironbark sleepers were used throughout. On about 6 miles of track, the joints were made with ferrignite, but this process was abandoned and the remaining 6 miles done with the oxyacetylene process, which in 1916, gave ever sign of proving satisfactory. The road surface was paved with Gilsonite, with a vitrified brick against the rail to decrease maintenance. Gauge of the track was standard 4ft. 8½ in. The road surface was in first-rate condition everywhere, except on a part of Sydney Road, so the pavement Contractor was called upon to make the necessary repairs.

Both steel and wood poles were used for the overhead construction, five miles being constructed with steel poles and two miles with dressed ironbark poles. The difference in cost was about $10 per pole, and the wood poles were quite as good in appearance as those of steel. Special steel poles with and extension five feet long were provided in Melbourne on one side of the street for the Council's overhead mains (the Council confined their wires to one side and the Trusts to the other).

The span wire system was adopted throughout, compared with centre poles, as largely used on other local lines and same became standard practice in Melbourne. In order to avoid trouble caused be span wires breaking a slightly heavier wire than usual was used.

The double track extended from Queensberry Street, Melbourne, to Wilsons Road, Coburg; from there to the terminus at Bakers Road, and in Nicholson Street, was single track.

The track mileage of the system was thus :-

Single...            1.77 miles.

Double...           5.26 miles.

Total...              12.29 miles.


The innovations introduced in construction did have a beneficial effect on maintenance costs. The drainage provided in the subgrade or foundation kept this important feature of construction firm and dry, so that is was not necessary to lift more than 50 ft. of rail while the bricks set along the rail prevented the asphalt from breaking away at this point. In 1918, a few broken joints which required attention were welded with the Trust's 'Electric Arc Weld' apparatus. Special work for a crossover at Bell Street was available in 1918, but the installation was delayed owing to difficulty in obtaining some of the overhead equipment. It was estimated that it would be to hand shortly, whereupon the work would proceed.

Power Supplies

Power was purchased from the Melbourne City Council Electric Supply under rather different conditions from those prevailing with other Municipal Electric Tramway Undertakings in Melbourne. Both the Prahran and Malvern and Hawthorn Trusts purchased current at the Direct Current Bus Bars, the Supply Company installing and operating the sub-station. The M.B.&C. Trust bought high tension alternating 6000 volt 3-phase current from the Melbourne City Council on a flat rate and maximum demand system, and installed its own sub-station. The equipment of the station included two 200 K.W. rotary converter sets, one 50 K.W. transformer for the supply of light and power at the Depot, and two 10 K.W. series transformers for track lighting, together with the necessary switchboard and control gear. No storage battery was installed, and the station was automatic, not requiring a constant attendant. In 1918, an additional Rotary Converter was ordered and delivery was effected and the equipment put into use prior to the 30th September, 1919. 1,027,222 high tension units were supplied to the 30th September, 1917, at an average cost of 1.031c. per unit. The output of the substation was 933,019 units, at an average cost per unit of 1.216c. The maximum demand was at the rate of 300 K.W., or 25 K.W. per car in service.

At the 30th September, 1918, 1,388,500 high tension units were supplied at an average cost of 1.035c. per unit. The output of the substation for the period was 1,179,840 units at an average cost per unit of 1.25c. The maximum demand was 366 K.W., or 20 K.W. per car in service. In 1919, 1,528,110 units were supplied at an average cost per unit of 1.019c. The output of the substation was 1,279,859 units at an average cost per unit of 1.217c. The maximum demand reached 546 K.W., or 30.3 K.W. per car in service.


The Postmaster-General's Department removed all overhead wires from the streets along which the tramway ran, so that when the Brunswick Council's lighting wires were transferred to the Trust's poles, the only poles along the route of the tramway were those belonging to the Trust.

The various stopping places in Brunswick and Coburg were lit by the Trust with 100 C.P. and 250 C.P. high efficiency incandescent lambs on the series system.

The lighting of the route in the City of Melbourne was supplied by the City Council, who supplied high candle power incandescent lamps suspended over the centre of the street and spaced approximately 100 yards apart. Lygon, Elgin and Madeline Streets were among the best illuminated streets in the City.

An agreement was made with the Coburg Council to provide 12 additional lights in Sydney Road, and when these were installed, the lighting of that compared with any in the Melbourne Suburbs.

Depot And Offices

They were located on the freehold land at the corner of Moreland Road and Nicholson Street, Coburg. Under the one roof were all administrative offices, substations, store, workshop and car depot. As constructed, there was space for 20 cars, and this could have been increased at small expense to provide for four times that number.

Provision was made in the workshop for all necessary tools for repair work, viz., Radial Drill, Sensitive Drill, Wheel Press, Wheel Lathe, High Speed Lathe, Hack Saw, Emery Wheel and Buff, and Emery Stone. All were direct motor driven, so that there was no cumbersome overhead shafting in the shop.

