Home - Chermside & District History

Trams to Chermside

Trams Took a Long Time to Come to Chermside

This two horse Bulimba tram looks like it may be running on the ground instead of tracks. This tram would have been slow even if the horses got to a trot, a fit person could probably run just as fast over short distances. A sulky would easily outdistance it. How did it manage in the wet season if it had no rails? Photo dated 1880. (BCC B54-8551)

John Cole on p.21 of Shaping a City states that horse tramways appeared in 1883. However if the date on the accompanying photo is correct it may have been earlier.

The Tramway Museum states that horse drawn trams on rails began in 1885.

The implication appears to be that the trams before 1885 did not run on rails. See the Bulimba Tram photo.

When the trams first came to Brisbane in 1883/5 Chermside was still called Downfall Creek. It was about 10 kilometers along the Great Northern Road. There was a blacksmith, a store, a few dwellings surrounded by small farms and a lot of bush.

1897 First Electric Tram

This is probably not the first electric tram to run in Brisbane, but is an old one, which did its job of transporting people in all weathers and with a minimum of comfort. Date of Photo 1902. BCC-B54-6960)

The Brisbane Courier, 17-6-1897, in an article on the opening of the upgraded Brisbane Cricket Ground, reported "A novelty in connection therewith will be the running of the first electric tram in Brisbane from the bridge to the ground gates."

One important feature of the electric tram was speed, it could travel much faster and further in a given time than the old horse drawn transport.

The electric tram was to the larger settlements, what the steam railways were to the whole state.

Another important feature, it could carry many more passengers than a horse drawn vehicle, the trams were much bigger and they gave a much smoother ride

Expansion of Tram Services - To Bowen Bridge

While this is not an electric tram it is an interesting photo since it was taken in 1886 which means that the earlier horse trams reached as far as the Bowen Bridge which spanned Breakfast Creek. There does not seem to be any sign of rails so might the tram have crossed the bridge? Seems unlikely. (BCC-B54-11732)

The Tramway Museum dates the first expansion of the tram service as 29-4-1899 when it reached Bowen Bridge.

The Brisbane Courier Saturday 29 April 1899
This morning, at 10 o'clock, the new Bowen Bridge tram extension will be opened to traffic, and on Monday night the hourly service of all-night tramcars will be initiated.

The last point indicates that the public were taking to the trams, business was good, so the service was extended. In fact the trams were to remain the choice of the traveling public for many decades to come. The only real competition, apart from the trains, was the motor vehicle but that was still in the future.

This was on the way to Downfall Creek (Chermside) but it was going to take almost another half century to get there. And it was only 10 kilometers away.

However the horse buses still served Chermside until private motor omnibuses appeared in the 1930s. If you wanted to catch the train at Wooloowin to go to the city you caught the horse bus from Bald Hills.

To Windsor Council Chambers and Beyond.

Windsor Council Chambers
Windsor Council Chambers was built in 1897 from the distinctive Brisbane Tuff which came from the adjacent quarry on Gympie Road. It is now the home of the Windsor and Districts' Historical Society and is open every Sunday and Monday from 1 - 4 pm.

4-9-1914 tram extension from Bowen Bridge reached Windsor Town Council offices and extended one section past as the first part of the extension to Kedron Park Hotel.

The Brisbane Courier Friday 4-9-1914 p.6
Windsor Tram Extension Opened.
The long looked for extension of the Bowen Bridge tram line to Windsor was opened yesterday morning. There was no official function, but the crowds of people who traveled there showed that the service supplied a long felt want. The present extension is as far as the Windsor Town Council offices, but when the whole length is completed - the work is now proceeding - the line will extend to Kedron Park. At present it is understood that the service is a 10 minute one, and there is a double line of track.

On to Kedron Park (Brook)

Trams at Kedron Park Terminus waiting to carry the crowd from the nearby racecourse home. Kedron Park Hotel is on the top right and the ubiquitous corner store on the middle right. Gympie Road has an unsealed gravel surface. (Courtesy of Mrs. Ruth Mockridge)

I have not been able to find a reference to the opening of this terminus in the Brisbane Courier, yet.

But, in a report about the location of a new camp for Diggers, the following item appeared:

BC Friday 23-4-1915 p.7
Though the arrangements have not yet been completed it is thought that the site of the new camp will be at a spot between the far side of Bowen Bridge and the Kedron Park tram terminus.

Thus it would appear that the completion of the new terminus would have been between the opening of the Windsor line in September 1914 and the above date.

