Relive the last commuter tram trip

September 24, 2021 BY

Number 40: When the last tram pulled into the Lake Wendouree depot, there were streamers and a banner inside which said, ‘the end.’ Photo: SUPPLIED

THE Ballarat Tramway Museum has released a short film to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the night the city’s tram network ceased operation.

BTM assistant operations manager Sam Boon has produced the video which recounts tram 40’s final trip from the Royal Mail Hotel in Sebastopol, through the city, to the depot in Lake Wendouree on 19 September, 1971.

Approximately 180 people were on board the last tram. It was steered by the network’s longest-serving driver of 37 years, Lou Walker, and hundreds of locals attended sites along the route.

“It’s significant for us as a Tramway Museum because it marks the beginning of the next 50 years of preserving a section of the original network at the Gardens, preserving tram 40, and other trams that we’ve managed to save, restore and bring back,” Mr Boon said.

The video, which includes unseen WIN Television archival footage of the last tram trip, has been released to not only educate the wider community about this part of local transport history, but to fill a gap while the BTM’s postponed 50th celebrations – a dinner and festival – can’t go ahead.

“Most of Ballarat hasn’t seen this film for 50 years. Everyone at WIN, especially Andrew Sculley, has been helpful in sharing those old reels of film of the last days of the trams, in good Ballarat spirit,” Mr Boon said.

“I’ve not only used footage from them, but also footage the Museum had to form the bulk of the video. The main part is that I conducted phone interviews with a lot of our foundation members; Richard Gilbert, Carolyn Cleak, Warren Doubleday and Graeme Cleak.

“You hear them recalling memories of the last days of the trams, why they got involved, and the early days of the Museum.”

Mr Boon said the production champions community members who worked hard behind the scenes, “in the face of adversity,” to keep elements of the city’s historic tramway alive.

“The trams used to go all the way around the lake. Our tramway as it is now is all we could save at the time, but from there, we’ve grown from strength to strength.”

Entering its sixth decade, the Ballarat Tramway Museum has reached another exciting moment in its life, with a new display building opening later in 2021.

“We’re in a great place, and are pleased to be generating more awareness for this special part of Ballarat’s living history,” Mr Boon said.

“You can still ride on a 100-year-old tram today, like you could in 1971.”

Visit facebook.com/btm.org.au to watch the video, and get in touch if you are interested in becoming a tramway volunteer.

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