Melbourne's tram system began operations in 1885, when the first cable line operated by the Melbourne Tramway and Omnibus Company opened for business. The cable tram system grew to be very comprehensive and operated successfully for 55 years. Electric tramsAustralia's first electric tram line, from Box Hill Station to Doncaster, was built by a group of land developers using equipment left over from the Great Exhibition of 1888. It opened in 1889. At this time the line must have been right out in the sticks, since Box Hill itself was many kilometres beyond the existing tram system. It had one or two problems, such as arguments with land owners who fenced over the line and pulled down the power lines, and poor reliability, since its owners knew nothing about running a tram system, and it died by 1896.
The only hint now that there was ever a tram system in the Doncaster area is a road along the former route - Tram Road.The first serious electric trams in Melbourne began in 1906 with the North Melbourne Electric Tramway and Lighting Company (NMETL) who built a line from the edge of the cable system out towards Essendon, and the Victorian Railways who built a line from St. Kilda to Brighton. The NMETL, a British concern, was interested in selling electricity to customers along the route (and the same motive led to the establishment of the Ballarat, Bendigo, and Geelong electric tram systems). The company commenced operations with single bogie saloon cars (later classified U-class) and unpopular toastrack cars (later classified V-class).
This photo is of Melbourne's classic tram. When the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board was formed to take over the operations of the various Municipal tramway authorities, it found itself with a unified cable system, but an absolute plethora of electric tram types, which it gave letter codes from A through to V. The board decided that it was time to introduce a standard design. The new W-class design, first introduced in 1923, was an outstanding success, and has been the mainstay of the Melbourne tram system for the bulk of this century. It is a two-bogie, drop-centre design, which has had many variants over the years. The oldest W-class tram still in active service was built in 1938!
Originally, W-class was the term given to those trams built before the W1 was introduced, but now the name refers to all the variants as a group. Some of the trams are denoted SW (for sliding doors).
It's here shown "hurtling" down La Trobe St towards the West.