March 2, 2012

0135 AUSTRALIA (South Australia) - H class tram number 376 from Adelaide

I must admit that I knew nothing about the picture from this postcard when I chose it (I got it after a swap - thanks a lot, Heather). I saw a tram from Australia, which I liked. Nothing more. Now, that I have researched about it, I like more. Therefore I noticed on this occasion that the "story" behind the image can often change the perception over the respective postcard. A moreover reason for postcrossing. 

On the postcard writes: "An historic tram links the beach-side suburb of Glenelg with central Adelaide". Perhaps for many others would be enough, but for me is just a starting point. So I will continue with a few words about the history of trams in Adelaide (the capital city of South Australia), and then I will focus on the tram from the picture, which bears the number 376.

In the 19th century numerous horse drawn systems were established in Australia, with Adelaide and Brisbane establishing reasonably large ones and retaining them when other cities had adopted steam or cable traction systems. Electrification was quickly adopted, in Hobart and Brisbane appearing the first electrified systems, in 1893 and respectively 1897. The first experiment with electric powered trams took place in Adelaide in 1889, but it proved a failure, extending the use of horse trams until 1914. Adelaide was therefore the first city in Australia which introduced horse trams (1878), and also the last to convert its trams to electric operation, in 1908. Due to the time required to electrify the network, between 1907 and 1914 circulated both horse trams and electric.

The Adelaide-Glenelg line was, from 1873, a broad gauge steam railway that ran at street level into Victoria Square. It was taken over by the MTT in 1927, was closed to be rebuilt to standard gauge, was electrified at 600 Volts DC and was converted to tramway operation, reopened in late 1929. The last of the conventional tram routes (with one exception) was closed in 1959.

The exception, ie the only electric tram now operating in Adelaide, is the interurban style line connecting the inner suburb of Hindmarsh Entertainment Centre, through the central business district and on to the seaside suburb of Glenelg. From 1929 until 2006, the Glenelg line was serviced by 30 H class trams (such as the one from the image), delivered by Pengelley & Co, a similar style to US interurban cars of the late 1920's. Metro Adelaide (previously TransAdelaide), the line's operator, replaced the H class trams with articulated light rail vehicles, built by Bombardier, during 2006.

During the 1930s, 5 H type trams were experimentally fitted with pantographs of 5 different patterns, the one from the image, 376, being fitted with a Simens Schukert pantograph. Because the overhead at the time was not staggered to suit pantograph operation, the pantographs fitted all suffered from uneven wear and as a result the experiment ceased. All the surviving H type trams were fitted with pantographs 50 years later, in October 1986.

In the 1950s the H trams have been repainted from the traditional Tuscan and Red to a new Carnation Red and Silver livery with an Ashbury Green interior, but from 1971 onwards most of them were refurbished and repainted again into their original Tuscan and Cream livery. Since then, several of them were refurbished, but 376 doesn't appears on the lists since 1980, so it probably was withdrawn from circulation between 1971 and 1980. Currently is exhibited at Glossop High School (near Berri, South Australia).

So when and where was the photo taken? Considering that on the postcard writes "Photograph: Ron Ryan / Coo-ee Picture Library", and Ryan works for Coo-ee Picture Library since 1978, we conclude that the image was taken between 1978 and 1981. In terms of location, was quite simple: 376 was photographed alond Jetty Road, near to Moseley Square.

In 2001 and 2002, trams 351, 367, 370, 374 and 380 were again refurbished and from 2007 these five restored trams still saw service for weekend, public holiday and charter trips. With an in service operational life of 80 years, these 5 trams are the oldest public transport vehicles still in service in Australia. 16 other trams were disposed of with some sold, for a total of $65,000, and the remainder donated. They were destined for uses as varied as a restaurant, an attraction at a bed and breakfast boarding house and a tourism display at Glenelg, Adelaide.

About the stamp
Have to say that what I have isn't a maxicard, but a later copy (pre-stamped) made after the original issued probably on 1989, at the same time with the stamp, which is part of the Australian Historic Trams series. Designed by Iain McKellar (Alex Lavroff Studios), this set was issued on October 11, 1989, and was released in conjunction with the National Philatelic Exhibition Stampshow '89, held in Melbourne. The series contains 5 stamps with the same value (41c):

● Adelaide Horse Tram – it’s on the postcard
● Sydney Steam Tram
● Melbourne Cable Tram
● Melbourne Cable Tram
● Hobart Double Decker Tram
● Brisbane Combination Tram

sender: Heather Massese (direct swap)
sent from Perth (Western Australia), on 10.01.2012
photo: Ron Ryan / Coo-ee Picture Library

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