Melbourne Tramway and Omnibus Company Limited

Public Record Office Victoria
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Full description


The Melbourne Tramway and Omnibus Company Limited (M.T. & O.C. Ltd) was registered under the Companies Statute, 1864 on 11 September 1877. A Board of five Directors was appointed and Francis Boardman Clapp was the first Managing Director of the Company.

The Company was established to make, work and maintain street and road tramways and to provide a safe and easy means of transit to and from the various suburbs and along the lines of the principal streets of the City of Melbourne. The Company was to manufacture and maintain omnibuses and tramway carriages for the purpose of its undertaking.

The Melbourne Tramway and Omnibus Company Limited purchased the property and assets of the Melbourne Omnibus Company Limited (1868-78) when the latter was liquidated in August 1878.

It is assumed that from that time the M.T. & O.C Ltd was responsible for the operation of the horse bus lines that had been established by the Melbourne Omnibus Company. The M.T. & O.C. Ltd extended its operations to other suburbs and by 1882 it had 470 employees and 1600 horses and 178 horse buses running on fifteen routes.

Tramway Operations

In May 1882 a Members Bill was introduced in Parliament with the purpose of authorising the M.T. & O.C. Ltd to construct and operate the Melbourne Tramways. Before it was passed a Municipal Conference in September 1882 decided that it would be better if the tramways were be constructed by a body representing interested municipalities and that the Company should operate the tramways under lease. The municipalities were disinclined to part with control of their streets to any body. The Bill was amended accordingly.

The Melbourne Tramways and Omnibus Company's Act (No.765) came into operation on 12 October 1883. The Act provided for the establishment of the Melbourne Tramways Trust. (See VA 2692 for more details). Under the provisions of this Act, the M.T. & O.C. Ltd was granted an exclusive franchise to operate cable tramways in and out of the City of Melbourne for thirty years. The contract was to expire in 1916. The Company was authorised to provide the rolling stock.

Under terms of the lease the Company procured land and built sixteen car houses and a repair shop and operated the trams during the whole term of its lease. While most of the original routes were replaced by the cable trams, the Company continued to run the horse buses on some lines in East Brunswick, Prahran and Malvern, on Dandenong Road, in Moonee Ponds, Kew and Hawthorn.

From 1888 to 1891, the cable tramway grew rapidly. Cable lines had been extended to most of Melbourne's inner suburbs by the time the system was completed in 1891. The Richmond line was constructed by the Company and opened for traffic on 11 November 1885. The Company constructed this line as the agent of the Melbourne Tramways Trust (VA 2692), pending the floating of the Trust's first loan.

In 1888 the M.T. & O.C. Ltd was authorised to construct and operate the Royal Park Horse tramway under a lease provided for by the Zoological and Acclimatization Society Act 1888 (No.974). This tramway was not covered by the leasing arrangement with the Melbourne Tramway Trust.

Growing tension between the workers and the Company led to the appointment of a Royal Commission in 1898 to inquire into the industrial relations and practices of the M.T. & O.C. Ltd.


On the expiry of its lease on 30 June 1916, the M.T. & O.C. Ltd surrendered its authority to operate the city's cable network to the Melbourne Tramway Board, a government agency, (see VA 2693). The Company ceased to function as a passenger carrier from 1 July 1916. Under the provisions of the Tramway Board Act 1915, the employees of the Company and the Trust were transferred to the Tramway Board together with all property.

Following the expiry of its lease the M.T. & O.C. Ltd demanded compensation for the loss of its assets. The case commenced in June 1916. Remaining company staff were fully occupied in preparing evidence for the arbitration case. There was a long delay in arriving at a settlement of the dispute between the company and the Melbourne Tramway Board. The dispute was finally resolved by a decision of the Supreme Court in 1919.

Although the M.T. & O.C. Ltd ceased to operate the cable tramway system in 1916 it was not finally dissolved until July 1919.

Location of Records

Some records of the Melbourne Tramway and Omnibus Company Limited have been transferred to the Public Record Office.

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