The Dictionary of Sydney was archived in 2021.
Everything old is new again
Sydney's first trams were drawn by horses when they were introduced in 1861, but this service only lasted until 1866.
A steam tram was introduced in 1879 - as is so often the case, the impetus for the new infrastructure was a big public event. Enormous crowds were expected for the International Exhibition in the Botanic Gardens in 1879 and the tram service was proposed to bring people from the railway terminus, close to the current location of Redfern station, into the city almost to the gates of the Garden Palace.
Despite some initial scepticism from the public, the line was an immediate success and the original plans to demolish it once the Exhibition had closed were abandoned. In 1880 the government decided to build on its success and committed to building more tramways in the city and further into the suburbs.
Sydney's extensive tram network was at its peak in 1922, but the Depression, followed by WWII, saw the geographical spread of the network halt. By the 1950s a number of factors including the decentralisation of industry and the rise in ownership of private automobiles meant that government priorities had changed and in the early 1960s we pulled up the tracks.
But now they're back! Trams won't be running on the new tracks until 2019 so it will be a while yet until we know what its like to catch a tram down George Street.
In the meantime, you can walk on some of the tracks, visit the Tramway Museum in Loftus, go down to the revamped Tramsheds at the Harold Park development and eat in a restored tram, or admire one of the many tram waiting shed that are dotted around the city and currently serve as old bus shelters, like the stand at the intersection of Park and Elizabeth Streets.