Other Western Australian Tramways

Non-electric "tramways" were operated in Western Australia. The purpose of some was purely industrial, operating in conjunction with timber, mining and other enterprises, while others had at least some passenger-carrying capacity. Detailed discussions of many Western Australian narrow-gauge tramways can be found in the magazine of the Light Railway Research Society of Australia.

Because of the large tidal range on the north west coast of Western Australia, long jetties were needed to handle the shipping. The Western Australian Year-Book, 1902-04, lists [page 800] the following Government coastal tramways, which were "worked in connection with the jetties serving the ports, providing the necessary communication between such jetties and the townships and goods sheds or warehouses therein".

Location Length Gauge
Cossack [port] to Roebourne 8.5 miles 2 feet
Wyndham 18 chains 2 feet
Derby 2.25 miles 3 feet 6 inches
Broome 2 miles 2 feet
Port Hedland 24 chains 2 feet
Balla Balla 18 chains 2 feet
Onslow 4 miles 16 chains 2 feet
Maud's Landing 33 chains 2 feet
Carnarvon 3 miles chains 2 feet
Dongara 32 chains 3 feet 6 inches
Hopetoun 18 chains 2 feet
Esperance 1 mile 8 chains 3 feet 6 inches
Israelite Bay 11 chains 2 feet

Some of these tramways were later re-gauged to 3 feet 6 inches. Many barely extended past the end of the jetty and, with no associated settlement, were used purely for loading and unloading cargo.

Passenger-carrying tramways included:


Cossack-Roebourne Tram

In the late nineteenth century, Roebourne was the chief town in the north west, servicing the pastoral industry, the pearling industry and the mining industry. Cossack, 12 kilometres away on the coast, was the first port in the region, and an important staging post in the Pilbara gold rushes of the 1880s. In 1887 a tramway was built to connect town and port.

The Register of Heritage Places - Assessment Documentation - Cossack Townsite Precinct (Heritage Council of Western Australia, 21/04/2006), indicates that:

The 2’ gauge horse drawn tramway was completed in 1887. Rolling stock imported from England consisted of six passenger coaches (each drawn by one horse) and 12 goods trucks drawn in rakes (rows) by two horses. Two trams left from both Roebourne and Cossack Townsite daily, with a goods truck in between. The trams left both towns at the same time and met at the double line section at the centre, where drivers and horses were changed. The trip took about one hour and fifteen minutes.

The Harbour and Light Department took over responsibility for the tramway from the Railways Department. The tramway was extended to Port Samson in 1910 and the car barn was removed to Port Samson c. 1911. The turntable and crane were also relocated to Port Samson about this time.



Broome Tram

Broome was established as a pearling port in 1880. A horse-drawn tramway was constructed in 1898, for the transport of goods from the jetty at Mangrove Point to the town, and by 1904 a passenger car was in use. Originally built to the 2 ft gauge, the tramway's success led to its regauging in 1907 to 3 ft 6 in, and a passenger car to that gauge was then provided.

Horses were replaced by steam in 1910, petrol and diesel engines being introduced later. The line was finally closed with the establishment of a new deepwater port some miles away from Broome in 1966, the passenger service having already ceased some years earlier.


Carnarvon Tram

Carnarvon's One Mile Jetty was built in 1897 to serve the State Ships which carried passengers and freight between Carnarvon and Perth. It was initially the only major method of import and export of goods to the area, but port activities declined with the advent of road transport, particularly the North West Coastal Highway.

The tramway linked the town and the jetty, crossing the mangrove swamps around Babbage and Whitlock Islands. The line was initially horse hauled, and built to the 2 ft gauge, a passenger car coming into use around 1902. In 1908 it was regauged to 3 ft 6 in, and by 1912 there were three passenger cars.

Steam haulage was introduced in 1909, with the Baldwin locomotive Kia Ora.

Today a heritage tramway operates over part of the original tramway alignment.



Derby Tram

Derby, in Western Australia's Kimberley region, was first established about 1880 to service pastoral properties along the Fitzroy River, and gained further impetus in 1886 with the gold rush at Hall's Creek (some 400 miles inland).

The Derby tramway was established in 1886. It travelled about 1 mile from the jetty and over extensive mudflats before reaching the town, and continued for a slightly greater distance through the town itself, along the main street. Except on the L-shaped jetty, the line was straight for its whole length.

Derby Tram Passengers on the Derby tram after the retirement of the horses.

Unlike most of the coastal tramways, Derby had a gauge of 3 feet 6 inches from the beginning. It was horse powered originally, internal combustion engines being used later - steam was not employed at any stage. The two lightweight passenger cars were eventually replaced by heavier wagons.

With the development of road transport, and changing port usage, the town section of the line was out of use by the 1950s.


Onslow Tram

The townsite of Onslow is located on the coast of the Pilbara region of Western Australia. The original Onslow, situated at the mouth of the Ashburton River, was created as a port townsite in 1885 to service the pastoral industry of the Ashburton and Yannarie River districts. At low tide, however, only vessels drawing a loaded depth of 12ft could berth at the jetty, and the regular coastal steamers had to anchor out in the Roads.

In 1922 a new deep water jetty was established 15 km to the north east at Beadon Point. Lots were surveyed at Beadon Point in 1923, and most of the town moved there in 1925. The original townsite was left with some stone and brick buildings and the remains of the tramway which had connected it to the orignal jetty.The original Onslow townsite was later cancelled.



Rottnest Tram

Rottnest Island, located 15 kilometres off the coast west of Fremantle, was discovered in 1696 by Willem de Vlamingh, a Dutch explorer, who named the island Rats' Nest due to the many large rats that he found on the island. These were, in fact, small wallabies known today as "quokkas".

Today a popular holiday "get-away", prisoners were housed there until the early part of the twentieth century.

A horse-drawn tramway, opened in 1906, linked the jetty in Thomson Bay with the main Rottnest settlement. It carried passengers and goods until replaced by motor vehicles in 1925.

Rottnest Tram
Passengers at the jetty.

Rottnest Tram
At the "Cash Store" at the settlement.

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