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from Trolley Wire October 1976


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The First Tramway 1885 to 1889

Had anyone in Kiama been bold enough to even mention the word "tramway" in 1890 he would probably have been run out of town! The council's tramway project had just reached a tragic conclusion causing the Jamberoo Ward to break away, from October 31st 1890, as a separate municipality, and depressing the district with a huge municipal debt which was to hold back the introduction of municipal utilities. The water works were opened on October 26th, 1900 but were not reliable in times of dry weather, due to the limited funds available for construction at that time, while the sewerage scheme proposed concurrently with the project has still to be built. On the break up of the municipality the Kiama ward was saddled with a 3764 debt, the south ward 708 and Jamberoo 1,492, a large amount for those days when Kiama had a population of only 1,500 , and all this caused by the tramway debacle.

The tramway debt was finally settled by the Jamberoo Municipality in August 1928 at a time when Kiama Municipality's repayment had a further two years to nm. In 1929 Jamberoo expressed the possibility of re-amalgamation with Kiama, but this did not take place until June 11th, 19 54 when Gerringong and Jamberoo re-entered the Kiama Municipality with boundaries similar to that first established in 1859.

By 1880 the Kiama stone trade was rapidly increasing. One contract of that period was the supply of 20,000 tons, for Sydney tramway construction, at 321- ($3.20) per ton, an order which would return :g 44,800 to Kiama. Due to the perpetual dust nuisance caused by the horse haulage of the gravel along Kiama's main street, the council proposed the construction of a street tramway between Pike's Hill and the Harbour. During June 1882 the Mayor and the Town Clerk framed a Bill for presentation to the Colonial Parliament to enable the municipality to borrow money for the enterprise. In August this draft BW was approved by Council and sent to Dr. Tarrant M LA for presentation to Parliament.

In the meantime Manning and Terralong Streets were being watered daily to keep down the dust while gravel was causing trouble when heaped on the quay side, as it prevented the efficient handling of general cargos. The metal trade continued to prosper, as during March 1883 three steamers were loaded over night on one occasion. During February 1883 the Tramway Bill was presented to Parliament. In the meantime two loading staiths were erected at Robertson Basin by the Government at a cost of 2,000 which enabled 400 tons of stone to be loaded each day, all this being delivered to the quayside by horse drawn carts. These staiths enabled the wharf costs to be reduced by half for on June 5th, 1883 six men were able to load the "Beagle" with 170 tons of gravel in 6 hours.

In February 1884 the tramway plans and specifications were formulated while Mr. W. Boak of the Fresh Food and Ice Coy. was called upon to assist the Council with professional advice concerning a steam loco. 0~any the Council envisaged the loaded trucks being gravitated down Terralong St. to the wharf and returning by horse traction.

Mr. Moriarty, the Public Works Department engineer, advocated a gauge size of 4'8%" but this was defeated when Alderman Sommerville presented this advice to Council. A gauge of 3'6" was adopted and the rails immediately ordered in May 1884.The Kiama "Independent" of February 2nd, 1885 reported that the tram- way was under construction with the portion on Government lands, between Manning St. and the Harbour being built under the direction of Mr. Moriarty. The Council portion west of Manning St. was supervised by John Leggatt for contractor Mclntosh and Mr. H. Strathallen for the Council.

By May 1885 the first of many problems emerged. The up and down tracks an the council section in Terralong St. were laid only 2 ft apart but in the Government section this dimension was a more satisfactory 6 ft. The need for the tramway was daily growing more urgent as a period of heavy rainfall had made regular traffic dangerous and caused stone haul- age to cease, during July 1885. At this stage the Engineer, Mr. Strathallen, offered to lease the tramway from the Council at a rental of 5% p.a. of the expected cost of 5,759 but this was rejected as the municipality felt that in 10 years the debt would be repaid and the in- come from the tramway would then be used as a rate relief.

During August 1885 Mr. Noaks, a representative from J. Fowler & Coy. inspected the tramway and suggested the employment of a six coupled loco as motive power. The Kiama "Independent" revealed that three tenders were received from suppliers of locomotives by September 25th, 1885. R. & W. Robertson's tender amounted to 1000, Roberts Willams & Coy. to.750, but the quotation of J. Fowler was accepted as being the lowest. These must have been "ex factory" costs as the Fowler engine amounted to 1 i,2t).j canoe at Kiama. An order was placed with Fowler's agent, Waugh and Josephson in January 1886.

By September 1886 the Council's credit reached the Y 8,000 limit with the Joint Stock Bank and the situation was further aggravate d with the Government's withdrawal of its maintenance subsidy for Terralong St. The ratepayer s were not at all pleased with the lack of activity on the tramway, particularly as the first drain on the rates had commenced on August 7th, 1883 and not one penny had been earnt by the facility since then. The Kiama Tramway Act had allowed for a single track, but plans for a double track main line had been adopted and to keep the rails within the available area the tracks had been laid very close together. In addition to this, the track levels varied considerably to the adjacent road surface. Much of the stone trade had now been transferred to the Bombo ,area, 3 miles north of the town, where a horse worked tramway served the nearby jetty and the new Illawarra Government Railway line was adjacent to these workings, but the North Kiama terminus was isolated from the Kiama quarries by a very steep hill.

