The museum’s Sydney D class tram No. 117 is back in the workshop, thanks to a Transport Heritage Grant (courtesy of Transport Heritage NSW and the Royal Australian Historical Society) that will see it’s restoration back to original passenger condition completed. While the grant only covers restoration to display condition, works to return the tram to operational status in the longer term, will also be carried out simultaneously.
The 25 member-strong D Class were introduced in 1898-99. They were four-wheeled, single truck trams featuring a ‘California Combination’ body; that is, a centre enclosed saloon and two open ends. Six were initially introduced as trailers for steam trams, but all eventually received electric motors and control equipment. In addition to operating as single units, they could also operate as coupled sets, often with C Class saloon trams. While a number of cars ran on the North Sydney system, they also operated the pioneering George St lines from 1899 and were well known on the busy Circular Quay – Pitt St – Railway service up until at least the Great War period. Eclipsed early on by larger capacity bogie trams, many D Class cars were progressively withdrawn and by the 1920’s, most had been converted to scrubber cars to clean the rails of the extensive Sydney network. It was in this form that many saw service until the closure of the system in 1961.
D 117 was built in 1899 by Clyde Engineering Co. It ran for a period on the newly electrified North Sydney lines fitted with a side-mounted pole, before the system was converted to centre-pole operation. By 1906, D 117 was being used on the Waverley Extension line, fitted with regenerative braking. The car was converted to a scrubber car in May 1913. It was numbered in the service stock fleet as 112s and attached to Randwick Workshops until 1961, when it was sold for private preservation and removed to the Sydney suburb of Castlecrag. It later saw service on the 2ft gauge Goulburn Steam Museum Railway around 1976, where it was returned to passenger form and fitted with 2ft gauge bogies. At the same time a member of the Sydney Tramway Museum, acquired the car’s Brill 21E truck from its previous owner, hoping to unite it with the body once the tram’s tenure at Goulburn had ended. This came to pass two years later and tram was returned to its original truck and put in storage at the member’s property in the Southern Highlands. In 1994, D 117 was donated to the museum in a partially deconstructed state, where it would be stored until 2007, when reconstruction of the body – along with an overhaul of its truck and electrical equipment – commenced. This work would continue until ten years ago, when other restoration priorities saw all works on this car suspended. As a result of this long period of gestation, this log will only cover the current restoration work from December 2020 onwards.
The tram’s electrical equipment – overhauled by Frank Cuddy some 12 years ago – has been brought back into the workshop in preparation for eventual reinstallation. Seen here are the controllers, line breakers, lightning arrestors and compressor; the latter item being originally sourced from a trolleybus.