As well as losing its trams, Brisbane also lost its trolley buses in 1969, because they were powered by the same grid as the trams. A trolley bus is an electrically-driven vehicle, a bit like a tram in that it draws power from overhead wires, but it does not run on rails; the "trolley" that connects to the overhead wires can swivel from side to side, therefore allowing slightly more freedom of movement. The buses run in normal traffic lanes and pull in to the curb to pick up and drop off passengers, so they don't hold up cars the way the trams did.(Photo: Courtesy flickr; lindsaybridge)
Above is a photograph from 1963 of a tram and trolley bus side by side in Stanley St, right outside the Gabba Cricket Ground; and below is a photo of a brand new Brisbane trolley bus in 1954, taken even before the BCC livery was applied. (Photo: Courtesy Brisbane City Council; #BCC-B54-1569)
Trolley buses were introduced to Brisbane in 1951 to help cater for a rapidly expanding post-war population. They were comfortable, they were efficient and they were quiet. Instead of running on expensive diesel fuel and spewing foul-smelling gases into Brisbane's traffic, trolley buses used electric power supplied from Brisbane's powerhouses. I loved them, although their silence on the roads could sometimes be a problem for pedestrians who might not hear them coming. One nickname they attained was "whispering death" for this reason. This is the trolley bus route I used to get to my aunt's place at Norman Park - the 8A to Seven Hills on the bus pictured below, passing Queens Park on the corner of George and Elizabeth Sts. From there it would turn right into William St and pick up passengers at the North Quay stop, which is where I normally caught it. I could also catch buses on the 8C route that ended up at Carina.
(Photo: Courtesy wazzasplace.blogspot.com)
If you have ever wondered about that circular garden bed at the Edward St entrance to the Botanical Gardens, here is one of the reasons for it - it was a trolley bus terminus, allowing the buses to turn around for the return journey up Edward St.
(Photo: Courtesy BCC; #BCC-B54-3557)
So why don't we have trolley buses now? I suspect that there are several reasons. The cost of infrastructure would be one; raising those wires across all the routes and then providing power would be fairly expensive. Diesel engines have improved a lot - they are now smaller and more efficient. Of course, trolley buses can only travel where the overhead wires are, while diesel buses can go on almost any modern road. But for known high-density runs, trolley buses would still be a viable option. They continue to be used in some places - here is a picture of a modern trolley bus that will be introduced in Leeds, in the UK.
(Photograph: Gary Stevenson)
In Brisbane we are doing a lot of talking about mass transit, but not much action is occurring. Light rail (another name for trams!) was proposed, dropped and proposed again. Diesel bus routes were expanded instead. Now we are being sold an underground rail network with tunnels under the city and under the river, as well as additional city railway stations. Sounds nice - but it is very expensive. I hope that something transpires in my lifetime.
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Next: Cam's plan