Friday, June 29, 2012

Tram #47


I am #47, a Brisbane tram.

What's that you say - there are no trams in Brisbane? Well, that's true if you are talking public transport. But I'm still around. I live out at Ferny Grove and we'll get to that later.

When the horse-drawn trams in Brisbane were replaced by electric trams in 1897, the first tramcars used were California combination cars, and that's what I am. A combination car had both enclosed and open-air seating for passengers, so it was ideal for Brisbane's warm, humid climate. We were originally designed for use as a San Francisco cable car, hence the "California" in my name. Mostly though, we were known as "Matchbox" trams after the popular toy. Here is a photograph of one of my brother trams from that period, taken at the Ascot terminus in Racecourse Rd. 


One of the neat things about me is that I have dual controls. I can be driven from either end, so there is no need for a turntable at the end of the track (like San Francisco has for its cable cars) to turn me around. The Human who controls me is called a motorman, and he uses his left hand to shut the current off and on, whilst in his right hand is a powerful gear brake. The alarm gong to warn motorists and pedestrians is sounded with the foot, and above the motorman's head there is a switch for cutting the current off completely. At the end of my outward journey, the motorman and the conductor pull down the pole that connects me to the electric wire overhead, swivel it around and then reconnect it in the other direction. Then I can commence the return journey. Here is my picture from 1910.

(Photo: Courtesy Brisbane City Council; BCC-B54-A821)

I was one of 63 trams like me that were built between 1897 and 1904 - I was built in 1901. We operated over all of Brisbane's 200km of tram lines and carried millions of passengers, especially during WWII when Brisbane's population swelled with service personnel. Here I am at a depot in 1945.
(Photo: © Brisbane City Council; BCC-B54-29955)

After the war newer and larger trams started to replace us, although some of us were used as advertising cars and some were altered for track cleaning duties. I got to work on the Gardens line that ran up and down Edward St between the Botanical Gardens and Leichhardt St. For that journey I didn't even need a conductor, because people either paid the motorman or simply dropped their fare in a box as they boarded. This route was converted to a trolley bus journey eventually. After we were phased out in 1952 we were kept in storage by Brisbane City Council and only used for special events. Here I am with a brother at the Milton Tram Depot in 1968.The brick building behind me on the left is the Arnott's Biscuit factory.
(Photo:  Mike Quirk via

You probably know that Brisbane's tram network was completely closed down in 1969. The Council had decided to keep one of each of its historical trams for posterity, and I was proud to be selected as the representative of the California combination type. Here I am in pristine condition at Milton in 1968.
(Photo: express000 via

The Council decided to donate some of its historic trams to the Brisbane Tramway Museum Society to be kept for the benefit of the citizens of Brisbane. On 24 February 1969, the Council handed over the first tram (#47 - me!) to the Society. It took some years for the Society to obtain a site suitable for the storage of trams, and then a lot of work was undertaken to provide power, tracks and storage for the trams and spare parts that were gifted by the council.

Now the Society operates a proper museum where Brisbane residents and visitors can see and ride on trams, learning about the history of trams in Brisbane at the same time. The Brisbane Tramway Museum is at Ferny Grove and their web page is here. I live there, and even though I am over 110 years old, I still run up and down the tracks with passengers on board. This is a photo of me at the end of the museum's line, and the motorman and conductor are reversing the pole for the return run.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

Why don't you come out and visit some time.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tram shelter, New Farm

Just after my most recent post on Brisbane's trams, I came across this image, seemingly from about 1989. I'm afraid I don't know the source of the picture, but I would happily credit the photographer if I could.
(Photo: source unknown)

The photograph made me stop and look, because it seemed a bit familiar to me. Then I realised - it was taken at the end of my street.

The white building at the LHS of the picture is HMAS Moreton, a former Brisbane naval base. Right beside it is a Queensland Rail rail motor that is travelling on the now-defunct Teneriffe railway line. It used to service the CSR Refinery, the Powerhouse, the woolstores, the wharves and the gas works that were a feature of the area. As the rail motor was strictly a passenger train, I assume that this is some special excursion train.

Under the Moreton Bay figs on the RHS of the photograph is a tram shelter with a few people waiting for the tram that ended at New Farm ferry - the ferry terminal is just out of shot on the left. The tram shelter was constructed from timber with a tiled roof, and seems to be similar to this one at Coorparoo.

