NotesSteam tram motor No. 1A was the first of four ordered from America in 1879 to pull double-decker tramcars on the route from Redfern railway station to the International Exhibition in the Botanic Gardens. The steam tram was designed and manufactured by Burnham, Parry and Williams & Co. at the Baldwin Locomotive Works, Philadelphia, U.S.A. The motors arrived in Sydney on the steam ship 'Dryad' on 3 September 1879.
In case the motors and trailers were not ready in time for the Exhibition's opening, the Railway Commissioners placed a local order for two double decker trailers with Hudson Brothers of Redfern. This was just as well, since the introduction of the imported motors and trailers was delayed due to the late arrival of the ship from America, the lack of covered facilities for their erection in Sydney and the time needed to trial them. The Sydney International Exhibition opened on the 15 September 1879 without the promised steams trams, but with four horses each pulling locally built cars instead. The first trial of the steam motors was on 23 September 1879. Six days later one steam tram was put into service and on 29 September all four motors were in operation. By the month's end, the steam motors had taken over completely, running up to 36 trips, carrying an average of 4182 passengers each day for 3 pence cash fare, or 2 pence for prepaid tickets bought from the ticket office. The journey of 2.4 km took 12 minutes and stopped at King, Market, Park, Bathurst, Goulburn and George Streets. By the end of the year, 443,341 passengers had been pulled by the four tram motors.
The steam tramway was planned to operate for the six-month duration of the exhibition. However, it proved so popular, and was quickly recognised to be a cheap and popular alternative to the City and Eastern suburbs railway, and an extension to the original line was opened on 14 September 1880 to Randwick.
During the early days of steam tram operation. the other members of the vehicular driving public were often difficult and irresponsible and caused considerable obstruction to the tramlines. It was not uncommon for a horse and cart to be left unattended standing across the tracks, whereupon the driver had to stop the tram, get out and lead the offending horse and cart off the line. The police at this stage hesitated to interfere when this occurred. There were criticisms that the trams terrified horses and regularly killed pedestrians. They showered passengers and pedestrians with cinders and were dirty both inside and out. However, there was no denying that the trams could move crowds of people quickly and efficiently.
Initially the steam tram motors were manned by both a driver and a fireman. When using good grade coke, the fire required little attention, so the fireman was mainly occupied as a "lookout" on the front platform ready to sound the bell and drop the steel plough-type life guard should a pedestrian be in danger of being run over.
The peak period of steam working was reached in Sydney during 1894, when the length of the tramway had increased to 40 miles (64.7 km). At this time there were over 100 steam tram motors in service. Intense competition from horse buses saw trams racing buses along various routes. Gradually the trams forced the buses to the outer limits of the city in a pattern that steam would soon follow. By 1905-6 the city steam tram routes were taken over by quiet, clean and fast electric trams, and steam trams were gradually relegated to outer suburbs until the last Government steam motor was withdrawn from service in 1937.
The steam tram system was operated by the NSW government railways. The introduction of tramways to Sydney's streets was a protracted affair. Steam trams came into existence long after the steam locomotive had been proved suitable for railway working. The exigencies of street working, however, required the elimination of smoke, dust, sparks, fumes and noise, in addition to the difficulties of overcoming the natural conservatism of local authorities for anything to do with progress. These problems gave cause for much thought on the part of designers, resulting in the evolution of special types of small steam locomotives suitable for working along busy streets.
Tramways were a very unpopular form of transport in Sydney after the disastrous Pitt Street private horse tramway, introduced in 1861. This system was disliked by carriage and cart drivers as they jolted violently when passing over the raised tramway rails. Consequently, the carriage trade avoided Pitt Street, much to the consternation of shop owners. Mainly through public protest, the tramway was closed in 1866, leaving only the privately owned horse omnibuses available to take passengers between Redfern Station and the City. Some better form of transport was required, so it was decided to extend the railway into the city and have railway stations at Market Street and Hunter Street. Parliament eventually assented to the construction of this railway early in 1878. However, the International Exhibition was due to open in September 1879, meaning it would be impossible to have the railway ready for the opening in time. Consequently, a temporary tramway was built from Redfern terminus at Devonshire Street, through Belmore Park along Elizabeth Street to a tram terminus at the Hunter Street corner. On account of the opposition to the tramways by the public, it was pointed out that as soon as the Exhibition was over the tramway would be removed and construction of the railway commenced.