April 13 1969 is regarded as one of Brisbane's blackest days, for on
the last few moments of that Sunday evening, electric
traction ceased to propel public transport in Queensland for another 10
years (Electric Trains).
On 15 June 1980, just after midday, tramway
recommenced in Brisbane when the Lord Mayor, Alderman Frank Sleeman,
drove 47 through a ribbon, in the presence of the Deputy Premier of
Queensland, Dr Llew Edwards M.L.A., at the Brisbane Tramway Museum at
Ferny Grove. The road to opening has been long and hard.
first attempt at tramcar preservation was made when it was suggested
that a Bogie Brill, then being replaced be kept for historical
purposes, depot space was at a premium, and the request was refused. As
a result, Bogie Brills are the only large class of Brisbane tram not
preserved in a museum.
Following the AETA convention at Easter 1959 when
65 made its first
appearance for many years, together with Baby Centre Isle 99, it was
decided by the Transport Department that these cars should be restored
and used together with a replica horse tram and other cars in the
Cavalcade of Transport, which was part of the Queensland Centenary
Celebrations on 10 December 1959. Subsequently it was decided to keep
these cars as historic vehicles.
Dreadnoughts became surplus in 1961 and did not appear on the
streets until after the disastrous Paddington Depot fire of September
1962. By Christmas, following the first major closures of the system,
as a direct result of the fire they again went into mothballs prior to
scrapping. It was following a trip in 136 on 4 July 1964 that Brisbane
fans first knew that the Brisbane City Council (BCC) intended to
preserve at least one of each type of tram. The list then stood at 41,
47, 65, 99 and 136
The Wilbur Smith Traffic Plan of 1965 announced
that trams should be
scrapped. Scrapping the handbrake cars commenced and several FMs with
major accident damage were stored. It was only with quick action by
Robert Thomson and Neil Elfick that 231, the first Drop Centre, did not
make its final journey in June 1967 and joined fellow DC 386 on the
At least four groups of people approached the BCC Transport
Department concerning the establishment of an operating Tramway Museum
in Brisbane, W D Daniells represented one group with mainly ARHS
members, G R Ford represented a group of individuals, J A S Hoyle the
AETA and S Tyrrell yet another private group. As S Tryrell was the most
advanced with his proposal it was suggested that all join with him.
As a result, notices were posted announcing that
a public meeting would
be held on July 1968 to discuss the establishment of an operating
Tramway Museum in Brisbane. The obvious name had already been chosen.
Sixty persons attended the meeting, including several BCC Aldermen and
an interim council was elected. Bill Daniells become President and a
meeting was called on 2 August to elect the permanent office bearers
for the ensuring twelve months. It was finally resolved that the Lord
Mayor, Alderman Clem Jones, be officially informed of the existence of
Even at this early stage the Society was organising tram
the first in 136, then in 553 on 7 August on the last day of the
Grange/Ashgrove line with the last use of Gregory Terrace on 15
And so it was that the Brisbane Tramway Museum Society (BTMS) now
Society is fortunate in having perhaps the most complete archival
collection of any transport museum, thanks due to the activities of
before the Society was formed approaches had been made to the BCC for
various tramcars and equipment needed to operate them. On 24 August
1968 the Acting Town Clerk, Mr I C Hawes, informed the Society that
providing the formation was satisfactory to the BCC in all respects,
the BCC was prepared to donate to the Society tramcars of historic
significance and all the spares to run them. It was not realised how this
magnanimous gift would cause problems for the infant Society.
interim council had submitted a proposal on 11 July. It was felt that
it would be fortunate if only a few of the tramcars on the list were
gained. It was not really expected that all, plus all the spare parts
and equipment and more would be given. The response was such, then, and
over the next few years that, in hindsight, it was possible that the
BCC would have given the entire system to the BTMS had it been asked
for. As it was what was taken delivery of immediately upon closure was
to provide enough headaches. Delivery was taken of the first vehicle,
car 47, on 24 February 1969, when the Chairman of the Transport
Committee, Alderman Roy Harvey, handed it over, with the other cars, to
the Society, in trust, to preserve and operate for the citizens of
26 March the decision had been made for 554 to be the official last
tram and around 11:50pm on Sunday 13 April 1969, 554 was handed over to
the BTMS President Mr Bill Daniells by the Lord Mayor of Brisbane,
Alderman Clem Jones, so ending 84 years of tramway operation in
Apart from the initial request which resulted in
the BTMS obtaining the trams, rails, and all the remaining spare parts,
plus patterns and other associated material, other vehicles and
equipment was also given to the Society. Most track, buildings, etc,
were dismantled and moved by Society members.
