This tramcar was the last of the forty-strong W7 class of Melbourne trams, which was the culmination of the thirty-three year development of the base W type design, and the last W type tram to be built. These tramcars were built specifically for the conversion of the Bourke Street routes from omnibus to electric tram services, No 1040 being constructed in 1956 at Preston Workshops. The reason for the conversion was that the buses could not cope with the loadings being generated on the Bourke Street routes, which had been closed as cable tram routes in 1940.
The original order for W7 trams consisted of 70 vehicles, but this was reduced to 40 cars as a result of the change of State Government from the Cain Labor administration to the Bolte Liberal government, and a resulting change in policy. The Bolte administration was noted for its opposition to any further development of Melbournes tramways, in favour of the development of private motor vehicle transport.
Due to this significant opposition to trams when this class was being built, special effort was put into making these tramcars as quiet as possible, as one of the major objections to electric tramcars was due to the amount of noise generated by their operation. These cars were fitted with resilient wheels and double helical gears for this purpose. The bodies were also fitted with soundproofing and fully upholstered seats throughout in order to improve passenger comfort. They are notable for the interior layout of the drop centre, differing markedly from virtually all other W series tramcars.
Apart from a short period in the late 1950s, W7 trams served exclusively on the Bourke Street routes until 1975. These trams were used for the introduction of any new features, notably the replacement of cast iron brake shoes with Ferodo composition brake shoes which commenced in 1966.
No 1040 entered service on 1 August 1956. It was allocated to Preston for a few days before moving to Kew Depot, returning to Preston in 1959. It was displaced by Z class cars from Bourke Street services in the mid-1970s, moving to Collins Street routes. Sometime later it was assigned to Glenhuntly Depot, where it was used mainly on the East Brighton and Carnegie routes. It was withdrawn from general passenger service in 1992, restored to original livery, and used from time to time on a variety of tourist and heritage-related services.
The last Melbourne W type tramcar is owned by VicTrack on behalf of the Government and people of Victoria and is now an exhibit in the collection of the Melbourne Tram Museum @ Hawthorn Depot.
|Motors:||4 x 40hp (GE 247AX2)|
|Truck:||M&MTB No 15|
|Passengers:||48 (seated), 102 (standing)|
|Length:||46 feet 6 inches|
|Width:||9 feet 0 inches|
Cross, N., Budd, D., and Wilson, R. (1993) Destination City (Fifth Edition), Transit Australia Publishing
Cross, N., Henderson, R. and Kings, K. (1981) Destination City (Fourth Edition), Australian Electric Traction Association