Port adelaide history photos

For the only South Australian tram line to survive the disbandments of 1958, see .

Until 1958, trams formed a network spanning most of , with a history dating back to 1878. Adelaide ran from 1878 to 1914 and electric from 1909, but has primarily relied on for since 1958. Electric trams and were Adelaide's main public transport throughout the life of the electric tram network. All tram services except the were closed in 1958. The Glenelg tram remains in operation and was upgraded and extended in 2007-2010 with a further extension to open in 2018.



Adelaide's first tramway was opened in 1878; a succession of horse-drawn services followed until in 1907 the established the (MTT), which bought out their private-sector owners. A year later the MTT operated its first electric tram and before long the entire network was powered by electricity.

The early use of trams was for recreation as well as , by entire families and . Until the 1950s, trams were used for family outings to the extent that the MTT constructed gardens in the suburb of , extending the line to attract customers. By 1945 the MTT was collecting fares for 95 million trips annually — 295 trips per head of population.

After the , the maintenance of the tramway system and the purchase of new trams suffered. Competition from private buses, the MTT's own bus fleet and the growth of car ownership all took patrons from the tram network. By the 1950s, the tram network was losing money and being replaced by an electric and petrol-driven bus fleet. Adelaide's tram history is preserved by the volunteer-run and the continuing use of 1929 Type H trams on the remaining .

The Glenelg line was extended to in 2007 and to in 2010. The upgrade included the first new tram purchases in more than 50 years. Three types of electric tram, built in 1929, 2006 and 2009 respectively, now run on the line.

Horse trams[]

Horse tram 18. Used in Adelaide from 1882 to 1910, first on the Walkerville line

In early 1855, less than twenty years after the colony was founded, South Australia's first horse tram began operating between and on the . Just over twenty years later Adelaide became the first city in Australia to introduce horse trams, and eventually the last to discard them for more modern public transport. Although two trials of street level were run, the state of Adelaide's streets, with mud in winter and dust in summer, led to the decision that they would not be reliable.

Sir and , both prominent in then (and both later ), spent some time inspecting European tramways during the 1870s. They were impressed with horse tram systems and, on returning to Adelaide, they promoted the concept leading to a prospectus being issued for the Adelaide and Suburban Tramway Co (A&ST). Private commercial interests lobbied government for legislative support, over Adelaide council's objections related to licensing and control. As a result, the passed an 1876 private , authorising construction of Adelaide's first horse tram network. It was scheduled for completion within two years, with 10.8 miles (17.4 km) of lines from to the suburbs of Kensington and . Completed in May 1878, services began in June from Adelaide to with trams imported from of , United States.

Until 1907 all horse tram operations were by , with the government passing legislation authorising line construction. Growth of the network and rolling stock was driven largely by commercial considerations. On the opening day, the newly founded A&ST began with six trams, expanding to 90 trams and 650 horses by 1907 with its own tram manufacturing facility at Kensington.

A Private act, passed in September 1881, allowed the construction of more private horse tramways and additional acts were passed authorising more line construction and services by more companies. Most of the companies operated , although some were single level cabs with many built by John Stephenson Co, of Adelaide, and from 1897 by the A&ST at Kensington. The trams ran at an average speed of 5 miles per hour (8 km/h), usually two horses pulling each tram from a pool of four to ten.

Horse tram network[]

The horse tram network in 1907 A double-decked horse car in an Adelaide suburb, circa 1908

Various companies expanded the network from its initial line to Kensington, with eleven companies operating within six years, three more having already failed before constructing tracks. The Adelaide to line opened in December 1878, a separate one from to in 1879, Adelaide to and in 1881, 1882, , , and in 1883, and in 1892. Various streets were widened especially for the tram lines including Brougham Place, North Adelaide by 10 feet (3 m) and to a total width of 60 feet (18 m).

All but one line was built in 4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) with the exception from Port Adelaide to Albert Park. This line was built in 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm) to accommodate steam engines, also requiring some of the line to be raised on to avoid swampy ground and flooding. There were 74 miles (119 km) of tramlines with 1062 horses and 162 cars by 1901 and isolated lines from Port Adelaide to Albert Park and Glenelg to Brighton, as well as a network joining many suburbs to Adelaide's CBD by 1907.

The network had termini in , Hindmarsh, Prospect, Nailsworth, , , Burnside, , Mitcham, , and Walkerville. To accommodate the specific needs of horses, most streets were left . The horses' needed an unsealed surface for absorption and their hooves a soft surface for good traction.

First electric trams[]

First electric tram trial on 30 November 1908.

Adelaide's first experiment with electric powered trams was a demonstration run on the Adelaide and Hindmarsh Tramway company's line. A tram fitted with Julien's Patent Electric Traction ran in 1889 to Henley Beach. The trial was unsuccessful due to the batteries poor capacity, and the promoters' deaths in a accident shortly after precluded further experiments.

As with horse trams, commercial interests pursued government support for the introduction of electric tramways. The most influential was the "Snow scheme", promoted by Francis H. Snow largely on behalf of two companies, and Callender's Cable Construction. The scheme involved the purchase of major horse tramways, merging into an electric tramway company with twenty-one years of exclusive running rights. Legislation was passed in 1901, a referendum held in 1902, but the required funds had been spent and the scheme collapsed. Adelaide's council proposed their own scheme backed by different companies, but couldn't raise the required capital, and J.H. Packard promoted various plans of his own devising that also never eventuated.

