Article ID: CBB934639870

Melbourne’s cable trams - A major nineteenth century engineering achievement (2019)


Melbourne’s boom period in the mid-1880s saw the inauguration of a cable tram system that grew by 1891 to encompass seventeen routes with a combined length of 46 miles (73 km) of double track. In its extent, it was only surpassed by San Francisco’s cable tram network. The 43.7 miles (70 km) of double track, constructed by the Melbourne Tramways Trust (representing twelve municipalities), and leased for operation by the Melbourne Tramway & Omnibus Company had the distinction of being the largest cable tram network in the world to be operated by a single company. It evolved from the determined vision of Francis Boardman Clapp and was implemented under the guidance of renowned cable tram engineer George Smith Duncan. The last cable tram service closed in 1940. This article focuses particularly on the engineering aspects of the system and thus on its infrastructure.

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Authors & Contributors
Lee, Robert S.
Jones, Ross L.
Jones, David W.
Annable, Rosemary
Garden, Donald S.
Hyslop, Anthea
Health and History
Railroad History
Technology and Culture
Haddington Press
Indiana University Press
Melbourne University Press
UNSW Press
Australian Scholarly Publishing
Land transportation
Local transit
Ellery, Reginald Spencer
Time Periods
20th century
19th century
20th century, early
21st century
18th century
United States
Melbourne (Victoria, Australia)
New York City (New York, U.S.)
Nairobi (Kenya)
Paris (France)
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
Key System Transit Lines (Calif.)

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