Lutwyche Extension

Kedron Brook Bridge 1925 300.jpg
This bridge was the one over which passengers walked over Kedron Brook from one tram car to another. It would not have been the original bridge. (Photo courtesy State Library of Queensland. Negative No. 57690)

2nd May 1925 the tram reached Lutwyche Cemetery - with a change of tram at Kedron Brook where passengers alighted, walked across the old bridge and joined another tram. This tram was permanently located on the north side of Kedron Brook. I wonder how they got it across the brook?

Lutwyche Terminus

The Lutwyche Tram Shed was built to last, in fact it has outlasted the trams and today serves as a Bus Shed. People used to ride their bicycles to this point and catch the tram into the city.

The Brisbane Courier Monday 4-5-1925 p.8
The first tram breaking the ribbon at the opening of the Lutwyche tramway extension on Saturday.
A Wallace photo was published in the Courier but it could not be copied.

New Kedron Bridge

1927 New bridge built over Kedron Brook - trams, and passengers, able to cross and travel to Lutwyche Cemetery terminus

The Brisbane Courier Wednesday 16-2-1927
The approaches to the new concrete bridge over Kedron Brook are now being made, and it is expected that this work will be finished shortly. The bridge was opened to traffic recently, as the approaches to the temporary bridge nearby had been washed away by heavy rains. When the new structure is completed the Lutwyche tram extension, on which an isolated car is being used at present, will be linked across the bridge with the Kedron Park terminus. The Mayor of Brisbane (Ald. W. A. Jolly) has not yet decided whether there will be any official opening ceremony.


CHERMSIDE TRAMWAY LEAGUE Brisbane Courier Mon 3-12-1928
At the Instance of the Chermside Progress Association one of the longest meetings of residents was held In the School of Arts on Friday. Mr. Speedy occupied the chair, and Councillor Bradbury was also present. Local residents strongly advocated the extension of the trams to Chermside, pointing to the rapid growth of population as revealed by the increased school attendance, and the large number of new residences. Councillor Bradbury, who was much impressed by the large gathering, promised full support at the proper time. A Tramway League was then formed with great enthusiasm, and officers were appointed as follows : Mr. D. J. S. Barker, president: Mr. J E Reid. Hon. Secretary; committee, Messrs. Sammells, Heenan, Early, Bowd, T. Hamilton, Speedy, and Smith.

They needed all the enthusiasm they could muster, it was going to be a long haul, almost two decades and a World War included.

Trams Arrive at Chermside

This was the official opening with an important man addressing the assembled people in their best outfits. They even had chairs to sit on and a new looking tram to admire. The uniformed gentleman in the foreground does not seem very impressed, just another day's work. But the ladies are all wearing the latest style hats, so they are out to enjoy the day. And so they should it had taken a long time to get a tram on Chermside soil. The dark building on the top right was the new Chermside Police Station and the space in the top middle was Early's Paddock. Today the police station is the BCC Bus Interchange and Early's Paddock is Westfield Shoppingtown. (Courtesy of John Oxley Library)

CM 21-3-1947 Photo
SCRUBBING THE LINES.- A 'scrubbing' tram was hauled over the new Chermside tramway extension yesterday to clear lines in readiness for the opening of the extension on March 29.

Three extra trams in the morning peak period and three extra in the afternoon period will run to the Chermside terminus start in? on Tuesday. The extra trams will leave the Chermside terminus in the mornings at 6.54, 7.12. and 7.30, and in the evening will pass through the Valley at 5.10. 5.16, and 5.33.

This was the unofficial opening of the tram's arrival, shirtsleeves and crowding around the tram to get a closer look. A lone policeman in his white sun helmet stands motionless, the crowd is well behaved. In the foreground is a very modern motor cycle cop, a far cry from the horses and bicycles they use to ride. Chermside was certainly on 'the way up.'

Tram Lines and Rose Beds

Gympie Road was a broad street designed so in the original survey. Tram lines became show pieces of city transport and the rose beds became a source of roses for many suburban houses. People collected the cuttings when Council gardeners pruned the bushes. (BCC-B54-260)

This photo clearly shows that the tram was king of the roads, the tracks and rose beds taking up the greater part of the road. Very few cars are shown which indicates that this photo was taken well before the automobile became common.

The overhead wires which supplied electricity to drive the trams can be clearly seen. The electricity reached the tram via a long pole with a small grooved wheel, which ran along the electrified wire.

