Our Museum turns Fifty this month! …Continuing the story:
The search for a site went on.
Public land, near roads would be perfect our pioneers decided. The search went through outer Sydney. National Parks, independently managed by local trustees in those days, were all short of cash and might be keen to charge visitors for parking. The Royal National Park, South of Sutherland, saw the advantages and invited our team to set up near the Highway, but within the park. There was no time to waste. In just seven years after the pair interviewed the Commissioner, eight trams were delivered to the bush museum.
The tramfans also looked longingly at the immaculate Railway Line next door. “If only ..” they mused.
For a quarter of a century, our pioneers were teased by the sight of the railway line next door. Sydney’s trams and trains, quite unlike most of Australia, enjoyed the benefit of the same railway gauge, 4′ 8½”.
One of the early arrivals to the Museum was the half length toast rack style tram shown at right. It was fitted with track brakes for use on the steep Neutral Bay line. Ironically, track brakes are a standard feature on modern light rail for use in emergencies. It had to be kept in use until the North Shore lines closed.
Well before electric running was possible, lines inside a metal shed had been built – that was to be the depôt. But much work had to be done before they could open. The volunteers were allowed to salvage track from a number of locations. This was extremely heavy work but they managed.
By 1964, suitable electrical gear was made available to provide the tramway direct current of 600 volts but the overhead wiring was still to be erected. From there, several hundred metres was enough to provide paying customers with sufficient distance to provide adults with the memory of the time when street transport offered the best in comfort and smooth travel – trams.
To ensure plenty of customers, maximum publicity was needed: newspapers and the young medium of television – both in beautiful black and white! None less than the Deputy Premier, the Hon. Patrick Hills was invited to open the Museum by driving at last a tram powered by electricity… media presence was now ensured.
The result of all this work is highlighted in the last two photographs. Pat Hills did open the occasion and drove the first official tram!
The bush museum flourished.
Luck was on our side, the eventual National Parks statewide saw us as an anomaly but some kind people in government provided land and funding to build a display hall/depôt and later a maintenance building where we are now. The National Park and ourselves are excellent neighbours. And we were granted our longest wish. We were given the National Park Railway Line! ….All photographs were taken by the late Norman Chinn.