April 16 marked the 40th anniversary of the last day that trams ran as public transport in Bendigo. The Bendigo Tramways recognised this historically significant day by running the same tram that did the final trip from Eaglehawk to Bendigo 40 years ago.
On Sunday 15 April, Tram No. 28 ran as an addition to the Vintage ‘Talking’ Tram service. Driver, Stephen Kirkpatrick and conductor, Joseph Gould, were dressed in the old State Electricity Commission (SEC) uniforms.
At 5.03pm, Tram No.26 re-enacted its final trip – which originally left from Eaglehawk – when it departed from Central Deborah Gold Mine and traveled slowly back to the Tram Depot. The sight of Tram No. 26, which was decorated in the same manner that it was 40 years ago, bought back some happy memories for many people in Bendigo who still remember when trams offered public transport to the community.
On Monday 16 April, we hosted an afternoon tea with ex-SEC employees. It was a pleasure chatting with them as we reflected on the last passenger journey of April 16, 1972.
The final day of trams was a bittersweet moment for the residents of Bendigo, who recognised that motor cars had in many ways replaced the trams, yet they couldn't imagine what Bendigo would be like without them.
Thousands of people lined the streets to watch the trams make their final journey from Eaglehawk, and an article in The Sun described the passing of the trams in Bendigo as being more emotional than anywhere else in Australia, because people looked on Bendigo as a sort of tram capital of the southern hemisphere.
This day sparked vigorous community debate and when the then owners of the tramways, the SEC, started the process of selling up the assets of the tramways, they found that they were up against strong public resistance.
In fact, the voice of the community was so loud that, less than nine months later the Bendigo Vintage ‘Talking’ Tram Tour was launched by The Bendigo Trust.
On 9 December 2012, it will be 40 years since the tourist service began and the Trust have a big celebration planned … but it is important that we remember how the Talking Tram came about by commemorating the 80 years during which the tramways connected the community by providing an essential public transport service.
Some great articles were published about the anniversary, check them out below:
For photots of the anniversary please visit our Facebook Page.