Let's fast forward to today with a look at the same area.
(Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

As we all know, there are no more trams. Buses come past here but there is no bus stop at this point. The tram shelter remains, acting purely as a shelter and place of repose - the seat has even been turned away from the street. On the day I took this photo there was a group of people sitting in the shade of the shed having a chat. The New Farm and Districts Historical Society has erected a plaque detailing the history of the shed - here it is.
(Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

The train line is no more, although traces of the rails appear in different spots - the industry that required it no longer exists. The CSR Refinery is now an apartment block; the Powerhouse is now restaurants and an entertainment venue. The woolstores no longer store wool - they house people in apartments; the gas works and wharves have gone, replaced by more accommodation. And HMAS Moreton no longer exists either. It too was demolished to make way for a large apartment block, Freshwater, as seen in the middle photograph above. There are still remnants of the ferry terminal nearby, although neither the ferries nor the City Cat stop there now.

In the space of twenty-odd years everything in the top photograph has gone. Except for the tram shelter. Thank goodness it's still there.

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Friday, June 22, 2012

Hester Villa, East Brisbane

Like the house Hanworth, seen previously in these pages, today's property in East Brisbane was originally owned by a seafaring type - in this case Captain Robert Pearn. At one stage of his career, Pearn plied the labour trade - he "recruited" labourers from the Pacific Islands and transported them via ship to work on Queensland sugar plantations. There were many other ships and sailors involved in this practice, and many of the labourers were kidnapped or taken by force. Even where this was not the case, it is more than probable that the Islanders did not really understand what was in store for them in Australia. In the vernacular of the time, these "recruiting" exercises were known as blackbirding, and it was thankfully outlawed at the beginning of the twentieth century. Two of the vessels that Pearn commanded in these voyages were Lochiel and Clansman - here is a picture of Lochiel.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #37343)

Pearn married in January 1884, and in 1889 built a house at this location. Unfortunately it burned down, and in 1901 a new residence was erected in its place. The house was named Hester Villa after the Pearns' first daughter. The following photo is from 1982.
(Photo: © 1982 National Trust of Queensland; R Sumner; F Bolt)

I understand that the house was restored in the 1980s. My current photograph can be seen below, although the very pleasant but leafy surrounds do not allow for much of the residence to be seen.
(Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Desmond Chambers, Adelaide St

Here is a Brisbane structure that could tell a tale or two. It is Desmond Chambers on Adelaide St in the CBD, a five storey plus basement building constructed around 100 years ago. The architects were Atkinson and McLay and the builder was Harry Roberts.

Originally built as a combination warehouse and offices, Desmond Chambers has seen a variety of occupants over the years. The ground floor has been a showroom for such diverse purposes as automatic milking machines and motor vehicles. Other parts of the building have seen use as Commonwealth public service departments and commercial offices.

During WWII it fulfilled such functions as a recruiting office and also a canteen for the Australian armed forces. There was local controversy when it was announced that the canteen in Desmond Chambers was going to serve beer on Sundays, and concerned citizens worried about their peaceful Sundays being spoiled by drunken servicemen. The local publicans were not amused either, seeing they were not able to open on Sundays themselves. Eventually the Army backed down, saying that there had never been an intention to serve alcohol on Sundays and that the newspaper article that reported that it was going to occur resulted from a misunderstanding.

After the war, Desmond Chambers was the venue to collect the dole that was provided to returned servicemen who were unemployed. It was busy - a newspaper report in January 1946 indicated that the number of men claiming the dole was increasing rapidly, with five times as many men claiming it in that month compared with the previous month.

On Christmas Day in 1986, there was a fire on the rooftop of the building, with firefighters using extension ladders and hoses to battle the blaze.   
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #185507)

These days Desmond Chambers houses a snack bar and a skin care salon on the ground floor, whilst many of the offices in the floors above seem to house lawyers and interpreters.

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Friday, June 15, 2012

Rosemount, Windsor

The original residence called Rosemount was built in 1859 for Daniel Rowntree Somerset, who later became the chief clerk in Brisbane Customs House. It was subsequently owned by other Brisbane notables Sir Maurice O'Connell and Maurice Lyons. The substantial land content surrounding the residence was subdivided and sold for housing allotments around 1880.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #703103)

By 1885 the original stone house was needing repair, so architect GHM Addison was consulted by the then owner Alfred Jones who was the local manager of Gordon and Gotch, newspaper and magazine distributors. The result was a new brick residence with an ornate porch. After Jones died, his sons leased the property to the Australian Defence Forces for the duration of WWI for use as a hospital. During the war the Department of Home Affairs constructed several new buildings in the grounds of the property as additional hospital wards. Here is a photograph of the hospital complex from around 1918. It was formally acquired by the government in 1926.
(Photo: Australian War Memorial; H02257)

And the next image shows nurses tending to patients in one of those wards. Many of the buildings used verandahs in this way.
(Photo: Australian War Memorial; H02258)

Rosemount continued in service as a military hospital right through WWII, but during the 1950s Greenslopes Hospital on the other side of Brisbane was selected to be the main repatriation hospital. Some of the unused land between Rosemount and the river was sold to the Brisbane City Council and is now used as parkland. 