Many suggestions were made for the Museum site, ranging from
Caboolture to Beenleigh, with the site of a former tile factory at
Ferny Grove chosen. On 22 November 1968 the proposal to have Lanita
Street, Ferny Grove (old Dayboro Railway right of way ideal for tramway
operation) closed was gazetted. Unfortunately objections were received
and the closure notice was refused. This plus the sale of the land for
redevelopment made it necessary to find a new home for the Museum.
several sites were looked at and rejected, the present site was
offered, a disused sanitation depot, on 27 March 1972. Work immediately
began on the transfer of the exhibits and equipment to the new site
before the ink had dried on the letter. The land, ten acres, is leased
from the BCC for a nominal amount on a twenty-year renewable lease.
At last the Museum had a permanent home. The only unfortunate
incident that occurred at the old site, apart from much broken glass,
was the theft of over $1000 worth of brass fittings from some of the
cars. The biggest problems, however, was the removal of hundred of tons
of equipment that had been accumulated in such a short time. The
enthusiasm of members in those days was exceptional and the society saw
much progress achieved on the old site. To celebrate the New Year in
1969/70, 231 was operated on a short length of track, using the motor
from trolleybus 1 as a generator powered by a V8 engine. Thus less than
nine months after the closure a tram operated in Brisbane again. It was
considered sure that the Museum would be open to the public within
twelve months. This was not to eventuate however, and tram operations
were discontinued because members wished to play trams and not work.
The next movement under power was during the move to the new site when
bus 34 was driven out of the scrub, using wandering leads, prior to
being towed away.
new site had two buildings, a large water tank and a run down cabin on
it. The equipment was put in one shed and the older cars in the other.
Unfortunately the rest of the vehicles and equipment had to be stored
in the open. It was essential that further buildings be erected and
existing ones improved. As a result a complete bay of Ipswich Road
Depot was obtained. Ipswich Road Depot was closed on 5 January 1974 and
by the end of May all the BTMS's section had been removed and
transported to Ferny Grove. In November 1973 work commenced on the
substation. The building was completed by the end of February 1974.
Work commenced in June 1974 on the erection of Depot 1 and was
completed, except for the roof which was put on by members, by the end
of the month. Associated track work was proceeding and on 2 November
1974 car 231 become the first passenger carrying car to enter the
building. Again the problem of people wanting to play trams arose, so
it was decided that no further tramcar operation would take place until
the Museum was ready to open. Work has continued at a fairly steady
pace since then and Depot 1 reached the lock up stage in August 1978.
Construction of Depot 2 started in May 1976. For the first time since
acquisition all exhibits were under cover by early 1979. On 1 February
1980 the substation was officially commissioned and to celebrate, car
554 was driven into the depot under its own power. It was during this time
the decision was made to lay as much track as possible in
mass concrete, since it was cheaper than using sleepers. The depot fan
had been so laid in mid 1979 and its success prompted the decision
The Society started with no money and has opened
with no money, but
during the intervening years has spent over $83,000 in getting the
Museum open. Assets are worth over $50,000 (1980 value) excluding the
value of materials donated. Obtaining this has not been easy. All
except for a State Government Grant of $19,242 has come from member's
pockets and from functions. This averages out to each member having
donated approximately $700 over eleven years. Quite a good effort.
The first monies came from tram trips, the first in 136 in July 1968
and the last in 41 on 20 October 1974. (Yes 1974.) The last occasion
that trams operated in Brisbane streets was this last operation of the
horse car (41) along the Belmont reservation (still existing today).
The horse car had also operated at Chermside in August 1970 to
commemorate the 85th anniversary of the commencement of horse trams in
Brisbane. Boat, bus and train trips have also been operated.
Now the museum is open there are still problems,
for as well as meeting
operating costs, the revenue must also be sufficient to pay for the
finishing of the
complex. The extensions are not going to be cheap and everybody's help
will be needed. Donations of goods or money to the value of $2 or more
are tax deductible.
His Excellency Sir James Ramsey, CMG, CBE, DSC, Governor of Queensland,
officially opened the Brisbane Tramway Museum Society at Ferny Grove on
Sunday 10 August 1980 on the 95th Anniversary of the official trial of
the first horse tramway in Brisbane, from North Quay to the Exhibition,
witnessed by approximately 150 official guests and 550 other visitors.
The Official Party boarded car 47 at the bottom gate and departed for
the depot at 9.57am, followed by car 65 carrying the Brisbane Municipal
A special trip was operated with 47 at 3.30pm, being the time of the
first horse car trip. A fare of $1 was charged on this 95th Anniversary
journey with special overprinted tickets issued.
The Brisbane Tramway Museum
ACN 009 793 604