Melbourne, Australia (W2 Class)
Built 1928 • Operational
No Southern Hemisphere city has a tram (streetcar) system as extensive as that of Melbourne, capital of Australia's State of Victoria.
Richard Panse photo.
Like San Francisco, Melbourne had both cable cars and streetcars well into the 20th century, but by the 1920s, the remaining cable car lines gave way to more tram lines. For half a century, Melbourne's transit system was dominated by the famed W-class trams, with a layout that reversed San Francisco's 'California' design, by putting closed sections at both ends, with the lowered section for boarding and alighting placed in the middle. This also served as the smoking section. More than 750 W-class trams were built to this general design between 1923 and 1956. Melbourne No. 496 went into service February 18, 1928.
In the late 1970s, modern trams finally began replacing the old W-class cars. In 1984, Muni purchased No. 496 (along with No. 586, kept as a spare). The tram's smooth ride made it an immediate hit in San Francisco. With volunteer help from Market Street Railway, No. 496 has been cosmetically restored, made wheelchair-accessible, and given a GPS system. Otherwise, it's essentially unchanged from its 56 years of service in Australia.
In 2009, it was joined in San Francisco by 1946 SW6-class Melbourne tram No. 916.
Melbourne still runs a limited number of W-class trams, primarily on its special City Centre loop line around downtown. They are now recognized by the people of Melbourne as a key part of the city's heritage, much as San Francisco's cable cars and historic streetcars are.