WEEKEND TREAT: This restored Purrey Steam Tram took a nostalgic trip down Denison Street at the weekend.
WEEKEND TREAT: This restored Purrey Steam Tram took a nostalgic trip down Denison Street at the weekend.

All aboard the ghost of trams past

IN 1908 Rockhampton Council ordered four steam tramcars made by Monsieur Valentin Purrey, of Bordeaux, France, for a new city tramway, making Rockhampton the only provincial city in Queensland to have a street tramway.

June 5, 1909, saw the first passengers carried as 200 guests in two trams with trailers steamed up to the Botanic Gardens following the official opening in William Street.

The return trip took an astounding eight minutes.

Locals enjoyed special services with a lunchtime express to get home and back, trams waiting outside cinemas until shows had finished and an 'extra late prowler' to take revellers home.

Trams ran around a beltline of William, East, Archer and Canning streets with routes to the cemetery along Upper Dawson Road, to the gardens up Ward Street, to the Showgrounds via Murray Street with a later extension along Wandal Road.

The tramcars were a four-wheel passenger toast rack with an under-floor steam engine and the boiler and the driver on a front platform.

Toast rack trailers were attached to carry passengers.

A number of accidents occurred during the 30 years of tram operation.

However, considering the total number of passengers carried and distance travelled, the steam trams were a safe and reliable mode of transport.

The steam-tram service served Rockhampton well for 30 years, but in 1939, as private transport and public buses became more available, the Purrey trams were removed from service and scrapped soon afterwards.

In 1976 the 18-35-year-olds of the National Trust in Rockhampton made a decision to restore a tram and started searching for surviving components.

Supported by donations and by hundreds of hours of work by dedicated volunteers, the new tram steamed up on June 5, 1988.

This week Queensland is celebrating its 150th year of separation.

Don't miss our features each day this week focusing on different parts of Rockhampton's history.

Meanwhile, The Morning Bulletin and the Bank of Queensland are giving readers the chance to win a limited edition Q150 Commemorative Coin to help celebrate the anniversary.

All readers have to do is collect enough tokens, today's appears on Page 19, and drop off their entries at a Bank of Queensland branch.

For full details go to www.boq.com.au/Q150.

Do you remember the trams in Rockhampton? Leave us a comment below!



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