Friday, October 29, 2010

Ding! Ding!

The beautiful W class trams! These old rattlers are such a symbol of Melbourne. The W class trams were released between 1923 and 1955 before they started withdrawing them from service in 1992. By mid 2000 most of them were gone. These days most of them are mouldering away in a tram yard. We even started giving them away - though they've now put a stop to that. Apparently we gave a refurbished tram to Princess Mary as a wedding present though I'm betting it wasn't on the gift registry.

I have no idea what sort of tram this is but isn't it grand? Is this a cable tram? This is at the top of Bourke Street.

The Liberals reckon they're going to bring them back, Labor says they're no good for prams, disabled and the elderly (true) and the Greens are saying they're going to bring back conductors. All of which are pretty flimsy election platforms if you ask me but I do love these trams and hope they can be saved.

VE Day in Melbourne

I'm trying to think what I know about trams in the war and I know I've read a bit but it's not exactly stuff that springs to mind is it? Cable trams (possibly pictured above) had been replaced by the electric trams we're familiar with in 1941. Windows were papered over for the brownout, including the window between the driver and the travelers. There was huge strain on the public on public transport during the war - largely due to war work. Yes there was petrol rationing but only 8% of folks owned a car in 1939 so this didn't have a huge impact. Tram stops were reduced to limit wear on vehicles and new routes opened up, particularly through Footscray for workers at the munitions factories.

Women became much more visible on trams, particularly in the smoking section, typically a male domain. And of course it was khaki wool and knitting needles the whole way. You also find more women out at night as special trams were put on for night shift workers. Women were also taking over transport jobs. Female ticket inspectors came in for a lot of abuse from male passengers and probably worked for a lower wage than the men they replaced. Thirteen day fortnights were introduced, days off were cancelled and the working day extended, and staff numbers cut. Huge battles between the Tramways Association and Manpower ensued!

Female shoppers and theatre goers came in for criticism for making unnecessary journeys. Kate Darian-Smith, in her book on Melbourne during the war years, describes a tram poster depicting a large woman burdened with shopping parcels hogging a seat while tired shift workers hang from straps:
Here's another Selfish Sue, who dawdles all the morning through, then late she rushes for a tram, and some poor worker has to stand.

My nanna and her sister were conductors on the buses in WA during the war and they had a whale of a time. The uniform was very feminine and I thought it was pretty fancy when I first saw the photos. She loved these years working with the girls on the buses. I don't even think she ever had another job.

Florence and Edie McGee at the Metro Bus Company

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Proud Womon said...

i luv the w-class trams - they were the best trams to work on (so long as you had a competent driver!) ... this is one ex-connie that says "bring back conductors" -it was definitely one of the best jobs i ever had...

Curvy Kitty said...

I didn't know you'd been a Connie! I loved those satchel like ticket bags.

Proud Womon said...

yeah, i was a connie for 12 months - oooh but the bags got really heavy - we had 1 and 2 cent pieces then and lots of different tickets - the thumb rubber was a must - kids did love the ticket stubs though... the 69 was one of my routes - ahh, the memories of being the last tram back to malvern depot from luna park...