Few cities in the world have shown as much loyalty to a single streetcar design as has Melbourne. The “W” class of trams was introduced in 1923, with a design that was the opposite of the “California” type streetcar common on this side of the Pacific.
The Melbourne design featured entrances at the center of the car, in an open section, flanked by closed sections on each end. This design evolved over more than 40 years, with repeated rounds of modifications made to improve the design.
The last W-class car was built in 1956, numbered 1040 (coincidentally, the same number as the last PCC streetcar built in North America, for Muni).
Tram no. 916, of the “SW6” subclass, entered service in Melbourne on June 21, 1946. The most visible advance over the earlier W class designs (such as Muni’s W2 tram No. 496) was the installation of sliding doors in the center section, keeping the car far warmer in winter (Melbourne’s climate is similar to San Francisco’s).
Beginning in 1975, Melbourne began replacing older W-class trams with modern designs based on contemporary European designs. Yet some of the newer W-class trams still operate in Melbourne, primarily on the free City Circle line.
This tram was donated to the City of San Francisco by the State Government of Victoria (of which Melbourne is the capital) in 2009. In exchange for the donation, Nos. 916 and 496 both carry Melbourne logos on their sides and tourism materials inside.
The donation of No. 916 was initiated and facilitated by Market Street Railway.
The tram has been prepared for San Francisco service by Muni craftsworkers, including door modifications necessary for operation on the opposite site of the street from Melbourne, ADA accessibility modifications, and upgrades to lighting and other functions. It still looks and feels just like its days Down Under, though.
Melbourne & Metropolitan Tramways Board (MMTB), Melbourne, Australia, 1946
Acquired by Muni From
State Government of Victoria, Australia, 2009
Melbourne & Metropolitan Tramways Board
4 – GE 247 AX2 30kW
2 MMTB Type 15