I had originally intended to take the shots for this photo series on Monday to co-incide with the 80th anniversary of the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge but several things got in the way (namely the chance to get other photos), so today I've been running around like the proverbial chicken with its head cut off.
The Sydney Harbour Bridge on the day of its opening had two railway tracks, six motor traffic lanes, two tram tracks and two footpaths. It is the tram network that I wish to take particular note of.
The absolute peak patronage of Sydney's Tram network was in 1945 with some 405 million journeys taken and was the largest network in the world in terms of miles of track.
Under the Premiership of Joseph Cahill (whose utter arrogance caused the "F7" to be named after him) the decision was taken to rip up and destroy what should have been one of the city's great legacies.
The replacement for the two tram lanes are two more lanes of motor traffic. One which is a Bus Lane and the other which exclusively serves "Joe's Ugly Road" as described in the Sydney Morning Herald on opening day, 24th March 1958.
Malcolm Turnbull, whose electorate of Wentworth should by rights still be served by what should still be an icon of Sydney, had this to say in the House of Representatives on Monday night:
Last year was 50 years from the day that the trams that ran out along Anzac Parade to the eastern suburbs—out to La Perouse, out past the showground, out past the cricket ground and the racecourse, and of course out where the University of New South Wales is now—were closed by a Labor government. For all the time that our new foreign minister was Premier of New South Wales, he did nothing to build new light rail in Sydney and, in particular, most mystifyingly, did nothing to reinstate the light rail out along Anzac Parade, where there is a reservation still in place—a light rail that would have terminated in his own electorate. He could have done something for sustainability, something for public transport and something for his own constituents, but he chose to neglect all of those people and objectives.
- Malcolm Turnbull, 19th Mar 2012
Admittedly Mr Turnbull is trying to score some political points here (that is after all how the game of politics is played) but his rebuke of the former Premier Bob Carr, I think is equally valid for all Premiers of every political colour since Cahill onwards.
In my opinion, Premiers Cahill, Heffron, Renshaw, Askin, Lewis, Willis, Wran, Unsworth, Greiner, Fahey, Carr, Iemma and Keneally were all asleep at the wheel and neglected "the decent and respectable people of New South Wales" as named by Francis de Groot at the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
The two Premiers who didn't make this list were Nathan Rees who had plans to build rail infrastructure and got to work to trying to remove corruption from his own party but was sacked because of it; and the current Premier Barry O'Farrell who still very much has the potential to make the list, and considering his stance before the state election, it's highly likely that he will make the list in the future and become another Premier who has failed NSW.
"She (the then Premier, Kristina Keneally) needs to scrap the metro that no one wants. It's simply incredible, even within her first day, the former planning minister doesn't seem to have a view as to whether this metro is to proceed or not. It raises real concerns about who's making the decisions."- Barry O'Farrell, 4th Dec 2009 (from ABC Local Radio - 702 ABC Sydney).
So then, given that this is supposed to be a photo series, I thought I'd investigate and take photos of the former glory that was Sydney's Tram Network:
This is not a photograph of Spit Junction. This is a photograph of the intersection which everyone mistakenly calls Spit Junction. The evidence that this particular intersection has another name is actually high above and almost completely forgotten:
The intersection of Military Road and Spit Road in Mosman, should properly be called Trafalgar Square. There are photographs which suggest that the building which houses Hype DC on the corner wasn't originally there and that the whole intersection was more of a horseshoe shape, like Chifley Square in the city.
Where then is Spit Junction?
It's actually here:
Spit Junction used to be named for the junction and partial terminus of the Tram lines. Spit Junction is even incorrectly named "Mosman Square" in modern literature. There is however a small clue to it's former use, via a brass plaque affixed to a wall:
From here the Trams went down Military Road and finally through a deep cutting, and I happened to find this cutting whilst looking for the geocache:
There was also a handy little information sign which confirmed that this cutting was by no means natural at all:
What I didn't find previously was this series of tension cables, from which the overhead electric power lines for the trams were suspended:
At Balmoral Beach there is a curiously over-designed bus shelter, which also happens to have a copy of the same plaque which was back at Spit Junction. This was the terminus of the line:
Travelling back on the bus to the city and we find this series of shelters at Neutral Bay:
There is also one rather glaringly obvious evidence of Sydney's trams which thousands of commuters see every day but don't really think about. Wynyard Station has platforms 3 and 4 on the upper decks and 5 and 6 below. Platforms 1 and 2 are conspicuous by their abscence.
On the other side of the billboards and and wall at Platform 3, Platforms 1 and 2 used to stand. The tracks which would have headed north at this point, ran across the Sydney Harbour Bridge in, you guessed it, lane 7 and 8.
The tunnels which would have connected the Bridge to Wynyard Station are also more or less intact. Those little alcoves in the wall are where maintenance staff would have sheltered when Trams were passing; exactly the same way that they do when Trains pass in the other tunnels. The next two photos give a truer representation as to how they would have looked before 1961:
That second photo in particular very much showcases the architecture of the tunnels. If you compare that with the end sections of Wynyard Station now and ignore the black roof, the likeness comes very much into view:
I only had one day to take these photographs and if I had taken the whole day instead of being at work, then I could have taken photographs right through the Eastern Suburbs and the Inner West of similar sorts of structures.
The Federal Transport Minister, Anthony Albanese, was looking into making use of old tram infrastrucure and it seems pretty obvious to me that the best solution for transport would be to put all the trams back. It would mean closing "Joe's Ugly Road" but I don't that matters. One tram takes as many as 80 cars off of the road, and the need for the Cahill Expressway to even exist anymore would be totally negated because that connection already exists under the Harbour.
I think that the people of NSW have been taken for a ride for 50 years and that it's time to do something for sustainability, something for public transport and something for "the decent and respectable people of New South Wales".