W Class Trams
Why are they Significant?
The W Class trams are undoubtedly one of Melbourne most instantly recognizable
heritage icons. 600 were built between 1923-1956 and they are a uniquely Melbourne vehicle, developed and built in Melbourne, and were the
dominant tram from the 1920s right into the 1990s. Even today, despite their greatly diminished numbers, the green and cream W Class tram
remains one of the city’s icons.
Of the 600 built, 300 were still operating in 1990, when the Trust classified
For decades the defining image of Melbourne was the cream and green W Class tram. Of timber framed superstructure and fine joinery, with
dropped centre design and saloons at both ends, they are a distinctly Australasian development.
Some of the earliest were converted from open sided
to sliding doors in 1980s. Various changes to interior materials and colours have been made and all operating Ws were upgraded to include new
brakes, road lights and overhead pantographs in the late1990s and early 2000s.
Why are they at Risk?
Numbers were greatly reduced in the early 1990s as new trams were purchased, and
this reduction has continued inexorably. In 1993, the then government promised to keep 53 on the streets. In 1996 the City Circle was
created, using 10 vehicles, while the other 40 were upgraded and used in everyday traffic. In 2002 the routes they were used on were
reduced with only 25 in operation at any one time. In early 2009 the then Minister for Public Transport, Lynne Kosky, confirmed that the 40
general service W Class trams were to be phased out, leaving only the 10 City Circle trams operating. In September 2009, the new tram
operation lease contract included the retention of only 37 W Class trams in total. The 25 or so to operating outside the City Circle are
destined to be removed and sold or scrapped.
Announcements by new Minister for Transport, Martin
Pakula, earlier this year have confirmed that the State government intends to keep only the 12 or so City Circle trams into the future, and that
the other 25 cream and green trams on the system will be replaced when new trams are delivered in 2012.
What needs to be done?
The W Class tram is a visitor and tourist icon used
freely to promote our city. The Ws have a guaranteed future on the city circle that will enable millions to enjoy Melbourne’s
attractions into the future and experience what generations have grown up with, which is travelling on a W Class tram. However, we
urge the Government not to lose sight of the potential to expand this network. If we are ever to link the city with other key sites,
it is imperative that Government preserves the remaining fleet of 30 or so operational W-Class trams for the benefit of future generations.
A new tourist focussed route that would provide a guaranteed future for at least the 25 trams outside the City Circle currently in
use. The Trust has proposed a tourist route to be known as the ‘Grand Circle’ to complement the existing ‘City