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Bondi Trams

Waverley's Tramways

Bondi Trams

The Trams (Brian's Nostalgia Corner)

Tram and Bus History




Waverley's Tramways
  An important aspect of Waverley's development as a municipality has been its participation in a chain of different modes of transport. Transport is essential to the movement of passengers in and out of the area. A vital link, and a "much loved" one in that chain, was the Tram.

The first sign of trams being introduced into Waverley was in 1880 when the government of the day passed an Extension Bill...

"To authorise the construction and maintenance of Tramways along certain streets and highways in the city and suburbs of Sydney and elsewhere..."


One of the Tramway extensions authorised by this bill ran from Darlinghurst to Charing Cross, Waverley. Over the next 30-40 years there was a rapid growth of tramways and, by 1917, Sydney had some 473km of tracks.

Some interesting facts relating to Waverley's Tramways:

€ During January and February 1882, the cars on the Waverley line carried approximately 4,700 passengers per day.

€ Fares in 1885
Woollahra to Bondi Junction - 3d
Woolahra to Bondi Aquarium - 4d

€ In 1886 the Waverley-Randwick extension line was completed; to help construct this line a number of unemployed people were used "at task work".

€ In October 1887, a first class car was introduced as an experiment in the Woollahra line (fare was 6d.) Due to lack of support it was discontinued in December 1887.

€ In 1890, the electrification of the tramway network began with the running of an electric tram between Waverley and Randwick powered via overhead electric wires.

€ In the 1890s a meeting was held in Stratten's Hall, Bondi Junction to agitate the government for an extension of the tramway to Bondi Beach. Eventually a line to the Beach was installed, and later extended to North Bondi (where the buses now terminate).

€ By the 1950s the trams were considered antiquated and were replaced by motorways for cars and buses. The last trams to North Bondi and Bronte ran in the early hours of Sunday 28th February, 1960. The last tram to run in Sydney was along Anzac Parade in February 1961.

Tram buffs may be interested to know that a video "Shooting Through", a collection of old Standard & Super 8 movies on our tram history in Sydney and other places about the history of Sydney trams is available from either the Loftus Tram Museum or Video Distributors International, a division of Direct Video Pty Limited, 14 Parramatta Rd, Homebush NSW 2140. Tel.(02) 9746 2211 Fax (02) 9746 1974. Thanks to Geoff Moore for this information.


Error on Trams to Bondi
  You have made a major error under historical snippets. This is: "The first tram service to Bondi Beach was completed in 1929". As stated previously on this web site, the first tram service to Bondi Beach (powered by steam) was run in 1894.

Another error is: "The electric tram service between Bondi Junction and the City of Sydney was established in 1902". The electric tram service from Bondi Beach and Waverley commenced in 1902, the same year that Waverley Electric Tram Depot was opened (now the Waverley Bus Depot).

The reference on page nine to up to 1000 cars being parked near the beach indicates the relative unimportance of cars for travel to Bondi in that era. The overwhelming bulk of beach visitors travelled by tram or on foot. Crowds in excess of 25,000 per summer day were frequently experienced at Bondi Beach prior to WW1.

For further information, please contact me via Email ( Douglas.Richards [at] Employment.gov.au) and I will endeavour to put you into contact with the major authority on Sydney Eastern Suburbs tramway history, Mr Robert Mills.

Mr Mills and I disagree on one point, however, he wants to see the train run through to Bondi, I actually want to have Bondi quarantined from the rest of Sydney, as the visitors don't pay rates, but the locals, like myself, do. Let everyone else walk from Bondi Junction and pay a toll as they proceed along Bondi Road.

Doug Richards


Bondi Trams
One hundred years ago the tram line was extended from the Bondi Aquarium terminus at Fletcher Street to a balloon loop at the southern end of Bondi Beach. Early morning tram journeys were particularly popular with bathers, as it was then forbidden to swim at Bondi Beach between the hours of 8am and 8pm.

Those were the days when steam tram motors hauled two passenger cars and supplies of coke and water were obtained at various points along the line. On wet days an additional car was attached to cater for extra passengers, as the rain turned the dirt roads to mud and made travel by horse-drawn vehicles difficult.

The steam trams used an "old shrieking whistle", made "nerve shattering noises" and caused "earth tremors" and "hurricanes of dust" in warm weather, much to the annoyance of pedestrians and shopkeepers. They rejoiced at the introduction of clean electric trams.

The new electric tram services to Bondi Beach began on October 19, 1902, even though there was only a three-inch clearance beneath the Bondi Road overbridge. This situation was eased the following year when the track was lowered under the bridge. 1905 saw the Bondi line chosen as a destination for the new tourist tram service and the first of a number of moonlight excursions.

The Bondi and North Bondi surf life saving clubs were established in 1906, by which time bathing restrictions had been removed, and the popularity of surf bathing led to improved summer Sunday services.

Destination signs with coloured symbols evolved from the days of steam trams. The Bondi Beach sign was white with a red centre, and "Bondi" printed in white on a black background.

The first of the popular O class trams entered service on the Bondi and Waverley lines in March 1908 and they were in general use by 1911. Nicknamed "toast-rack" trams, they successfully carried passengers until 1957 and are remembered with nostalgic affection.

The conductor on the running boards crying "fez pliz",
The segregated smoking sections, usually occupied by men.
The canvas blind which was pulled down to keep out the rain.
Strap-hangers jostling for seats as passengers departed.
The paper boys who jumped on and off calling "pa-yur".

