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Restoration of D 117

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 Eclipsed early on by larger capacity bogie trams, many D Class cars were progressively withdrawn and by the 1920’s, most had been converted to scrubber cars to clean the rails of the extensive Sydney network.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.

December 2020

5th December

9th December

19th December

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.

January 2021

16th January

20th January

Two pieces of sheet metal for the end aprons have been cut to the correct size and fixed in place at both ends to properly measure and align the metal support stands.

23rd January

30th January

Work continues on overhauling equipment for the car, including new apron headlights (of which their position has been marked out on the aprons themselves), a trolley pole base, handbrakes and apron support rods.

February 2021

6th February

Holes have been cut in the aprons where the headlights will be fitted, with one briefly placed into position as a trial. Metal beading around the apron edges was also trial fitted and progress continues on the trolley bridge, which has received a coat of paint.

13th February

Works continue on the end aprons, with support stands, headlights and beading all being trial fitted before permanent fixture commences.

20th February

Trial fitting of the end apron support assembly continues at a steady pace.

Meanwhile, the trolley base has been bolted onto the reassembled trolley base bridge. This has now been moved out of the way until such time can be found to place it back onto the roof.

24th February

March 2021

8th-10th March

Mick spent a period of three days applying the canvas to the roof. Only a small section at one end is left to be finished. Once this is completed, the entire roof can be painted and the trolley pole bridge reattached to the upper clerestory.

13th March

April 2021

3rd April

16th April

Mick spent the day preparing the first of the fixed end seats for staining, and applied the car’s waist rails on the open compartments. Timber mouldings for the end apron rails have also been made up and now await future installation.

17th April

The first coat of stone has been painted on the clerestory roof, with undercoat applied to the lower roof by Peter Warr and Peter Butler.

23rd April

Mick has sanded back the interior roof timbers and stained them accordingly.

24th April

Frames for the car’s footboards have been trial fitted to determine their final positioning.

Meanwhile roof painting works continue to make progress, with attention turning to the lower roof now that the clerestory is complete.

28th April

The trolley bridge has been placed back onto the car roof, with painting close to completion. At this stage the bridge is yet to be permanently bolted into its final position however this work is expected to be carried out soon.

May 2021

1st May

June 2021

9th-11th June

The saloon windows have been reinstalled whilst interior seat legs have been turned by Mick and fitted accordingly.