Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Balmain is not a suburb known for its wide and car friendly roads and this is perhaps because the tram ruled the streets between 1882 and 1958. A long tram line ran the route of Darling Street from the wharf in Balmain East to Glebe via Victoria Road. Originally the trams were steam powered and used a unique “counter-weight” system on the steep incline in Balmain East to control the speed. A risky game was played by the young boys of Balmain, who would jump on to the cup used to buffer the tram on the hill and ride it as it travelled towards the wharf.

Much of Darling Street at that time was hilly and unsuitable for tram travel. Parts of the original street height were excavated by a few feet to allow a smoother run for the trams to pass through.

Balmain today: The drop from the original street height and stairs leading to an old tram stop.

In 1902, the old steam trams were replaced by electric models and extensive overhead cabling was installed down Darling Street to power them. These trams lasted for over fifty years as the main mode of transport from Balmain into the city until buses later replaced them in 1958. The old tram tracks were tarred over and the electric cabling removed. All that now remains of the old trams is the rusting tracks in the Rozelle depot yard.

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