The Bondi tram loop (on the beach) was demolished as part of Waverley Council's Bondi Improvement Scheme in the late 1920s and the trams then ran the full length of Campbell Parade to a new terminus at North Bondi, the site still used today by buses.

Another tram route reached Bondi Beach via Curlewis Street. This was an extension of the Bellevue Hill line which relieved congestion along Oxford Street. The official opening, which took place on Saturday, December 19,1914, was performed by the Minister for Public Works. A second ribbon was cut by Mrs Joseph Barracluff, wife of the Mayor of Waverley, when the tram reached the Waverley boundary. The Bondi via Bellevue Hill line received a priority allocation of the new corridor class R class trams in 1933.

The last Bondi tram to "shoot through" was during the early hours of Sunday, February 28,1960. The R class corridor tram was crammed with last tram riders and had a boisterous journey. It left Bondi at 3.30 am and arrived at the Dowling Street depot minus most light globes, some handrails, all upholstered seat cushions, the lifting jack, a headlight glass and all destination rolls.

Once the favourite mode of transport, only the memory remains of when you could "Shoot through like a Bondi tram".

Reproduced by kind permission of State Library of NSW, which gratefully acknowledges extracts from "The Eastern Lines of the Sydney Tramway System" by David R Keenan.

The Trams (Brian's Nostalgia Corner)
  Before 1940, most large cities in America and Europe had trams but only a few remain today such as the street cars in Philadelphia and Toronto, not to mention the cable cars in San Francisco. Melbourne is justly proud of its large tram fleet.

Sydney was once one of the world's great tram cities. The Opera House was previously a tram depot; so too of course was Waverley bus depot. What is now the Powerhouse Museum once supplied power for city trams.

The expression "Shoot through like a Bondi tram" is still common yet the Bondi trams stopped in 1960. It means to depart in haste and refers to express trams which ran through Paddington from 1887. Given that trams cannot pass each other, trams were scheduled to leave the city in pairs with an express tram travelling first. At Darlinghurst the front tram would "shoot through" to Bondi Junction where it would catch up with an earlier tram.

Today most bus routes in Sydney's inner suburbs still follow the original tram routes quite closely.

Remnants of the trams are everywhere if you know where to look. In the middle of Bondi Junction, the Bronte trams used to turn right. Notice how the corner of the former ANZ bank building is cut off to this day (crn Oxford Street and Grosvenor Streets) to allow for the tram tracks to take the sharp corner. Similarly the buildings are rounded at the corner of Bondi Road and Denham Street opposite the Royal Hotel. There is a photo of the original streetscape in the window of the Cosmopolitan coffee shop in the Bondi Junction mall. It was taken during the 1914-18 war.

Initially in 1884 the Bondi trams terminated at Denham street. Later the route was extended firstly down Fletcher Street to reach a newly-opened aquarium, then to Bondi Beach in 1895 when sea bathing became popular and eventually to the present bus terminus at North Bondi in 1929. The aquarium lost popularity and became an amusement park called Wonderland City complete with a roller coaster across Tamarama Beach. There is still a Wonderland Avenue going off Fletcher Street and a little downhill was an Alice Motel, but it's now a block of flats.

From Fletcher Street, the tram tracks descended gradually to the beach in their own cutting since Bondi Road was far too steep. Coming up from the beach, you can still see the bridge where the trams passed under Bondi Road. On one side the tram cutting has been filled in to become a park; on the other side home units have been built in the cutting.

Small, local shopping centres sprang up to service the tram patrons especially where trams terminated. These small centres still exist in many Sydney suburbs. Local examples include North Bondi, Vaucluse and Rose Bay. Where the population density was high, the shops became continuous ribbon development along the tram tracks. Oxford Street, Paddington and King Street, Newtown are the best Sydney examples. The large shopping complexes in Bondi Junction have all been built in the last 25 years, and these rely to a large extent on large underground parking lots.

The Bondi Beach service was converted from steam-hauled trams to electric trams in 1902 and the running time from Bridge Street in the city (two blocks up from Circular Quay) to Bondi Beach was 43 minutes. Timetables from the 30s and 40s show trams going from Circular Quay to Bondi Beach faster than the 40 minutes now taken by the 333 express bus, or the 47 minutes taken by the 380.

A second tram route known as the Bellevue Hill line was extended from Bondi Junction down Birriga Road (the 387 bus still follows much of this route) to terminate at Bondi Beach right next to the Hotel Bondi. This tram route served the beach from 1914 to 1954. The 389 bus still follows most of the tram route from the City to Bondi Junction, passing through Darlinghurst, Paddington and Woollahra.

Tram and Bus History
In the early 1870s the New South Wales Parliament introduced the Tramway Bill. Initially, trams were essentially small steam locomotives hauling trailer cars. By 1902 there was a sub-station at Bondi Junction, and the electric tram service between Bondi Junction and the City was established in 1905.

The first tram service to Bondi Beach was completed in 1894 and was extended to North Bondi in 1929. The last Bondi tram ran early Sunday morning on February 28, 1960.

The increased popularity of Bondi Beach in the 1920s meant that on sunny summer days up to 1000 cars would be parked near the beach. The Municipal Council introduced parking fees in 1926 and within the same year it introduced timed parking (3 hour periods).

As for now, well buses run every few minutes, and if you drive down, you might spend a long time looking for a parking spot. We say: "Bring back the Bondi Trams !!!"




Last Updated - 4th August, 2012.
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