Rosemount then became attached to the Royal Brisbane Hospital and provided geriatric and psychiatric support to its Herston site. During the 1990s this use ceased, and the building fell into disrepair. In 2005 the site was leased to a charitable organisation that provides support for the terminally ill. It is now known as Karuna.

Here is the Addison-designed Rosemount building today, and the ornate entrance porch can be seen at the right of the building.

(Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Sir Charles Kingsford Smith

Undoubtedly one of Australia's first publicly feted world heroes, Charles Edward Kingsford Smith was born in the suburb of Hamilton, Brisbane on 9 February 1897. He and his family moved to Canada when he was about six and returned to Australia in 1907, settling in Sydney.

Kingsford Smith joined the AIF in 1915 and was sent overseas to serve at Gallipoli, Egypt and France. His career in aviation commenced in 1916 when he joined the Australian Flying Corps, and he proved an immediate success in this field. He shot down four enemy planes in his first month as a fully-fledged pilot. Smithy himself was eventually wounded and shot down in France. He was awarded the Military Cross for "conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty", before continuing to the end of WWI as a flying instructor. Here is a picture of Smithy in his flying kit.
(Photo: wikipedia)

After the war ended, Kingsford Smith seemed to lead a life of boys' own adventures - initially he and some associates bought aeroplanes to commence taking fare-paying passengers, but the project struggled financially. Smithy ended up performing barnstorming stunts and taking people on joy flights in order to produce some cash flow.

In 1928, Kingsford Smith, Charles Ulm and two crewmen left California to fly across the Pacific Ocean to Australia in his now-famous aircraft Southern Cross. With refuelling stops in Hawaii and Fiji, they reached Australia in just over 83 hours of flying time. They landed at Brisbane's Eagle Farm on 9th June and were greeted by over 25,000 excited Australians. This image shows the Southern Cross landing in Brisbane.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #68924)

In August of the same year Kingsford Smith flew non-stop from Point Cook in Victoria to Perth, then in September-October flew from Sydney to Christchurch in New Zealand.

But there was a major hiccup in 1929 when Smithy set off from Sydney for England, where he intended to buy some more aeroplanes for the purpose of commencing an airline. Bad weather and loss of communication caused him to land in the far north-west of the country, triggering a major search. One of the planes in the search party crash-landed in Central Australia and the two men aboard died from thirst and exposure. There was some fallout as far as Kingsford Smith's public reputation was concerned - some sections of the public felt that his landing was a publicity stunt that caused the unnecessary deaths of two fellow aviators. There was an official enquiry which found that Kingsford Smith had no case to answer.

Kingsford Smith did establish his airline, Australian National Airways, but the loss of a plane over the Snowy Mountains together with the depression meant that it was not a success. Meanwhile, Smithy continued to pioneer aviation by breaking records and competing in air races.

Smithy was knighted for his service to aviation in 1932, and his adventurous life still continued. Awarded the trans-Tasman mail route, he and his flying companion PG Taylor set off on the initial flight - it rapidly turned ugly. The starboard engine was damaged in flight and had to be turned off. Then the port motor ran low on oil, leaving only the centre engine functioning properly. In an amazing feat of courage, Taylor crawled out on the wings six times to gather oil from the starboard engine and transfer it to the port engine, thereby saving their lives.

As we all now know, Kingsford Smith later perished during an attempt to break the record for flight between England and Australia. It is presumed that his plane, Lady Southern Cross, and all aboard came down somewhere near Burma in November 1935 - although some parts of the aircraft were found, no bodies have ever been recovered. His most-recognised aeroplane, Southern Cross, was preserved for years before being housed in a special hangar near the Brisbane International Airport. The first photo below shows the craft being towed towards its new resting place, and below it is a recent image of the plane today.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #289588;

(Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

Think of the changes we have seen in aviation in the eighty short years since Smithy's heyday. I'm sure that he couldn't imagine the size and complexities of today's passenger aircraft. Compare the cockpit of Southern Cross with that of a modern passenger plane.
(Photo: wikipedia) 

 (Photo: © / SuperStock)

And lastly, don't forget that Sir Charles Kingsford Smith is featured on the Australian $20 note.

