A Pioneering Transit System in Australia is Launched

September 28, 1899

The first electric trams to operate in Perth, the capital city of what was then the British colony of Western Australia, made their official debut. (A little over a year later, Western Australia became a state as part of the newly formed Commonwealth of Australia.) The new transit system – owned and operated by Perth Electric Tramways Limited — was welcomed with great enthusiasm on its first day of service. The Perth-based newspaper known as the West Australian reported, “From an early hour in the morning till late at night the cars rans at short intervals, and with but few exceptions were crowded with passengers.”

An inspection run for this transit network had taken place the day before. The passengers for this run included Martin E. Jull, under secretary of public works for Western Australia; and Charles Yelverton O’ Connor, the colony’s engineer-in-chief and acting manager of railways. 

The Perth-based Western Mail waxed poetic in its assessment of the new tram system. “In one of his beautiful idylls, Tennyson tells how the fairies exulted in the birth and coming of King Arthur,” asserted this newspaper. “If “If there were such a curious animal as a utilitarian fairy, and if it were present in Perth, it might sing a proxy glee over the running of the trams. We have waited so long that it is hard to believe that the time of realization has arrived.” The article also noted, “The trams are formidable, heavy vehicles, as broad in the beam as a Dutch trawler, and lofty enough to accommodate a giant in a silk hat.”

By 1913, this electric tram system covered 23 miles (37 kilometers) and consisted of 53 vehicles. That same year, the Western Australian state government purchased the system and took over its operations.

For more information on the history of trams in Perth, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trams_in_Perth and http://www.pets.org.au/pets10p.html

Additional information on the opening day for trams in Perth is available at https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/3235927?searchTerm=perth%20tram



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