As you would expect of a tram city, there is a Melbourne Tram Museum, in the former Hawthorn tram depot, not far from Boroondara Cemetery.
The Museum has an encyclopaedic collection of vehicles dating right back to the cable-tramway (which began in 1885 and finally expired as late as 1940), parked in densely packed lines which make them difficult to see and sometimes impossible to photograph.
Its saving grace is that visitors have the run of all the vehicles. This was apparent as I walked through the doors by the cacophony of tram bells. Melbourne Tram Museum is the antithesis of places like Crich or Prague where the interiors of vehicles are mostly treated as shrines unless you’re actually riding on them.
I particularly enjoyed the “Karachi W11” tram – a superannuated 1970s vehicle that was decorated to within an inch of its life by a team of Pakistani artists for the Commonwealth Games of 2006. It’s great fun, done up like a Karachi minibus with flashing lights, tassels and all manner of glitter and carrying the number of a Karachi bus-route.
Originally fleet-number 81, dating from 1977, it was the first of the Z1 class, one of the generation of Melbourne trams that began to replace the long-lived W class which are still the emblem of the city’s transport.
The Karachi tram’s side-panels carry the message “Love is Life” in English and Urdu, and inside are invocations in both languages to “Respect your elders” and “Travel in silence”.
The newly decorated tram ran on the City Circle for the duration of the Games, March 14th-26th 2006, and again on Friday evenings during the summer of 2006-7 as part of the City of Melbourne Living Arts Program.
Otherwise it remained in store until it was transferred to the Museum in June 2015.
By far the most amusing tram in the city, it deserves an occasional outing as an alternative to the celebrated Colonial Tramcar Restaurant.
Because the Museum is staffed by volunteers it’s only accessible on open days, and it’s well worth a visit: http://www.hawthorntramdepot.org.au.