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Melbourne’s iconic fleet comes full circle

Newly refurbished Tram No.7. Image credit: Bendigo Tramways.

Recently, the Bendigo Tramways launched a 102-year-old tram back into service in December 2017 thanks to a crowdfunding campaign that helped raise over $35,000 towards its restoration.

The campaign which was launched at the end of 2016 with a hugely popular video featuring tramways staff and volunteers, resulted in people and businesses quickly jumping on board to play their part in bringing Tram No. 7 back to life.

“We were overwhelmed by the response to the crowdfunding campaign for Tram No. 7,” said Luke Jenkins, Bendigo Tramways Manager.

The campaign included the opportunity to donate for perks such as advertising boards on the tram, having your name on a seat, driver’s cabin, controller or etched on a window and even getting a six pack of beer with specially designed labels.

“Both businesses and individuals responded to our call for support and even after the campaign came to an end, we continued to receive significant donations, so we are delighted to return this tram to our service fleet for them to see what they have made possible,” explained Luke.

The campaign has also uncovered some great stories from Bendigo families whose relatives were involved with the trams during their public transport years.

“A number of people have used the opportunity to remember their parents and grandparents who used to be employed at the tramways, by dedicating a part of the tram to them,” said Luke.

One plaque reads: “Dedicated in memory of Hugh McKenzie Harvey 1906-1996. ‘Hughie’ (Badge No. 2) was a tram driver in Bendigo for 40 years! He concluded his career by driving the last public transport service from Golden Square in 1972. A very proud trammie!”

Tram No. 7 is a J-Class Tram that was originally built in Sydney, Australia by the Meadowbank Manufacturing Company in 1915 for the Prahran and Malvern Tramways Trust in Melbourne. After being sold to the Electric Supply Company of Victoria in the 1930s, it operated in Ballarat until it was transferred to Bendigo in 1960.

The tram was officially launched by the Mayor, Cr Margaret O’Rourke in front of a large crowd of those who contributed towards the crowdfunding campaign at the Bendigo Tramways Depot and Workshop.

The bigger picture at Bendigo

Bendigo Tramways in Victoria, Australia, has been carrying out the restoration and refurbishment of Melbourne’s iconic City Circle fleet for a few years now, thanks to significant funding for the project from the Victorian Government.

To date, Bendigo has delivered six refurbished City Circle trams back to Melbourne to rejoin the City Circle route which services 3.3 million passengers each year.

The trams are restored as close to their original appearance as possible, while improving safety levels, passenger comfort, reliability and maintainability.

The safety conditions trams operate in today are quite different to the 1940s and 1950s when the W-Class was introduced on the network.

The process of these restorations, sees these vehicles taking on a new class – W8 – given the unique modifications that are being made to accommodate modern safety requirements while maintaining their heritage look and feel with a striking paint job reinstating their original green and gold livery.

Each restoration is a significant and complex undertaking involving extensive stripping down and rebuilding of each vehicle, including: new impact resistant drivers’ cabs; improved acceleration and breaking; new electronics and wiring to allow for GPS surveillance and improved electrical performance; a complete rebuild of the body to include better safety features and a new paint job.

“The condition of each tram is different when it arrives at our workshop for restoration, which means that we don’t know what is going to be involved in each restoration until we have stripped and tested the structure,” says Luke Jenkins, Bendigo Tramways Workshop Manager.

“Over the next three years we expect a further six City Circle trams to undergo this extensive restoration process at our workshop, in addition to other smaller tram or train carriage restoration projects, which often involve the repurposing of old trams into pop-up bars or cafés, something which is showing a sharp increase in popularity at present,” concludes Luke.