The Ambulance Trams

Many of our visitors last weekend had been to earlier observances, particularly in local areas. Our acknowledgement was a small photographic plaque showing two trams transformed into ambulances on rails, with a few details.


The first tram we encounter as we enter the Display Hall bears the number 290. It was the first type of electric tram to be produced in any number. A small saloon body carried on just four wheels – intended for hilly lines – the first type to be electrified. By the time the war began these tended to be used only when extra tramcars were required … on pouring wet days in the city for example. As the war dragged on, two of them were adapted for a special purpose. The returning troopships carried many seriously wounded diggers. The quickest means of transport then was seen to be … tram cars! The above two trams, numbers 31 and 44, were adapted as a coupled set of ambulance trams making the trip from the Woolloomooloo wharf to the Randwick Military Hospital as early as December 1915. [Now Prince of Wales Hospital.] Below is a picture from the Randwick Military Hospital, showing happier moments as walking patients accept treats from young Red Cross ladies.


The first three front trams as you enter the Display Hall are from the World War I era. A fourth one from that time is on the far side, three from the front, number 805. Older visitors remember this one, though it was painted green and cream in their time. 805 is on loan from the Power House Museum and is in its original livery as it was in WWI. The size of the number of this type in the fleet was an amazing 626. It seated 80 adults and had rails for nearly as many standing. On some of our museum’s major days, with Powerhouse permission, we run it. It’s still in perfect order!