Thursday, 5 November 2015

Melbourne: The City of Trams

Melbourne's tram network survived the worldwide trend of the 1950's to remove trams or streetcars from city streets. Today, Yarra Trams operate a fleet of 500 trams across 25 different tram routes and 250 km of double tracked tram lines, giving Melbourne the distinction of having the world's largest tram network.

Look for the FREE TRAM ZONE signs in Melbourne's CBD, and you can ride for free! Photo 2015.

Getting around Australia's second largest city by tram is easy, provided you know where you're going and possess a Myki card. If not, experiencing a ride on an authentic Melbourne tram is as easy as boarding and alighting at a stop within the inner city FREE TRAM ZONE. Just be sure to check the signage at each stop.

Busy Spencer Street in front of Melbourne's Southern Cross Station, July 2015.

Apart from stepping aboard any tram within the FREE TRAM ZONE, a No 35 City Circle tram also operates for free around the fringe of Melbourne's CBD, treating visitors to a ride past some of Melbourne's most iconic landmarks such as Flinders Street Station, Federation Square and Parliament House.

The City Circle tram passes The Forum building on Flinders Street, July 2015.

While cities such as San Francisco and Bendigo have kept some trams in operation as a tourist attraction, Melbourne's trams still operate first and foremost as an effective means of public transport. But for a visitor from out-of-state, half the attraction of taking a ride on a Melbourne tram is getting to experience a form of transport that has become foreign to most cities in the world.

I took the No 86/96 tram to the top of Bourke Street to visit Parliament House, July 2015.

Yarra Trams has made getting around Melbourne by tram easy thanks to their TramTRACKER App and the easy to follow Route Guides that are both available through their website, and once you've experienced catching a tram for the first time, you'll soon be exploring the sights of the city with ease.

A traditional W6 Class tram built in 1951 still in service on Melbourne's Streets in July 2015.

Visit any souvenier or gift shop in Melbourne, and you'll soon see images, gadgets and trinkets of every kind that feature the iconic green and gold Melbourne trams. The problem is, spotting one on the streets of Melbourne isn't as easy as you're led to believe. Many, if not all of the modern tram varieties are plastered with advertising to help bring in revenue. If you include the maroon and gold City Circle trams, there are only 4 of these 1950's vintage trams still in service today, all operating on the No 35 City Circle route.

A mid 1980's A1 Class tram on the corner of William and Bourke Streets, July 2015.

The many different types of trams operating on Melbourne's streets makes for an interesting game of trying to identify each class as it passes by. Thankfully, Yarra Trams makes it all the more easier to bring a novice tram-spotter up to speed with their Fleet List page on their website. Even on a cold, rainy winter's day in Melbourne, there was something amazing about riding a tram down the middle of a busy street while pedestrians on street corners were trying to stay dry under their umbrellas. But then again, what would I know? I'm a bit partial to anything that runs on rails.

And just to prove the sun does occasionally shine in Melbourne, I dug up this old photo from my last visit in 2005.

Experiencing a ride aboard a Melbourne tram was just one of the adventures I included in my book Train Tripping Around Melbourne. Over the course of 3 days in July 2015, I travelled a total of 365 km by train and tram in search of some of Melbourne's most interesting places to visit. From Geelong to Gembrok, to the MCG, my book is packed full of interesting facts and enough funny anecdotes to turn an ordinary train trip, or ride on a tram, into a real railway adventure of your own.

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