Tramcar 410
Tramcar 410, Gympie Road, Chermside, 9-6-1952 - Photo by N.F. Reed via Lost Brisbane Website on Facebook. Phyllis Austin's Beauty Salon is on the far left top corner. It was situated between Pilba and Mermaid Streets. The property on the right hand top corner is the playground of Chermside State School (1900-1996). (Thanks to Alan Johnston, pupil 1955-1962.)

Only three automobiles are visible in this 1952 photo, a view which changed dramatically once the Automobile Age got into high gear. Then the patronage of the trams dropped and the tracks were taken out or covered over to make room for the individually driven autos.

The car was faster and did not involve time tables so it was very convenient for the drivers to come and go as they desired.

Closure of the Trams 13-4-1969

The horse tram never came near Chermside, they were confined to the inner city area. This might have been the first time they came to the outer suburbs. The tram is passing the Bank of New South Wales on the left. The Commonwealth Bank was beside it just off the left of the photo.

The trams provided good, cheap, all weather transport to the centre of Chermside from the 29-3-1947 for 22 years and the local people became accustomed to using them; they became part of the local scene.

As in any industrialized country, technology was not standing still, it was evolving rapidly. In this case the automobile was steadily carrying a greater and greater proportion of the moving population. It was much more convenient in that people could travel from their house direct to work or shops or entertainment venues.

The horse tram was, more or less, the last use of animal power as an energy source for public transport on land. Electricity was the new 'mysterious' power driving the new trams. A horse was easy to understand, a steam engine was harder to understand but you could see the engine working, but electricity was invisible and dangerous, it delivered a severe jolt to the unwary.

What was once a common sight in inner Brisbane, the Horse Trams, had long been absent. Bringing out the old trams was a way of saying that the people who used them changed to a better form of transport, the electric tram. Now another change had arrived, buses were to replace the trams, unless you drove a car.

A car was costly and you had to learn to drive and you had to have a license and you had to obey a whole lot of rules. Some people bought cars and never learned to drive, one of the children had to be the driver. Many people kept the old sulky, or cart but slowly they disappeared.

Souvenir Tickets


Souvenirs are always sought for any important change in a person's life, many are compulsory such as this ticket. If you wanted a last ride in the tram you had to pay although you could ride in the horse trams for free.


This is the back of the Last Day Tram Ticket and it is slightly larger than the front so that you can read something of the history of trams in Brisbane. From horse power to electricity and the different models of trams over the years.

Weekly Ticket

Tram Weekly Ticket

The weekly ticket was for regular travelers, many of whom worked in the city. Most people bought a ticket when they boarded the tram and paid the conductor who collected the fairs. The conductor stayed inside the tram while the driver had two separate compartments one on each end of the tram. The trams did not turn around to reverse direction when they came to a terminus, the driver simply went to the compartment on the other end of the tram.

All That Remains

Trams Memorial Sign

All that remains, apart from buried tram rails, which are out of site, is the Tram Memorial Sign in the Chermside Bus Interchange beside Westfields' Shoppingtown.

But Wait, there is One More Thing

Tram Rail with Tram Memorial Sign
The inscription tells us that the rail was rolled by the Balenavon Iron and Steel Co., at Balenavon, Wales in 1899 for the Queensland Government. Today the extensive remains of the works are preserved as a national monument / museum in Wales and has been the site for two BBC TV productions in recent years.

What is a tram without rails? Like a Horse without a Nosebag, it can't go anywhere. So we provided the rail, a very small part of the hundreds of kilometers of them before 1969.

Thereby hangs a tale: One fine day in 2012, one of our members was driving along Gympie Road when, out of the corner of his eye, he saw a startling sight; tram rails, lots of them, lying on the side of the road. Being of quick mind he wheeled around and headed back to to the 'golden hoard'. Parking his truck he sought out the foreman on the excavation job and politely asked could he have a 'piece of rail'. The foreman asked "How much would you like?" Foremen are like that, aren't they?

The upshot of the incident was that the Chermside and Districts Historical Society Inc found itself the proud possessor of a fine and complex portion of the ribbons of steel on which the trams of Brisbane ran for decades. In short we didn't know what we could do with it, where would we put it, what sort of sigh would we devise???

To cut a long story short, Westfield owned the site nearest the old tram terminus, the Brisbane City Council leased the site for their busses, Thiess John Holland were happy to have the rail on show and the CDHS was happy to write the history. The result is what a group of people and organizations can do when they get together and work together. Thank you all.

A Word about the Rail

This is for our quick thinking member who made this whole enterprise possible.