Monday, February 15, 2016

James Trackson and Brisbane's first motor car

Does your daily commute look like this? If it does, I'll bet that you wish you could go back to a time when Brisbane's traffic was a lot lighter.

Would you go this far back? Here is Brisbane's first motor car, photographed in Elizabeth St in 1902.
(Photo: SLQ 257640)

While the city would be empty of cars, the early motorist would have had to contend with unpredictable horses, poor roads and a lack of auto mechanics. From a driver's perspective this early vehicle had wheels that would not be out of place on a bicycle and a tiller for steering. I doubt that it was safe or comfortable.

The car in this photograph was known as a Locomobile and was actually steam-powered. It is being driven by Mr James Trackson and his wife is the passenger. To say that Trackson was an enthusiast would be no exaggeration - he was also the first in Brisbane to own an internal combustion car; and in 1905 he was one of the founders of the RACQ, Queensland's motoring body.

Trackson built his own motor car which was dubbed "The Trackson". It was based on a two-cylinder De Dion-Bouton car imported from France in 1900, powered by a 5 hp petrol engine and had a reported top speed of 25 km/h.

James Trackson came to Australia from Norwich in England and he was a qualified electrical engineer. He was associated with erecting the first phone exchange in Melbourne and at Ballarat, and also helped lay the Melbourne cable tramways. He came to Queensland in 1895, and after erecting the first telephone exchange in Queensland he established an engineering firm, Trackson Bros.

James Trackson lived at Newmarket at a property called Sedgley Grange, photographed below. 
(Photo: SLQ 121716)

The house was demolished in 1991 and the property is now called Sedgley Park, administered by Brisbane City Council. It is the site of the well-known Newmarket Olympic Pool.

Click here for a Google Map. 



  1. I am just back from Brisbane and agree that the traffic was fairly awful. Melbourne is a much bigger city population-wise, but it is easier for me to get around because a] I avoid the two rush hours and b] I know which roads to avoid.

    But we also have an amazing system of trams and trains, so it is preferable to use public transport for trips into the City and back. Since Trackson helped lay the Melbourne cable tramways, perhaps his lasting contribution was an efficient public transport system in Melbourne.

    1. Public transport in Brisbane is marooned in paralysis by analysis. The sorely needed cross-river tunnel presented by the previous state government has been scrapped by the new government and replaced by an expensive "study". Both political parties are culpable here - they automatically deride anything proposed by the other. It is expensive and frustrating.

  2. Brisbane traffic is truly getting scary, but a better solution than whittling down the number of cars is improving the public transport network instead!

  3. This blog is non-commercial in nature because it allows me to use resources and images that are not available to commercial sites.

    For this reason I do not publish comments that include links to commercial sites or those that are overtly commercial in nature. I treat such comments as spam in order to protect the objectives of the blog.

  4. He also made and laid the first electric cables .It was real pioneering work in the
    electrical business the world over in the
    days when Mr. James Trackson arrived
    here, and particularly in Queensland.
    There was no power-house here at the
    time, as Messrs. Barton and White had
    not established the business which now-
    adays is known as the City Electric
    Light Supply Company. All the plants
    installed, therefore, had to be self-
    contained ones. All the fittings, more
    over, had to be made locally. Lamp hold-
    ers, for example, were made of hard-
    wood boiled in paraffin and then painted
    with bitumen, as also were the insu-
    lators which were used in outdoor con-
    One of the earliest installations which
    Mr. Trackson established here was that
    which connected Parliament House
    with the generating plant installed at the
    Government Printing Office, which con-
    sisted of two undertype Robey engines
    and two Edison dynamos. The under-
    ground cables between the printing office
    and Parliament House were the first
    put down in Queensland.
    It was not until the late "eighties"
    that Mr. E. C. Barton and Mr. Cedrlc
    White founded the first electrical sup-
    ply station in Brisbane. The company
    struck bad times with the great floods
    and the financial crisis of 1893, and
    found itself in difficulties, and the
    late Mr. G. S. Murphy, who was acting
    as liquidator, offered Mr. Trackson the
    whole business for £1,000. Mr. Track-
    son, however, had arranged to take
    Mrs. Trackson and their children on
    a trip to the Old Country and he
    therefore turned down the proposal.
    From the earliest days of its history
    as a self-governing part of the British
    Empire, Queensland largely availed it-
    self of the services of honorary magis-
    trates for the hearing of minor cases.
    These sat on the bench in Brisbane
    with or without the stipendiary magis-
    trates. Thus it came about that Mr.

  5. You'll also see reference to my Grandfather Harold Hastings Green who worked with the Trackson Brothers at that time. There is a photo of both he and the Trackson family in their cars. My Grandfather was credited as building Brisbane's first locally made car at that time. HHGreen and Co also did the electrical work for the Macarthur Building on the corner of Queen Street and Edward Street in the 1930's

  6. Im surprised the Trackson house was allowed to be demolished.


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