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Shooting Through Like a Bondi Tram

Peter Kahn revisits a time when Sydney was one of the world’s great tram cities and Bondi Trams shot through Paddington like, well, a Bondi Tram.

In its heyday, Sydney’s tram network was the largest in Australia and the second largest in the Commonwealth (after London) and one of the largest in the world, with about 1,600 cars in active service during the 1930s.

The expression “Shoot through like a Bondi tram” is still common even though Bondi trams stopped in 1960. It means to depart in haste and refers to express trams which ran through Paddington from 1887. Given that trams cannot pass each other, trams were scheduled to leave the city in pairs with an express tram travelling first. At Darlinghurst the front tram would “shoot through” to Bondi Junction where it would catch up with an earlier tram.

This process of closing tram lines was a long one, starting in 1939 with the Manly system. By 1961, 100 years after the first tram had run, the last line closed. Today many bus routes in Sydney’s inner suburbs still follow the original tram routes quite closely.

Remnants of the trams are everywhere if you know where to look. The site of the Opera House used to be a tram depot and what is now the Powerhouse Museum once supplied power for city trams.

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