Riding The Rails: From Past To Present

With its proximity to the city, Waterloo residents have always relied on public transport to get around.

From horse-drawn trams to the new driverless Sydney Metro, rail transport in the area has come a long way.

The first trams in Sydney

Horse-drawn trams trundled along the rails when Sydney’s very first tram line opened in December 1861. Running along Pitt Street, the solitary line connected Circular Quay with the train terminus at what’s now Prince Alfred Park.

But it wasn’t all smooth sailing. To start, the rails, imported from England, were unsuitable and so were laid upside down. The carriages could still operate – but the overhang at the top of the rails was a major pedestrian hazard and caused many accidents.

Financial difficulties plagued the tramline, too, with trouble setting in after it was privatised. To add to its problems, less than two years after opening the system experienced its first death, that of six-year-old Thomas McGowan, who fell under a tram. Then in 1864, a prominent musician and composer Isaac Nathan was crushed to death by a carriage.

In the wake of the deaths, public opinion swiftly turned against the trams and in March 1866 Sydney’s trams came to a halt, with horse-buses taking over.

Steam resuscitates Sydney’s trams

It wasn’t until the lead-up to the International Exhibition, to be held at the Royal Botanic Gardens in 1879, that plans to reintroduce a tram network to Sydney turned serious.
The first line was built, with promises to a less-than-impressed public that it would be dismantled immediately after the exhibition.

But the steam-powered line, which ran from the exhibition to Hunter Street, was a runaway success and the network was rapidly expanded. Within five years the network would increase from just 2.5 kilometres of track to almost 50.

The biggest network in Australia

Through the 1880s and 1890s, the tram network converted to electricity and grew even more. By the 1920s the system, now boasting 320 kilometres of track, was at its peak.

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This expanded network included the Botany via Railway Square line, with trams rattling down Botany Road to Waterloo. Residents in the area could also hop aboard trams on the Daceyville line, which ran along Gardeners Road towards Randwick via what was then called Daceyville Junction. At one point there was a Henderson Road line to Erskineville, and an Alexandria Line with trams also running along Elizabeth Street to Zetland and on to Rosebery.

At its peak, Sydney’s tram network was the biggest in Australia. But with the rise of the car after World War II, and competition from trains, the end was in sight. The last tram clattered through Sydney in 1961. It wasn’t long before cars started clogging up the streets, signalling the start of Sydney’s infamous traffic congestion.

Make way for the Metro

Today, the face of Sydney’s public transport is changing once again. Alongside our Sydney Trains rail network, which connects to Green Square, we’re set to benefit from the new Sydney Metro. The system, the country’s first fully accessible railway, began with the Rouse Hill to Chatswood line in 2019. Now Australia’s biggest urban rail project is extending further, with 31 new stations due to open in the next three years. And Waterloo will have its own Metro station, scheduled for a 2024 opening.

The underground station will be located between Botany Road and Cope, Raglan and Wellington Streets. Construction of the station is also set to revitalise the area with the development of the Waterloo Metro Quarter bringing shops, a station drop-off zone, new pedestrian crossings and bus connections.

With travel times to Central Station at just 2 minutes and 6 minutes to the Metro Martin Place station, the arrival of the Metro will slash travel times for Waterloo residents. There will be no timetable, with trains running frequently – every four minutes during peak times.

Looking to buy or sell in Waterloo? Call my team today.

Photo credits: Wikipedia

Article by Brendon Clark
‘The details matter - through every part of the process.’ With decades of runs on the board alongside a fresh outlook, Brendon is co-director of Clark - and one half of one of Sydney’s most dynamic and successful real estate duos. Having carved out a reputation for results in the… Read More
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