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Trams in Geelong

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Opening of the Geelong Tramway in 1912

The city of Geelong in Victoria, Australia, operated an extensive tramway system from 1912 until 1956, when the service was replaced by buses. Unlike Victoria's other major regional cities, Ballarat and Bendigo, which have kept some track and trams as tourist attractions, no trams or tracks remain in Geelong.


Geelong Tram No. 29, driver's cabin
Laying tracks in Malop Street, 1912
Entrance to the former Geelong Tram Depot in Brougham Street

There had been proposals to build a tram network in Geelong as early as 1888.[1]: 140 [2] Two companies, the Geelong Electric Light, Electric Motor, Electric Tram and Omnibus Company, and the Geelong and District Electric Tramway Company Limited, attended a meeting to get support for their plans in June 1888.[1]: 140  After lengthy discussions, and the need to get State Government approval, a plan was finally accepted by the Geelong Town Council in 1890. However the economic depression which occurred after the collapse of the 1880s Land Boom, led to the plans being cancelled in 1891.[1]: 144  Further agitation for a tramway started again in 1906, but it took until July 1910 before agreement was reached with the Melbourne Electric Supply Company for the construction and operation of a tram system.[1]: 152  The company would have the lease on the trams for a period of 30 years.[3]

Construction began in December 1910, and part of the line was first tested on 10 January 1912 in front of a large crowd.[1]: 152  The Geelong tram network was officially opened on 14 March 1912 with bands, huge crowds, and a procession of four highly decorated trams.[1]: 152  Official passengers on the trams included the Mayor of Geelong, the Mayor of Newtown and Chilwell, the Mayor of Geelong West, other councillors, directors of the company, and state politicians.[4] At each municipal boundary permission was asked for the trams to enter, and a ribbon was cut.

Line openings

Route Details Opening Date
Wharf City to north end of Moorabool St 14/3/1912
Station City to Geelong station via Malop St 14/3/1912
West City to Pakington/Church St via Ryrie St 14/3/1912
Newtown Pakington/Aberdeen St to Aphrasia St/Shannon Ave 14/3/1912
South Moorabool/Ryrie St to Moorabool/Fyans St ?/1913
South Moorabool/Fyans St to Barwon Bridge 12/1913
East Moorabool/Ryrie St to Garden/Ryrie St 12/10/1922
East Garden/Ryrie St to Humble St/Ormond Rd 25/1/1923
East Humble St/Ormond Rd to Boundary/Ormond Rd 1/3/1923
Chilwell Pakington/Aphrasia St to Pakington/Fyans St 30/9/1927
Belmont Barwon Bridge to Roslyn Rd/Colac Rd 16/12/1927
North Mercer/Malop St to Bell Pde/Melbourne Rd 6/7/1928
North Bell Parade to Victoria St/Melbourne Rd 14/6/1929
North Victoria St./Melbourne Rd to Separation St/Melbourne Rd 20/12/1929
Eastern Park Ryrie/Garden St to Humble St/Portarlington Rd 10/9/1930
Beach Depot to Corio Tce/Bellarine St 19-10-1940

[5]: 4 


Route Details Date
City Moorabool St. from Malop to Ryrie St 14/3/1912
Station Malop St to Geelong station 1914
Wharf Moorabool/Malop St to Moorabool St Wharf 1914
East/West Garden St/Ryrie St to Latrobe Tce/Ryrie St 1923
West Latrobe Tce/Ryrie St to Aberdeen/Pakington St 4/1929
North Mercer St to Victoria St/Melbourne Rd 1929/1930
Depot Long loop in Corio Tce 5/1929

[5]: 4 


Route Details Date
Newtown Retreat Rd/Pleasant St to Pakington St/Aphrasia St 1914

[5]: 4 

Change of ownership


In 1930 the tramways were taken over by the State Electricity Commission of Victoria (SEC). This was part of the SEC taking over the supply of electricity for Victoria, and it included the tramways in Geelong, Bendigo and Ballarat. A tramway extension to Eastern Beach opened in October 1940 along Bellarine Street to cater to beach goers.[6]

During World War II, passenger traffic increased as a result of petrol rationing and people employed in munitions factories around Geelong. In 1943 the trams carried 6,500,000 people.[1]: 168  Because of the shortage of men to work on the trams, the SEC decided to employ women to work as conductors.[7]



In 1949, H.H. Bell jnr., the son of the chairman of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board,[5]: 8  prepared a report on the Geelong tramways for the Geelong City Council.[8] He found that the trams were obsolete, and could not be run profitably in a city with only 52,000 people. The Council accepted his findings by nine votes to one.[8] The Australian Road Safety Council had identified trams as being "Australia's number one road menace",[9] alleging that they were 16 times more likely to be involved in accidents than motor vehicles.[9]

In 1953, a government report recommended replacing the trams with buses. The Liberal state government of Henry Bolte, elected in June 1955, decided in July that the trams should be replaced by privately-owned buses as soon as possible.[10] Bolte described the Geelong tramway as being outdated and hopelessly inadequate.[11] The SEC argued that the cost of tickets did not cover the cost of wages, and certainly did not meet the cost of maintenance or electricity.[1]: 173  It was estimated that the tram system was losing £95,000 each year, and needed to have £2,000,000 spent on it to upgrade the tracks and tramcars.[12] Tramway union members argued that the SEC had let the system run down, and that it was losing business by not extending the network into new suburban areas.[13] The Geelong Chamber of Commerce supported the closure of the system, with the president saying they would be glad to have the trams off the streets.[10] Protest meetings were held to try and save the trams, without success.[14]