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Friday, June 8, 2012

Craigerne, Red Hill

This residence is an owner-built house that dates from 1880. The owner and builder was Mr William McCallum Park, a master builder who, amongst other projects, constructed such fine buildings as the original Brisbane Grammar School and the first Colonial Mutual office. He also supervised the construction of St Paul's Presbyterian Church. Park was a keen lawn bowler, being a member of Brisbane's first bowls club at the site of the Botanical Gardens, and he built the green when it moved to Roma St - it later amalgamated with Boroodabin Bowls Club at Bowen Hills. At his death in 1934 at the fine age of 97, Park was lauded as "Australia's oldest bowler", and it seems that he would have been more than happy with that description.

This house, Craigerne, is currently surrounded by a two-metre hedge acting as a barrier to noise, as it is situated on a corner block on quite a busy road in the inner-north suburb of Red Hill. The side street is Park St, and I assume that is in remembrance of the original owner. My photo gives but a glimpse of the front fence and gate, together with the front entrance and a plaque showing the name of the house.
(Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

An older photo of the two-storey residence can be seen here. The exterior walls are constructed from random rubble masonry and internally there are no fewer than eight fireplaces. The Park family only lived in the house for three years before moving out and putting it to rent. Perhaps it was too hot!
(Photo: © 1982 National Trust of Queensland; R Sumner; F Bolt)

The house is listed on the Queensland Heritage Register, and apparently a restoration was undertaken in the eighties.

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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Waldheim, Annerley

This building in the southern suburb of Annerley used to be a fine dining establishment known as The Clansman. My spouse and I went there a few times back in the eighties. We saw royalty there too - I can recall spotting Wally Lewis, the Emperor of Lang Park, and Dick Johnson, the King of the Mountain, there at various times.

It appears that the current use of the former restaurant is as a child-minding facility or pre-school, hence the sand pit and cubby house in the foreground of my picture.
(Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

Actually, this building was originally the house of an early Brisbane mover and shaker, William Stephens, pictured below around the year 1889.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #167293) 

William Stephens was the eldest of the eleven children of TB Stephens, a very versatile man who was a politician and owned a tannery business and a newspaper as well. William must have been cut from the same cloth, as after the death of his father when William was only twenty, he managed the considerable Stephens estate on behalf of his mother and siblings. He also followed his father's footsteps into politics, becoming a councillor in the shire of Stephens (named after his father) for over thirty years including seven terms as chairman. He became the first mayor of South Brisbane in 1888, and was elected mayor twice more after that.

William Stephens married in 1900, and built Waldheim (a German word meaning "home in the forest") just off Ipswich Rd at Annerley Junction shortly thereafter. I'm not sure how long he lived there - another house, Knutsford, was built in 1907, and William was also very influential in primary industry in the Nerang area near the Gold Coast. In April 1907, the wife of William Stephens' brother Llewellyn gave birth to a son at Waldheim. Whether Llewellyn and his wife were living there then, or Waldheim was made available to them for her "confinement" is not known. Llewellyn and his wife were to move to their own house Kitawah in 1911.

The Stephens family has left quite a legacy in Brisbane - I'm sure we will hear more of them in this blog.

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Friday, June 1, 2012

Fortitude Valley State School

One of the oldest still operating state schools in Queensland has recently celebrated its 150th anniversary. The Fortitude Valley State School was opened in March 1861, operating firstly from the Foresters' Hall on the corner of Ann and Brunswick St, near the site of the Royal George Hotel. Here is a photograph that shows the early school building.

By 1867 the school had well and truly outgrown the one-roomed rented premises, and moved to purpose-built accommodation in Brookes St. It is a testament to the local community that over £100 was collected by subscription to supplement the government's cost of building the school. The new brick building was designed by Benjamin Backhouse, and consisted of two storeys.
(Photo: DERM, 2009)

As the Fortitude Valley area flourished further room became necessary, and in 1874 RJ Suter was called upon to design another school building. This one was also brick, and was built in Brookes St between the Backhouse building and the Valley police station. The male pupils were moved to the new building while the girls and infants remained.
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(Photo: DERM, 2009)

Further changes that evolved over the years allowed the inclusion of an infants' wing and classes for "Opportunity" students. In 1950 a new building was erected on the other side of the railway line from the earlier buildings. This brought about co-ed classes and the incorporation of the infants' school into the main school body, with the Opportunity students housed in a separate annexe. 
(Photo: © Ray Thurlow)

Fortitude Valley State School now operates out of only the 1950 building, with the other two remaining buildings now privately owned and heritage protected.

(Note: the original text has been altered to correct some factual errors).

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