After Dark

"Along Sebas, especially on
dark nights. You'd stop, somebody would get off or get on the tram, and boom, there'd be
no power. You'd go down the back and swing the pole to make sparks, so you could see to
get the pole back on. Then you'd go in and off you go, then bag, off again. So you'd clip
the pole in front of the tram, then go so far, then stop and put it back in its correct

From Dave Kellet, a tramway Inspector, on
the problems at night on the Sebastopol line with boys playing pranks when he was a

Many of the tramlines in Ballarat were
poorly lit by streetlights, the Sebastopol line and the line around Lake Wendouree being
good examples. On these lines, a tramcar would loom out of the darkness, often preceded on
a cold still night by the sound of the trolley wheel on the overhead. Boys could easily
"hide" in the darkness.

To overcome the problem of the boys pulling
the pole off the wire, the Driver would swing the pole to the front of the tramcar, and
touch the trolley pole on the wire to find the wire by making sparks. It was so dark, and
with no tramcar lights other than some dim 6-volt battery lights, this was the only way to
find the wire and put the pole on. He would then drive the tramcar with the pole spearing
or leading rather than trailing. The problem with spearing a pole is that it is more
likely to come off the wire and cause extensive damage to equipment. It is something that
is always done at a slow speed and cautiously.

Btm868i.GIF (13843 bytes)Ballarat tram No. 28 heads up the hill towards Ballarat Town Hall in
1960 just prior to fitting of the additional lighting. The trams were dramatically altered
with the addition of the lights and ‘tiger' stripes to improve their visibility.

Photo: Ron Fluck Collection


Btm359i.GIF (17514 bytes)Ballarat tramcars 26 and 28 are parked in the City Loop in Sturt St.
waiting their next trip. The photo taken in the early evening shows how much more
effective was the additional lights on the front panel.

Photo John Phillips



In the days before the tramcars were fitted
with dash canopy lights, the single headlight on the tramcar gave little indication to the
driver what could be on the tramline. Fortunately motor traffic levels were very light
compared to today. In the years 1960 and 1961 the tramcars were fitted with dash canopy
lighting to overcome the problem of inadequate lighting at night in the dark streets.
Melbourne tramcars, in contrast, kept their single headlight arrangement due to the better
street lights for many years until the mid 1970's when extra lights were fitted to the
front and rear panels.  Despite improved lighting cars still managed to occasionally
hit the tramcars.

Btm551i.GIF (14694 bytes)The remains of tramcar No. 20 after being hit by a semi trailer in
Victoria St. on the main Melbourne to Adelaide Highway in Sept. 1970. The driver and the
one passenger both escaped without serious injury. Just how well do you have to light
things at night?

Photo The Courier Ballarat


Dash canopy lights changed the appearance
of the tramcars as seen in the photographs. Soon after the fitting of the additional
lighting, the white strip under the lights was continued down to the headlight in order to
improve visibility yet again. The lights were arranged to have six bulbs in series made up
of four lights on the front panel and two red lights on the rear panel. A changeover
switch was provided to swap the lights around at a terminus, at the same time as the
headlight was changed over. All this was not sufficient for tramcar No. 20, which was
totally written off in an accident during September 1970, a year before the system closed.
The Ballarat Tramway Museum has converted some its tramcars back to an earlier form prior
to them being fitted with additional lights.