Rozelle Tram Depot in Sydney, Australia was opened in 1904 and at it’s peak hired over 650 staff members. It was the second largest tram depot on the Sydney network which was amongst the largest and most advanced tram systems in the world at the time of its operation. In the Commonwealth of Nations, only London’s was larger. Usage declined after World War II and the last tram in Sydney operated on the 25th of February 1961.
Sydney’s first tram line opened in 1861. The horse-drawn service operated from the old Sydney railway station to Circular Quay along Pitt Street. The tracks that were used caused damage to crossing wagons and pressure led to the closure of the line in 1866. An accident in 1864 brought unwanted attention to the line. Renowned Australian musician Isaac Nathan was alighting from the tram car but before he was clear, it moved forward and he fell beneath the front wheel. He was the first tram fatality in the southern hemisphere.
Sydney’s next attempt at a tram line came in 1879 as part of the the Sydney International Exhibition. The steam tramway served the Royal Botanic Garden area and was only to be a temporary measure for the fair, however it was a massive success and the tram system expanded rapidly through the city and inner suburbs during the 1880s and 1890s. The steam trams consisted of a Baldwin locomotive and either a single or double deck carriage. All of the Baldwin steam locomotives were imported from the USA with over 100 delivered to the New South Wales Government Tramways.
Electrification of the Sydney tram system began in 1898 using a power supply system adapted from the New York City subway. Generating plants were built at Ultimo and White Bay Power Stations. By 1910, the entire system was electrified (apart from one private line from Paramatta to Redbank Wharf which remained a steam tram line until 1943).
As the tram network in Sydney grew, so too did the need for depots. Ultimo had opened in 1899 and Newtown in 1900 however, there was a need for another depot serving the western and south-western areas of the city. Rozelle Tram Depot was built in Glebe and began operations on 17 April 1904. Initial capacity was for 96 carriages. This was increased to 125 in an expansion in 1907. By 1918, 200 tram cars called the depot home.
The popularity of the tram system in Sydney was the cause of its own demise. 405 million passengers used the service in 1945. The trams were overcrowded and increased usage of motor cars and buses brought congestion to the streets of Sydney. During the war, materials to maintain the tram system were hard to come by and it became rundown. Financially, continuing to run the system had become unviable and the state government decided to close it. It was wound down in stages, beginning in the early 1950s.
Many trams from the Ultimo depot were transferred to Rozelle in 1953. The Glebe line which the depot serviced closed in 1958 and Rozelle Tram Depot was left abandoned. It was used to store 6 historic trams belonging to the Sydney Tramway Society however they were vandalised heavily. One was eventually restored and returned to pride of place in the Tramsheds development which has re-purposed the Rozelle Tram Depot into a food destination.