The last tram ran from the city to Belmont and back on 25 March 1956.[15] Thousands of people were in the streets to celebrate the event.[1]: 181  The tram which ran the last service was Geelong No.4. It had made the first test run on the system on 12 January 1912.[1]: 181 

Over the years, there have been proposals to bring trams back into the city,[16][17] but the idea has never been looked at seriously.[18]


Geelong tram destination roll
Geelong tram destination roll

Immediately following World War II, the following services were through-routed:

After a timetable reorganisation in December 1952, the pattern was altered to:

  • North – Belmont
  • Newtown – Eastern Park
  • West – East
  • Chilwell – Station/Beach[5]: 10 

Tram fleet

Geelong No. 30, now Ballarat No. 13, at Lake Wendouree, Ballarat

The original fleet of Geelong trams was made up of seven single-truck cars, with bodies made by Duncan & Fraser of Adelaide using Brush trucks.[1]: 156  They were assembled in the depot in Corio Terrace (now called Brougham Street). There were also four non-powered trailer cars.

Over the years, a variety of different trams operated on the Geelong network. Their trucks (bogies) were made by Brush Traction (UK) and JG Brill Company (USA), and their bodies were constructed by Brill (USA), Duncan & Fraser (Adelaide), A Pengelly & Co (Adelaide), and Meadowbank Manufacturing Company (Sydney).[1]: 188–191  Trams were moved around the different tramway networks in Victoria. Geelong no.29 was originally built in 1915 for the Prahran and Malvern Tramways Trust, was moved to Geelong in 1928, and was then moved to Ballarat in 1936.[1]: 190  When the system closed in 1956, it was running about 30 trams, numbered from 1 to 40.

Surviving trams

Geelong Tram No. 29, (1915), at the Ballarat Tramway Museum
A Adelaide 302, and later Geelong No. 29, enters the terminus at the Joss House in North Bendigo

There are a number of surviving Geelong trams. They are in a number of museums, including the Tramway Museum Society of Victoria collection at Bylands,[19] the Ballarat Tramway Museum, the Bendigo Tramways, and the Sydney Tramway Museum. Several are also privately owned.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Scott, William F. (2008). Last Tram at Eleven: Tramways of Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong. Clunes, Victoria, Australia: Full Parallel Productions. ISBN 9780646489353.
  2. ^ "Tramways for Geelong". The Argus. 14 July 1888. Retrieved 5 July 2012.
  3. ^ "Geelong Electric Line". The Argus. 13 July 1910. Retrieved 5 July 2012.
  4. ^ "Geelong tramways inauguration ceremonies". The Argus. 15 March 1912. Retrieved 5 July 2012.
  5. ^ a b c d e McCarthy, K. (April 1981). "Twenty five years ago . . . the closure of the Geelong tramways" (PDF). Trolley Wire (193). Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  6. ^ "Geelong News – New tram service". The Argus. Melbourne: National Library of Australia. 21 October 1940. p. 2. Retrieved 13 July 2013.
  7. ^ "Geelong News". The Argus. Melbourne: National Library of Australia. 3 July 1942. p. 4. Retrieved 13 July 2013.
  8. ^ a b "TRAMS TO BE SCRAPPED IN GEELONG". The Argus. Melbourne: National Library of Australia. 23 February 1949. p. 1. Retrieved 5 July 2013.
  9. ^ a b ""Tram No. 1 Menace"". The Courier-Mail. Brisbane: National Library of Australia. 28 July 1948. p. 3. Retrieved 13 July 2013.
  10. ^ a b "No trams in Geelong soon". The Argus. Melbourne: National Library of Australia. 7 July 1955. p. 1. Retrieved 4 July 2013.
  11. ^ "We'll review Geelong trams—Bolte". The Argus. Melbourne: National Library of Australia. 28 April 1955. p. 6. Retrieved 4 July 2013.
  12. ^ "Geelong trams not earning wages". The Argus. Melbourne: National Library of Australia. 2 October 1953. p. 5. Retrieved 4 July 2013.
  13. ^ "Rural Trams "Loss"". The Argus. Melbourne: National Library of Australia. 7 October 1952. p. 5. Retrieved 4 July 2013.
  14. ^ "Geelong wants its trams". The Argus. Melbourne: National Library of Australia. 17 August 1955. p. 6. Retrieved 4 July 2013.
  15. ^ "Geelong 'outs' all trams". The Argus. Melbourne: National Library of Australia. 27 March 1956. p. 5. Retrieved 4 July 2013.
  16. ^ Fowles, Shane (17 May 2013). "Historic transport on the agenda 60 years after removal". Geelong Advertiser. Retrieved 16 March 2022.
  17. ^ Begg, Peter (16 May 2013). "Bring in trams, take out buses". Geelong Advertiser. Archived from the original on 14 June 2013. Retrieved 16 March 2022.
  18. ^ "Geelong Trams". intown.com.au. 2013. Retrieved 4 July 2013.
  19. ^ "TMSV: Our Collection – Other Trams". tramway.org.au. 2012. Retrieved 5 July 2012.
  20. ^ "VICSIG – Trams". vicsig.net. 2013. Retrieved 7 July 2013.
  21. ^ "VICSIG – Trams". vicsig.net. 2013. Retrieved 7 July 2013.

Further reading


O’Neil, David J., History of the Geelong Electric Tramways, 1912-1956, self-published, 1994. ISBN 0 646 16868 1