March 24, 2012

0155 AUSTRALIA (Victoria) - The SW6 subclass tram number 909 on City Circle route, Melbourne

I wrote here about the Adelaide's tram network. Behold Betty (thank you very much, Betty) gives me the opportunity to expand the subject upon Melbourne, the capital city of the state of Victoria and the only city in Australia which use extensively trams as public transport in nowadays. The Melbourne's tram network, the largest in the world, consisting of 250 km of track, is a distinctive part of city's character and feature in tourism and travel advertising.

On December 20, 1884 the first horse tram started the race from Fairfield railway station, but the cable tram system, introduced in 1887, left the horses without jobs in only few years. Neither this system didn't work very long, the lines being sold for conversion to electric traction. The first electric tram in Melbourne was built in 1889, but for over two decades electric tram and cable tram coexisted.

In 1950s the trams began a gradual decline in usage which would continue until 1970s, when Melbourne will remain the only Australian city with a major tram network. The city resisted the trend to shut down the network because its wide streets and the geometric street's pattern, and also because of resistance from the unions. In 1983 was formed Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) with the aim to co-ordinate and operate the city's public transport system (railways, trams and bus). After several problems with the unions, in 1999 the system was privatized.

Now, the Melbourne's tram network comprise 487 trams running on 29 regular revenue routes, plus the free City Circle service (number 35), running around the central business district of the city. Aimed towards tourists, this route passes many Melbourne attractions while running along the CBD's outermost thoroughfares, as well as the developing Docklands waterfront precinct. Introduced on 29 April 1994, is serviced by heritage W class trams liveried in special maroon and green with yellow and gold trimmings (like the one in image). Eight trams are allocated to the service at any one time (four in each direction), and the completion of a loop takes approximately 48 minutes. An average of three million passengers uses the service every year.

The tram in the picture passes on Flinders Street, which runs roughly parallel to the Yarra River, and forms the southern edge of the Hoddle Grid, the layout of the streets in the centre of the CBD of Melbourne. Behind him is seen Flinders Street Station, located at the intersection of Flinders Street and Swanston Street, also one of the main streets of the city. Flinders Street Station is the central railway station of the suburban railway network, a cultural icon to Melbourne, frequently used in imagery representing the city, and listed on the Victorian Heritage Register. The current building, erected in French Renaissance style, with a large dome (in the foreground) and a tall clock tower (in the background), was official open in 1910. The blue skyscraper that can be seen on the left is Eureka Tower, the tenth-tallest residential building in the world (297.3m), completed in 2006.

Returning to the City Circle, the trams that commenced operating this line were specially modified and painted SW5, SW6, W6 and W7 class trams. They include Melbourne's oldest passenger tram still in regular service, number 728. That from the picture, which bears the number 909, is one of the six SW6 class tram running (since 2005) on the City Circle, and was built at Preston in 1945. In January 2006 was painted in blue with Australian flag (for Australia Day) and remained so until October, when it was painted for Advertising State Library of Victoria & Yarra Trams 100 Years 100 Years Of Electric Trams (white with multi-coloured images) and finally in the actual colors. 

In the background, on Swanston Street, can be seen another tram (white), that I couldn't identify it, neither as class nor as route.

About the stamp
The stamp belongs to Australian Bush Babies series, issued on July 29, 2011 and designed by Simone Sakinofsky. The 5 stamps shows some of Australia's most popular native baby animals:
● Bilby (Macrotis lagotis) (60c)
● Dingo (Canis lupus dingo) ($1.60) – it’s on the postcard
● Kangaroo (Macropus rufus) ($1.65)
● Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) ($2.35)
● Sugar Glider (Petaurus breviceps) ($4.70)

sender: Betty Moore (direct swap)
sent from Melbourne (Victoria / Australia), on 10.03.2012

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