Rolling Stock

The Trust's rolling stock consisted of 12 single truck combination cars, capable of seating 44 passengers, 24 in the saloon and 20 in the outside smoking compartments. The truck wheel base was 7 feet. The motors were of 55 H.P. capacity of self-ventilated box frame type, embodying all the latest improvements and ensuring very economical operation. The cars were first in Melbourne to be equipped with air brakes, and they gave every satisfaction. Another 6 combination cars were placed on order in 1916, being furnished with similar electrical and brake equipment but mounted on radial type trucks with 12 feet wheelbase. The cars were painted green and white, and were admired by all who saw them, The interior was finished in native timbers, varnished and polished in their natural colours. Lighting was provided by 6 lamps, of 16 C.P. each, fitted with opal shades, and were a great improvement on the old style of lighting. A special relay operated contactor was introduced, which did all the making and breaking of the main current supply, thus decreasing maintenance of controllers, and preventing any danger of fire in the motorman's cabin. The cars weighed 24,80 lbs., and seated 44 passengers. All of these cars were expected to be in service by the end of October, 1917.

A works car was built for track cleaning, emergency work, etc., and proved very useful.

Steps were being taken to obtain 6 additional cars by 30th September 1918 and, when completed, the number available for traffic would be 24. In 1919, it was reported that the electrical equipment was being delivered.

Car Miles >>

As at the 30th September...

Results of Operation

The revenue to the 30th September, 1916, amounted to $6,846.35, whilst the ordinary expenditure on operation, plus interest on capital, was $6,232.99, leaving a surplus of $613.36, but unfortunately as the result of a collision between cars in Sydney Road shortly after the opening of that section, this sum was swallowed up in compensation and expenses, leaving a debit balance of $186.64.


Conductors were warned to carefully examine the tickets supplied to them by the Receiving Clerks, and to check them with the Revenue Journal before signing it. The tickets were lettered in 4 series, “A”, “B”, “C” and “D”. Care had to be taken to use tickets of the right series for the day. If a Conductor was supplied with tickets, and for any reason did not use them on the day for which they were issued, he was instructed to return them to the office when paying in.

Sections And Fares

The completed Tramway Route was divided into the following sections:-

Queensberry Street to Princes Street via Madeline, Elgin and Lygon Streets.

Princes Street to Park Street via Lygon Street.

Park Street to Albion Street via Lygon Street

Albion Street to Sydney Road via Holmes Street and Moreland Road.

Moreland Road to Bell Street via Sydney Road

Bell Street to Bakers Road via Sydney Road

Moreland Road to Bell Street via Nicholson Street.

The fare was 1 cent for each passenger per section, with the following exceptions:-

(a) No fare payable for children under 4 years of age and carried in arms.

(b) Children over 4 and under 12 years of age, and children under 4 who were not carried in arms, were carried for the following fares:-

Over any 2 consecutive sections                                1c

Over 3 or 4 consecutive sections                                2c

Minimum fare per child                                              3c

Provided that for any one or more sections the fare to be charged for 2 children travelling together under the age or 12 years shall not exceed the fare charged for 1 adult.

(c) The following through fares were charged:-

Queensberry Street to Albion Street or vice versa                   2c

Queensberry Street to Bell Street via Sydney Rd,

or Nicholson Street or vice versa                                           3c

Queensberry Street to Bakers Road or vice versa                   4c

For children the through fares were:-

Queensberry Street to Albion Street or vice versa                   1c

Queensberry Street to Bakers or Bell Street, via

Nicholson Street or vice versa                                               2c

(d) The charge for Monthly Tickets to school children under the age of 18 years and over 3 sections was 25c., and for 4 or more consecutive sections 50c., for the purpose of journeying to and from school on school days.

(e) Blind persons were allowed to travel free on the Tramways, provided that their attendants paid the ordinary fares chargeable thereon.

On children's cash fare ticket, the number of the last section travelled over had to be punched twice. Conductors were instructed that on no occasion were they to permit school children travelling on monthly tickets to travel on same, except during the hours for they were available, namely up to 5.30 p.m. on week days, and 1.30 p.m. on Saturdays.

Minimum Fare Cars

Conductors working cars known as Minimum Fare cars were instructed to call out “Minmum Fare, 2c.” or whatever the amount may be, and they could not collect less than the minimum fare. This rule applied to adult passengers only, not children. “Minimum Fare” cars became ordinary cars on arrival at the end of the first section on the down trip, at which point the front and rear side “Minimum Fare” boards were reversed until arrival at the terminus. It was the Motorman's duty to reverse the boards.


The Trust's borrowing powers provided for the raising of $400,000 by the issue of debentures and a further $20,000 on overdraft.

Cost of Undertakings

The total costs of the Trust's undertakings to the 30th September, in the years under review are listed hereunder, but did not include the portion of Contracts not completed.


During 1918, the Engineer and Manager (Mr. Straun Robertson), resigned his appointment to take a similar position in the service of the Hawthorn Tramways Trust. It was decided to appoint Mr. M.K. Westcott (Works Superintendent) to the position of Engineer, the Management being left in the hands of the Chairman.


The writer gratefully acknowledges the assistance given by Mr. W. Aird, Secretary of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board, who allowed the Annual Reports of the Melbourne, Brunswick and Coburg Tramways Trust to be examined, Mr. K.S. Kings for once again supplying the technical informations, and Archives of The Tramway Museum Society of Vic. Ltd. for other information.

Editors Note: The section; “EXTRACT FROM THE TRUST'S RULES AND REGULATIONS AND BY-LAWS” has been omitted.

Council Section.

























Passengers Carried











Surplus for allocation





















The Melbourne, Brunswick & Coburg Tramways Trust R.H. Prentice - Volume 3, Number 1, July 1966 Cover Photo : Mal Rowe