Melbourne Tramways Trust

Public Record Office Victoria
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Full description


The Melbourne Tramways Trust, also referred to as the Municipal Trust, was established under the provisions of the fourth schedule to the Melbourne Tramway and Omnibus Company Act 1883 (No.765).

A Member's Bill had been introduced in Parliament with the purpose of authorising the Melbourne Tramway and Omnibus Company Limited (M.T. & O.C.Ltd) (VA 2976), to construct and operate Melbourne tramways. The Company had been registered in 1877 and purchased the property and assets of the Melbourne Omnibus Company Limited which operated horse bus lines.

Before the Bill was passed a Municipal Conference in September 1882 decided that it would be better if the tramways could be constructed by a body representing interested municipalities and that the Company should operate the tramways under lease since the municipalities were disinclined to part with their control of the streets to any body. The Bill was amended accordingly.

Membership of the Trust

The Trust was set up to represent the municipalities interested in tramways. It consisted of seven members from the Melbourne City Council and one from each of the eleven other municipalities in which tramways were to be constructed. The Trust thus included representatives from Prahran, Richmond, Fitzroy, Collingwood, South Melbourne, the town of Hotham and the Boroughs of St. Kilda, Brunswick, Port Melbourne, Hawthorn, and Kew.

Transfer of Powers

The Trust was authorised to be the agency responsible for the construction and operation of the tramway system in Metropolitan Melbourne and by means of a notarial instrument dated August 1884 the powers conferred on the M.T. & O.C.Ltd by the Act, were transferred to the Trust. The responsibility for operating the tramway system was leased to the Melbourne Tramway and Omnibus Company under a contract for a period of 30 years, until 30 June 1916. The cable tramways operated by the Company were the property of the municipalities represented on the Trust. The whole tramway system was to be handed over to the Municipal Trust on the expiry of the lease.

Operation of the Trust

The Act required that the Trust report monthly to the respective municipal councils regarding all contracts entered into, works undertaken and expenditure incurred by it. The Trust was authorised to borrow for construction purposes by means of debentures or loans secured on the lines themselves and on the revenues of the constituent municipalities. The lines when constructed were to be leased to the Company. The interest paid by the Trust on the loan was to be refunded to the Trust by the Company.

The Company paid the Trust a sinking fund on the amount borrowed, which was then invested and reinvested by the Trust in government debentures or stock. The Company and the Trust were to enter into an agreement before borrowing money for major construction. The State was exempted from any ultimate financial responsibility in what was essentially a local undertaking.

The first meeting of the Trust was convened by the Town Clerk of Melbourne on 4 March 1884 and was held on 7 March 1884. The work of the Trust was carried out by three Committees namely the Works Committee, the Legislative Committee and the Finance Committee. The Legislative and Finance Committees were amalgamated in December 1885.

Following a conference with the M.T. & O.C. Ltd., it was decided that the main lines would be operated by an underground cable system. The branch lines to Kew and Hawthorn and those to South and Port Melbourne, West and North Melbourne were to be worked by horses, since the routes contained too many curves to be suitable for a cable system. Subsequently a change of routes for the latter four lines led to their conversion to cable traction.

Pending the finalisation of financial arrangements the Trust arranged in October 1884 for the Company to construct the Richmond line. The Company was to charge the Trust cost only, to be repaid when the loan was floated. The line was duly completed and opened for traffic on 11 November 1885.

Opening Dates of Tramway Lines

Richmond 11 November 1885 (a)
Collins St and Fitzroy 20 October 1886 (a)
Victoria St East 22 November 1886
Collingwood and Clifton Hill 10 August 1887
Bourke St and Nicholson St 26 August 1887
Brunswick 01 October 1887
Carlton 21 December 1887
Kew (incomplete) 28 December 1887
St Kilda 11 October 1888
Preston 26 October 1888
Kew horseline August 1890
Hawthorn 27 January 1890
Royal Park horseline 10 March 1890 (b)

(a) Built by the Company as agent of the Trust, pending the floating of the first loan.

(b) Constructed and operated by the M.T. & O.C. Ltd. under lease from the Zoological Acclimatization Society.

Abolition of the Trust

The Tramway Trust was dissolved on 1 March 1916, the government having appointed the Tramway Board (VA 2693) on 18 January 1916, to take over the assets and liabilities of the cable system which it did on 1 July 1916. The Tramway Board Act 1915 (No.2818) also provided for the transfer of employees to the Tramway Board.

Location of Records

See list below.

Click to explore relationships graph

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  • Local : VA 2692