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Victoria’s working museum

A view of the Haddon site looking towards the running shed on 15 April 2017. The three operable cars are (left to right) W2 407, L 103 and W4 670, whilst just visible behind the trestle on the left is the shell of W5 car 792 undergoing restoration. Image credit: Mike Russell, 15 April 2017.

If the Melbourne Tramway Museum contains representatives covering the entire tramway period in Melbourne; that at Haddon is complementary by demonstrating tramcars operationally.

The Melbourne Tramcar Preservation Association (MTPA) is based 12km (seven miles) from Ballarat. Its origins date from 1974, when a group of individuals formed the Haddon Tramway Workshops (HTW). Purchase of the Haddon site allowed erection of a building for tram restoration work, the first project being Ballarat 30. Following a reorganisation of HTW this tram moved to the USA, where it has been restored.

The HTW was incorporated as the MTPA in 1984, and development has continued as its restoration programme has proceeded and an operating line has been created. Now that regular operation of heritage tramcars in Melbourne has ceased, Haddon has become the operating museum for Melbourne trams.

Most comprehensive collection

Haddon specialises in the preservation of Melbourne tramcars with no exhibit from beyond the metropolitan area. By a judicious collection policy, the MTPA has assembled examples of almost the entire range of W-Class drop-centre bogie cars, illustrating design and livery changes over the years. W-Class cars have found their way to many tramway museums and heritage lines, not just in Australia; however, all MTPA cars are maintained in full operational condition and the collection is the most comprehensive of these iconic cars on any single museum site.

The oldest Melbourne & Metropolitan Tramways Board (MMTB) car is class L 103, one of six ordered in 1919 by the Prahran & Malvern Tramways Trust. These drop-centre bogie cars paved the way for the MMTB’s W-Class cars, production of which continued in various forms until 1956. Bodywork on the L cars was built by James Moore & Sons and featured four open entrance/exits within the centre section. Car 103 has been restored to the 1930s condition to which it was rebuilt by the MMTB, with the three-doorway configuration adopted for the W-Class cars. It rides on Brill 77E equal-wheel bogies and is now fitted with Metrovick MV101A motors and General Electric K35 controllers.

There are two W2 cars at Haddon, of which 357 is the older. This was built by the MMTB as a W-Class car, the last constructed at its Holden Street tramway works before the 1926 move to the new Preston workshops. As built it was of W layout but, along with others of this type, was rebuilt to the more satisfactory W2 design during the 1930s. The car remained in MMTB service until 1968 and was purchased for preservation in 1977. It rides on examples of the MMTB’s own type 1B bogies and again has Metrovick MV101A motors and General Electric K35 controllers. It is currently maintained in operational W2 condition, but the intention is to return it to original W layout with a repaint into initial MMTB chocolate and cream livery.

The second W2 is 407, also originating in 1926 as a Preston works-built W and later rebuilt to W2 form. It was damaged in a 1972 collision and rebuilt using parts from withdrawn sister car 259. On acquisition 407 came without bogies, which were sourced from car 499. These are of the MMTB 1A type, with British Thomson-Houston 265D traction motors and GE K35 controllers.

Examples of the small W3 and W4 class cars built at Preston are included in the fleet.
W3 663 was one of 16 built in 1933, the first of the W type to feature steel frames and exterior panels and mounted on the bigger 33in-diameter (838mm) wheels of the MMTB’s No. 9 bogies to improve riding quality. Later in life many were found to suffer from a fault, resulting in their premature withdrawal. Car 663 was one of the few not to suffer the defect, remaining available for service, and was acquired for preservation in 1976. Restoration work has included repainting into the first MMTB green and cream livery, featuring a lighter shade of green than that adopted later.

The small W4 class comprised five cars, all built at Preston in 1933. Vehicle 670 was the first tramcar fully restored by the MTPA and is shown in its 1950s condition. These vehicles did not have a long life in MMTB service, being withdrawn in 1968 after discovery of the same design defects as on the W3 cars. They were unpopular with staff because of alleged braking inconsistency, whilst the tumblehome to the panels surrounding the drop-centre entrances made it difficult to see the footboard in the mirrors.

Class W5 car 792 has endured a peripatetic existence since withdrawal in 1990. It was unusual amongst W5 vehicles in having neither been reduced from three to two-entrance drop-centre layout, nor converted to class SW5 by fitment of sliding doors, and as such was selected for preservation by the Sydney Tramway Museum. Space limitations restricted the restoration programme and from 2006-10 it was loaned to the Glenreagh Mountain Railway. In 2013 the car was acquired by MTPA and transported to Haddon where, during the author’s visit in April 2017, it was receiving the association’s usual meticulous restoration attention.

Car 849 is an SW5, built in 1940 to a revised design with two sliding doors to the centre section after the success of prototype car 850. It remained in Melbourne service until 1998 and was ultimately presented to the MTPS by Victrack in 2008. It now appears in the latter-day green and yellow ‘Met’ livery applied to former MMTB tramcars in the 1990s.

Outstanding ‘rescue car’

The star of the Haddon show is Victorian Railways (VR) drop-centre bogie car 41, an outstanding restoration of a ‘rescue car’. It was one of 20 built at the VR Newport workshops in 1923, with 16 (including car 41) destined for the broad-gauge St Kilda – Brighton Beach line, where it remained until 1958. Some 19 years later, its body was discovered in the garden of a house in Brighton, and it was acquired for eventual restoration. Two sister cars yielded valuable fittings and equipment.

Three broad-gauge Brill 77E bogies were found in a scrapyard but transferred to the Tramway Museum Society in Christchurch, New Zealand, for use under Brill car 178. In turn, standard-gauge Brill 77E trucks and imported GE K35 controllers were transferred from MMTB L car 105, acquired to provide parts for restoration of 103.

From 2001 the bodywork on VR 41 was renovated at the Bendigo workshops, whilst mechanical components were overhauled at Haddon, and in 2004 the car moved under its own power for the first time in almost 46 years. Car 41 is the first former VR tramcar to be returned to operating condition and its restoration has been recognised by awards.

The superb restoration work by the Haddon team cannot be over-estimated. The acquisition of a huge quantity of spare parts and equipment from the MMTB and other sources has enabled a high standard of authenticity to be attained.

Haddon tramway museum is located off Sago Hill Road, not normally accessible by public transport. Further, it is not regularly open to the public, being operated by a small group of volunteers. Two open days are held each year, the next being 16 September 2018. In addition to the depot tracks and fan, a running-line of around 0.5km has been created around most of the site perimeter, permitting demonstrations. Admission is AUD10 (EUR6.40) for adults or AUD5
for children. Pre-arranged group openings are subject to staff availability.

Combining a visit with the nearby operating tramway at Ballarat has much to commend it and the chance to visit Haddons exhibits should not be missed.

Article originally featured in April 2018 TAUT (964).