Melbourne & Metropolitan Tramways Board W5 Class No 774

This tramcar was built as one of 120 trams produced to the W5 class design for the Melbourne & Metropolitan Tramways Board (M&MTB) between 1935 and 1939 for the conversion of the Elizabeth Street tramlines from cable to electric traction. A further five trams were converted from the closely related CW5 class in 1956.

M&MTB W5 class No 774 at Preston Workshops after completion of restoration works.
Photograph PTC collection.

No 774 was built by the M&MTB Preston Workshops in 1936. This particular variation of the Melbourne W class tramcar was the final evolution of the three door drop centre car fitted with canvas blinds. All trams built to subsequent W class designs were fitted with air-operated sliding doors.

The W5 class tramcars as represented by no 774 are important to Melbourne’s tramway history as their construction, which began in 1935, signalled the end of the Great Depression, together with the resumption of the conversion of cable tram routes to electric traction and expansion of the electric tramway system, if on a smaller scale than that envisaged in the M&MTB’s original 1920s plans.

The W5 design was also notable for its use of the No 15 truck design. The primary design feature of this truck was the elimination of horn guides and their replacement with automotive type leaf springs, which resulted in significant reduction in noise levels from that of earlier truck designs. These trucks were to be used on all subsequent W class designs. They were also noted for their smooth ride, but tramcars fitted with these trucks had a greater tendency to roll from side to side, especially those fitted with MCB type trucks such as the M&MTB No 1.

The W5 class tramcars were not popular with most drivers due to their controllers, which were generically known as ‘Clydes’. If a ‘Clyde’ controller was not properly adjusted, it would easily drop out of a notch, shutting off power to the motors. This was a source of frustration to many drivers. However, as the maintenance staff at Brunswick depot were highly experienced with these controllers – the majority of W5 class cars were allocated to this depot – Brunswick drivers did not tend to complain about ‘Clydes’ controllers. Instead, many Brunswick drivers preferred tramcars fitted with these over all other cars, saying that they provided superior acceleration to other designs.

All W5 class tramcars were fitted with multiple head and tail lights between 1971 and 1972. Many were modified by filling in the centre drop-centre doorway or by converting to a sliding door car of the SW5 class.

No 774 was allocated to Brunswick and South Melbourne Depots during its service life. It was notable for appearing running out from South Melbourne Depot on the ABC TV special All Over The World in 1967, as part of one of the first satellite broadcasts from Australia. It was the last W5 class tramcar to remain in near-original condition with three drop centre doorways, wooden drop centre seats and square driver's windshields, so it was placed in store in 1989 and subsequently underwent a major overhaul to return it to pristine condition.

After its overhaul, it was intermittently used on a range of tourist services, and is now an exhibit in the collection of the Melbourne Tram Museum @ Hawthorn Depot. This heritage tram is owned by VicTrack on behalf of the Government and people of Victoria.

Technical details

Motors: 4 x 40hp (GE 247AX2)
Controller: EE Q2CK1
Truck: M&MTB No 15
Passengers: 52 (seated), 98 (standing)
Weight: 15.8 tons
Length: 46 feet 6 inches
Width: 9 feet 0 inches

Bibliography

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