Fremantle Tramways

1905 - 1952

Fremantle Tram 36
Fremantle tram #36 inbound from Marmion.

The port of Fremantle, founded in 1829, is situated at the mouth of the Swan River. Perth, the capital city of Western Australia, is 15 kilometres upstream. After many years of slow growth in Western Australia, the gold discoveries of the 1890s produced a sudden increase in population, many of the new migrants arriving through Fremantle.

As the population growth stabilised by around 1900, state and local authorities realised that public utilities and infrastructure were required for further growth. Provision of an electricity supply and public transport were two of the important areas, and after many proposals which did not come to fruition, the Fremantle and East Fremantle Councils eventually decided jointly to form the Fremantle Municipal Tramways and Electric Lighting Board (FMT&ELB) to fulfill both of these needs.

The original Carbarn was constructed at the end of High St, just opposite the Roundhouse.

Fremantle Tramways Car Barn
The Car Barn, with several single truck cars inside.

Fremantle Tramways Car Barn
Looking East along High Street, showing the Car Barn access tracks.

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The system opened in October, 1905, and initially there were 14 single-truck trams in operation, of the California combination type:

Fremantle Tram 5
Fremantle tram #5 showing the original form of these cars.

Fremantle Tram 1 Interior Interior of tram #1.

By April 1906 the initial routes, centred on the Fremantle Railway Station, were

  • city loop via Phillimore St
  • East via Adelaide St and Canning Rd [to Allen St]
  • Marmion, via High St and Marmion St [to Duke St]
  • Beaconsfield School via Hampton St
  • South Beach [to Douro Rd]


The North Fremantle Council soon joined the scheme, buying two trams and extending the track across the Swan River along Stirling Highway to Leighton St. This became the "North" route, opened in September 1908.

Further route extensions were

  • Marmion St line via High St to the Fremantle cemetery
  • Canning Rd [now Canning Highway] line to Petra St
  • Beaconsfield line to Central Avenue, subsequently to Carrington St
  • Marmion St line to McKimmie Rd

The Melville Roads Board also joined, resulting in the Canning Highway line being extended to the Board's offices at Stock Road, with a branch to the popular Swan River picnic and entertainment area at Point Walter.

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In 1920-21, cars 4, 7 and 11 were converted to saloon form from the original California combination.


Fremantle Tram 4
External advertising was not a feature of the Fremantle system, but Car #4 is an exception as it heads towards Hilton Park on the Beaconsfield route.

Fremantle Tram 11
FMT 11 on the Marmion route.

The inital fleet of 14 expanded over the years, and by 1923 there were 28 trams in service, and a new Carbarn had been built in Queen Victoria Street to supplement the original one in High St.

Fremantle Tram 20
FMT 20, a single truck car of "closed combination" design, outside the Car Barn in High Street.

Fremantle Tramways New Car Barn
The new Car Barn in Queen Victoria Street, towards the end of the tramway era.

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The last 11 trams built for Fremantle were bogie cars, which entered service between 1921 and 1935.

Fremantle Tram 32
Fremantle #32 outbound on the South route follows a single truck car.

Fremantle Tram 27
Fremantle 27 loading for the trip to the suburbs.


Fremantle Tram

The Fremantle tramways were a visible expression of civic pride - they were highly successful and became an integral part of Fremantle life. As well as transport for work and shopping in the city, the tramways also provided access to leisure activities at South Beach and Point Walter, sporting and racing venues, and later to the movies. The excellent standard of maintenance and presentation of the trams was no doubt linked to the Board's policy that all operational staff should live locally, which led to a high degree of rapport with the passengers.

The number of passengers carried in 1930 was 6.27 million, a remarkable number considering that the population of the area was about 30 000. From 1931 the passenger numbers decreased as the effects of the depression were felt, but the tramways remained profitable. Passenger numbers did not recover until the war, reaching 9 million in 1943. New tramcars continued to be built, the latest being 1935 tramcar #36 - this was the last tram ever built for Western Australia.

As was also the case elsewhere, the war effort took its toll on the tramway, in terms of a lack of maintenance coupled with greatly increased demand, but in the case of Fremantle this was not the main factor in its subsequent closure. The FMT&ELB's tramway and electricity operations were always profitable overall. However, from 1936 onwards the tramways alone did not produce a profit. When, in 1952, the State Electricity Commission took over the electricity supply in Fremantle the tramway was unable to survive on its own, and the last tram ran on November 8 of that year.

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Fremantle Tramcars

This table gives some information about the Fremantle tramcar fleet.

Tramcar
numbers
In
service
Capacity Description
1 - 14 1905-6 40 seats Single truck, drop-end, open California combination.
Body: JG Brill, USA
15 - 16 1908 40 seats Single truck, drop-end, open California combination.
Body:Westralia Ironworks, Fremantle
17 - 19 1910 40 seats Single truck, drop-end, open California combination.
Body: JG Brill, USA
20 - 21 1912 40 seats Single truck, drop-end, closed combination.
Body: Bolton's, WA
22 1915 38 seats Single truck, drop-end, closed combination.
Body: Bolton's, WA
23 1915 75 seats Bogie, open cross-bench
Body: Bolton's
24 - 25 1913 40 seats Single truck, drop-end, open California combination.
Body: Bolton's
7, 4, 11 1920-21 40 seats Single truck saloon
Body: Fremantle Municipal Tramways, WA
Converted from earlier form.
26 - 29 1921 64 seats Bogie saloon
Body: WA Government Railways Workshops, Midland Junction.
30 - 32 1925 64 seats Bogie saloon
Body: Bolton's
33 1927 64 seats Bogie saloon
Body: FMT
34 1930 64 seats Bogie saloon
Body: FMT
35 1932-3 64 seats Bogie saloon
Body: FMT
23 1933-4 64 seats Bogie saloon
Body: FMT
Converted from earlier form.
36 1935 64 seats Bogie saloon
Body: FMT

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Fremantle Tramways Detail

Fremantle Tramways Detail

Fremantle Tramways Detail

Fremantle Tramways Detail

Fremantle Tramways Detail
PETS Contacts:
General:
Street Address:
Whiteman Park
Whiteman
Western Australia
Postal Address:
PO Box 257
Mount Lawley
Western Australia
Australia . . . 6929
Telephone:
(08) 9443 1945
Tram-car Hire:
0448 821 200
Workshops (Tuesday/Wednesday):
(08) 9249 2777
Web-Site:
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