During November 1886, local businessmen met at the Council Chambers to devise means of helping the council. The community was relatively prosperous as the entire capital for the Kiama Gas Coy., founded by Messrs Tourney & Maltrop in August 1883 had been subscribed locally. Forty citizens agreed to guarantee the Council up to 50 each to allow the tramway to be completed and enable the Pike's HW stone trade to be revitalised.

The trucks for the tramway were designed to a width of 5ft to enable them to be tipped in the 5'4" shoots at the Harbour side. During November 1886 the council approached Hudsons for estimates covering the construction of 20 trucks. Local problems wore not con-fined to the tramway, for troubles were being experienced with the new clock recently installed in the Post Office tower. The pendulum came adrift and twice fell, crashing through the roof of the local post master's residence, before it was successfully fixed into position!

The Kiama "Independent" of December 7th, 1886 reported the trial of the Fowler 0-6-0-T loco which had arrived during the previous month. This engine carded Builders No. 5265 and was fitted with side tanks of 300 gallon capacity. The 3 ft diameter drivers were powered by two 1 1 " x 18" outside cylinders and the boiler worked at a pressure of 180 lb/ This loco could not be put to work until the arrival of wagons. Dwyers built these to specifications but when received at the Harbour during May 1887 they were found to he built to 3'3" gauge, three inches underside while they were 6 inches too wide to fit the staiths at the Harbour. New axles arrived during the following month and were readily fitted, as the wagons were primitive vehicles, consisting of a box like body with a hinged flap for tipping at one end, fastened to the axles with inside bearings similar in appearance to simple 2 ft gauge colliery skips. The 20 wagons cost a total of 174. A Public Meeting held in June 1887, was informed that the Council needed more money to enable the tramway to operate efficiently. An attempt in November 1887 to have the Council abandon the project was defeated when a Tramway Amendment Bill  was drawn up for presentation to Parliament. This Act was passed on April 14th, 1888 and enabled the Council to raise a further 9,000 by loans.

At this period five quarries were operating at Kiama, three of these owned by Pike, one by Hindmarsh and the remaining one owned by Captain Charles, was located at Bombo and worked by George Hill. This last named gentleman had originally offered to lay and work the tramway as he recognised its necessity to enable the Pike's Hill quarries to work to maximum capacity but the Council had rejected his offer. A temporary decline set in at this stage in the Kiama stone industry due to Sydney Councils changing to hardwood blocks for road paying.

By August 1889 the Council had reached the decision to dispose of the tramway, a conclusion hastened by the unsafe condition of the rails which now stood well above the surrounding road surface. The whole project was costing the Council _070 p.a. in interest on top of the principal repayment, while the loco was standing unused due to the Council not being able to find any blue metal producer who would make use of the facility.

In November 1889 the Council accepted the tender of W. Carson for 70 to remove the rails and sleepers from the road, this being the lowest of ten quotations received. This job was completed in twelve working days, a contrast to the time taken to construct the tramway. On December 21 st, 1889 the Kiama "Independent" reported a debt of 2,043 on the project from which no return could be expected, and 3,44 7 from which some finance could be retrieved. This latter amount was based on assets such as the loco valued at 1,265, wagons worth- 74 and 1771 on work which otherwise benifited the borough. (this included 1,070 spent on further reducing Pike's Hill near the terminus). The interest bill during the repayment time of the loans was estimated to cost 2,067, bringing the total cost of the unsuccessful project to 7,557.

The Fowler loco was offered by the Council for sale at 800 and was sold for an undisclosed figure below this asking price at the end of June 1890. The happenings of this engine after that date are not clear, but during the early 1940's it appeared in Hobart, Tasmania station yard after working on a breakwater project at Macquarie Harbour on the west coast of the island. Plans to employ the loco on the Butler's Gorge dam construction did not reach maturity so it stood in Hobart Yard until 1974 when the Van Diemen Light Railway preservation group gained title to the unit. Long range plans envisage the restoration of this interesting engine so that it can join others in steam on the Society's Don River tramway.

Until 1887 the three wards of the Kiama Council district shared the tramway's cost equally, but this arrangement was altered so that the cost would be shared in proportion to the revenue of each ward. If the Local Government Act had allowed Kiama Council a levy of d. per ton, as could be claimed by Councils for coal or gold won in their area, Kiama rate payers would have received 300 each year in rate relief.

The last word on this project, or the first word on the second tramway to follow in 1914, was expressed by Alderman Hindmarsh in January 1899, when he forecast that the day will come when a tramway is built along Terralong Street for the blue metal trade. At this stage the gravel ships were loading 1,000 tons per week at Kiama Harbour, and the dust nuisance in Terralong St. was steadily growing worse ...