Melbourne & Metropolitan Tramways Board

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Melbourne & Metropolitan Tramways Board
Melbourne & Metropolitan Tramways Board Logo.jpg
Emblem of Melbourne & Metropolitan Tramways Board
statutory authority overview
Formed1 November 1919
Preceding statutory authority
Dissolved30 June 1983
Superseding agency
Parent statutory authorityDepartment of Transport

The Melbourne & Metropolitan Tramways Board (MMTB) was a government-owned authority that was responsible for the tram network in Melbourne, Australia between 1919 and 1983, when it was merged into the Metropolitan Transit Authority. It had been formed by the merger of a number of smaller tramway trusts and companies that operated throughout the city.


In 1869 Francis Boardman Clapp set up the Melbourne Omnibus Company (MOC) which ran horse-drawn trams in the inner suburbs of Melbourne. The company carried five million passengers.[1] By 1882 the company had over 1,600 horses and 178 omnibuses.[2] In 1885 the company carried 11.7 million passengers.[1]

In 1885 Clapp's MOC was granted a 30-year exclusive franchise for a cable tram network in Melbourne, with no competing lines being permitted. Clapp reorganised the company as the Melbourne Tramway & Omnibus Company (MTOC). A total of 15 lines were built, opening progressively between 1885 and 1919.

The first serious electric trams in Melbourne began in 1906, when the North Melbourne Electric Tramway & Lighting Company[3] commenced operating an electric tram line from the terminus of the cable tram to Essendon, the motivation being the selling of electricity to customers along the route.[4]

In the 1900s and 1910s, the government legislated for the formation of suburban electric tramway trusts to build and operate electric trams outside MTOC's exclusive licence area. These were:

When the MTOC franchise expired on 30 June 1916, the entire operation of the Melbourne cable tramway system passed to the State Government.[5] The MMTB was formed in November 1919 to take over the street tramways systems in Melbourne. It had the responsibility of operating all tramways within a ten-mile (sixteen kilometre) radius of the Melbourne GPO, the only exceptions being the lines operated by Victorian Railways.[6]

In January 1925, the M&MTB began operating buses.

The MMTB ceased on 30 June 1983 with its function taken over by the Metropolitan Transit Authority.[7]

Takeover of tramways network[edit]

The MMTB commenced operations on 1 November 1919, taking over the cable tram network with 44 route miles of track, 539 grips cars, 485 four wheel trailer cars, 58 double bogie trailers, 11 engine sheds and 15 carriage sheds. On 2 February 1920, it took over the six suburban electric tramway trusts, which were dissolved later that month.[6] The MMTB also succeeded the Cable Tramway Board and the Royal Park Horse Tramway.[8]

The MMTB took over the North Melbourne Electric Tramway & Lighting Company's tramways operation on 1 August 1922, and its lighting undertakings on 21 December 1922.[6]

Conversion of cable system[edit]

One of the MMTB's original purposes was to decide whether or whether not to keep the cable trams. The MMTB progressively converted cable tram lines to either electric trams or motor buses, commencing in 1924, with the last Melbourne cable tram ceasing operation on 26 October 1940.[9][10]

Most of the cable tram system was converted to electric tramways (such as the tram lines along Swanston Street and Elizabeth Street), but the routes to West Melbourne (along Spencer Street to the current route 57), Port Melbourne (the original line on-street, not the current light rail line), Collingwood (along Johnston Street from Lygon Street to Johnston Street Bridge) and Carlton North (a branch off the Johnston Street line along Rathdowne Streett to the end of it near the Inner Circle Line), along with the Lonsdale Street line in the city and other short sections were converted to motor buses. Trams would only ever return to the Bourke Street lines and La Trobe Street lines in the 1950s.


The MMTB was established under the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Act 1918 (No.2995). The seven members of the Board, including a chairman and a deputy chairman, were appointed by an order of the Governor-in-Council dated 22 July 1919. The inaugural chairman was Alexander Cameron who had been chairman of the Prahran & Malvern Tramways Trust.[11][12]

The MMTB was an independent statutory body which reported to the Minister of Public Works until 1952 and subsequently to the Minister of Transport.


Five people held the role of MMTB chairman from 1919 when the MMTB was established to 1983 when it was absorbed by the Metropolitan Transit Authority.[13]


The MMTB's main maintenance facility was Preston Workshops, with depots at Brunswick, Camberwell, Coburg, East Preston, Essendon, Footscray, Glenhuntly, Hawthorn, Kew, Malvern, North Fitzroy, South Melbourne and Thornbury.


  1. ^ a b "The Melbourne Tramway and Omnibus Company". Alexandra and Yea Standard, Gobur, Thornton and Acheron Express]. Vic: National Library of Australia. 14 December 1888. p. 5. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
  2. ^ "Francis Boardman Clapp – transport entrepreneur". Friends of Hawthorn Tram Depot. 2011. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
  3. ^ "The North Melbourne Electric Tramways and Lighting Company Limited". Essendon Gazette and Keilor, Bulla and Broadmeadows Reporter. Moonee Ponds: National Library of Australia. 6 August 1914. p. 5 Edition: Morning. Retrieved 8 August 2012.
  4. ^ " Melbourne's Tram History". Archived from the original on 9 November 2008. Retrieved 3 October 2015.
  5. ^ Hoadley, David (1995). "Melbourne's cable trams". Trams of Australia. Archived from the original on 21 November 2011. Retrieved 6 June 2009.
  6. ^ a b c "Victoria's Tramway Heritage" Trolley Wire issue 159 August 1975 pages 11–14
  7. ^ "Changes in Victoria" Trolley Wire issue 202 October 1983 page 19
  8. ^ "60 Years of the M&MTB" Trolley Wire issue 185 December 1979 pages 12–21
  9. ^ "Trams in Melbourne". Yarra Trams. Archived from the original on 27 September 2016. Retrieved 2 September 2015.
  10. ^ "60 Years of the M&MTB" Trolley Wire issue 186 February 1980 pages 14–21
  11. ^ a b Jones, Russell (2009). "Alex Cameron: father of Melbourne's electric trams". Friends of Hawthorn Tram Depot. Retrieved 4 November 2014.
  12. ^ a b "PERSONAL: Alexander Cameron obituary". The Advertiser. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 24 February 1940. p. 16. Retrieved 22 July 2013.
  13. ^ a b c Jones, Russell (2004). "Fares please! An economic history of the Melbourne & Metropolitan Tramways Board: Assessment of leadership". Friends of Hawthorn Tram Depot. Retrieved 4 November 2014.
  14. ^ Jones, Russell (2008). "Hector Hercules Bell – ringing in the new". Friends of Hawthorn Tram Depot. Retrieved 4 November 2014.
  15. ^ Turnbull, Graeme (2001). "The Sir Robert Risson era: an enduring legacy". Friends of Hawthorn Tram Depot. Retrieved 4 November 2014.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Various operators
Trams in Melbourne
Succeeded by