Second Melbourne Tram En Route

Thumbnail image for Melbourne 916 loading 080709.jpgPhoto courtesy Ian Green

916 is not Just Sacramento’s area code, it’s now also the number of Muni’s latest historic streetcar, a 1946 Melbourne tram now somewhere in the South Seas bound for San Francisco. The tram is a gift from the Victorian State government (Melbourne is the capital of Victoria) to San Francisco, a donation facilitated by Market Street Railway.
Tram No. 916, shown being loaded in Australia in this photo courtesy Ian Green, was part of Melbourne’s “ready reserve” tram fleet, semi-retired trams kept in operating condition that could be called back into service. Representatives of Yarra Trams, which contracts for Melbourne’s tram operation, looked over the fleet and picked what they considered the most roadworthy, then painted it into its traditional green and cream (hey, just like Muni) livery before shipping. It will need some minor modifications before it can go into service on the F-line.
While it may look the same as our older Melbourne tram, 1928-vintage No. 496, the two trams have significant differences. Melbourne kept evolving its W-class design, incorporating improvements in each subsequent subclass. Unlike the W2 class No. 496, the SW6 class No. 916 has sliding doors in the center section, making it much more comfortable in the winter. It is also a little wider, meaning more capacity along the crowded Embarcadero. Here’s more info on the SW6 class of Melbourne trams.
Market Street Railway offers special thanks to Andrew Dyer, immediate past Commissioner to the Americas for the State of Victoria, who spearheaded the donation of this tram from the Australian side, as well as to all in Melbourne and San Francisco who participated.
We will show you pictures of No. 916 on this side of the pond as soon as it arrives.

Comments: 9

  1. For anyone who’s not already aware of this, Melbourne is the tramway capital of the English-speaking world. About two dozen tramcar lines, including some that don’t even go “downtown”. The city center (centre?) has tram lines running on every major street, like American cities had back in the 20’s. In addition, they also have an electric suburban system (think of Pacific Electric or Key System) that covers communities beyond the tramways. Then there are the heritage tramways of Bendigo and Ballarat, and the Puffing Billy steam train. It’s quite worth the 15 or so hours on a jetliner to get there–streetcar enthusiasts will be in “hog heaven”.

  2. How long do you expect modifications to take? Is this like just a few weeks to put a farebox and whatnot in or will there be more. I’m doubtful about Muni after the years it took them to finish the modifications on the Zurich tram and the big green one, #162.

  3. @Lava Rat — don’t know when No. 916 will be in revenue service. Muni streetcar maintenance is understaffed right now, and of course there was that accident at Market and Noe.
    @Hugh Jardonn — there has been a moratorium on the sale of any further vintage Melbourne trams for some years now, imposed by the Victorian government, which owns the trams. But a few exceptions have been made, including ours.

  4. This is excellent thanks to everyone involved in making this happen.
    I was over in Brussels, Belgium a couple of months ago and several of the trams like our #737 are just sitting in a barn next to Brussels historic tram museum collecting dust and waiting for someone to take them off their hands including articulated versions. Is there any chance of San Francisco getting any more of these trains?

  5. @CD- Short answer is probably not. Muni got 737 (ex-Brussels 7037) as a test car to see whether a group of them would be an effective way to alleviate overcrowding on the F-line. It was thought that since the car was a PCC, it would be compatible with the rest of the fleet, but it turned out to have been upgraded over the years with now-obsolete electronics (with documentation in Flemish!). Also, the car is so narrow that capacity and movement through the car are issues, even though the car runs well with good acceleration. So while the 737 is a valued part of the vintage fleet, representing both the postwar Eurotram in general and the export of PCC technology in particular, there won’t likely be any more.

  6. Regarding Melbourne parting with vintage trams: Back in 2006, car 965 was presented to the Crown Prince and Crown Princess of Denmark, and is kept at the Tram Museum, which is west of Copenhagen. Look up “SHS-Sporvejsmuseet” on the Web for the whole story; the website will display in Danish, a click on the Union Jack (British flag) will change the display to English. Photos of the tram’s arrival ceremony include one of the Crown Princess running the tram–it reminded me of seeing then-Mayor Dianne Feinstein running #1 on opening day of the Trolley Festival back in the 80’s.

  7. Would be nice if they could eventually send a few more, as I’ve heard they want to retire all of the older trams

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