By 1901 Adelaide's horse trams were seen by the public as a blot on the city's image. With a population of 162,000 the slow speed of the trams, and the lines subsequent low traffic capacity, made them inadequate for public transport needs. The unsealed roads the horses required became quagmires in winter and sources of dust in summer. The 10 pounds of manure each horse left behind daily, was also not well regarded. Under these various pressures the government negotiated to purchase the horse tramway companies. A 28 March 1906 newspaper notice announced that the government had purchased all of the city tramways for 280,000. Bill No.913, passed 22 December 1906, created the Municipal Tramways Trust (MTT) with the authority to build new and purchase existing tramways.

The opening of the Glenelg line.

Not all tramway companies were purchased, as the Glenelg to company continued operating separately until its failure in 1914. The government purchased the of existing tramways but did not purchase the companies themselves. The equipment included 162 trams, 22 other vehicles and 1,056 horses. By 1909 at the launch of Adelaide's electric tram services there remained 163 horse trams and 650 horses under the control of the MTT.

Due to the time required to electrify the network the MTT continued to run horse trams until 1914. The cost of purchasing the tramways was funded by and the act capped total construction costs at £12,000 per mile of track. £457,000 was let in contracts to March 1908 for construction of the tramways, trams, strengthening the Adelaide bridge over the and associated works. The official ceremony starting track construction was in May 1908, with tracks originally laid on sleepers.

On 30 November 1908 there were two trial runs, from the MTT's depot on Hackney Road to the nearby and back, the evening trial carrying the Premier and . At the official opening ceremony on 9 March 1909, Electric Tram 1 was driven by Anne Price, wife of , from the Hackney depot to Kensington and back, assisted by the MTT's chief .

Municipal Tramways Trust[]

See also:

The MTT was established in 1906 as a tax-exempt body with eight members, mostly by appointed but with some government appointees. They established a 9 acres (3.6 ha) tram depot site near the corner of Hackney Road and Botanic Road with a depot building, twenty-four incoming tracks and a large administration office. was appointed as its first engineer, later general manager and remained as general manager until his 1950 retirement.

To cater for family outings the MTT constructed gardens in the current suburb of Kensington Gardens, extending the Kensington line to attract customers. By 1945 the MTT was collecting fares for 95 million trips annually, representing 295 trips per head of population (350,000).

By 1958 the tram network was reduced to just the Glenelg tram line (see section). The MTT continued to operate most of the local bus routes in the inner metropolitan area. In 1975 the services of the MTT became the Bus and Tram division of the and the MTT ceased to exist.

Electric tram network[]

The electric tram network in the late 1950s Map of Adelaide Tramway network in 1912

At the 1909 opening, 35 miles (56 kilometres) of track had been completed with electricity supplied by the Electric Lighting and Supply Co. The electric tram system ran on 600  supplied at first from two , No.1 converter station on with of to DC capacity and No.2 station at with a capacity of 900 kW. To cope with variable loads on the system, very large storage were installed, the initial one at East Terrace comprising 293 and a 50  tank of .

The Glenelg line was, from 1873, a 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm) steam railway that ran at street level into . Originally privately owned it was taken over by the then transferred to the MTT in 1927. The line was closed to be to 4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge, electrified at 600 Volts DC and converted to tramway operation, reopening in late 1929.

The Port Adelaide line, which until that time had still used horse trams, began to be converted to electric operation in 1914 and opened 3 April 1917 A line from Magill to Morialta opened in 1915 for weekend tourist traffic with only a single return service on weekdays. The line ran in the valley of 4th creek, a tributary of the , across farmland and along unmade and ungazetted roads.

All services on the Morialta line were replaced by buses in 1956. The last tram line built in Adelaide was the line which opened in early 1944. At maximum extent the lines connected Adelaide with the sea at Henley Beach, Grange and Glenelg, reached the base of the at and Mitcham and had Northern and Southern limits of and .

Electric tram types[]

Main article:

From 1908 to 1909, 100 electric trams were manufactured by of Adelaide at a cost of approximately £100 each. Up to its last tram purchase in 1953, the MTT commissioned over 300 electric trams, some of which remained in service for over 75 years. The first of 11 trams were introduced in January 2006, followed by the first of six trams in December 2009. A further three Citadis trams will enter service in 2018.


Main article:

During the the MTT needed to expand services but finances prevented laying new tracks. A decision was made to trial , and a converted petrol bus began running experimentally on the Payneham and Paradise lines in 1932. A permanent trolleybus system opened in 1937, and trolleybuses continued running until July 1963.

Mid-century decline[]

Double decker bus, used by the MTT from 1927

From 1915 onwards the MTT had to compete against unregulated private buses, often preceding the trams on the same route to steal fares, which the MTT countered by opening their own motor bus routes from 1925. The South Australian government began regulating buses within the state in 1927, although some private operators used argued that , which deals with interstate matters, exempted them from following the regulation. By notionally marking each ticket as a fare from the pickup point to (but allowing passengers to board or alight sooner) companies avoided having to abide by the regulation for some time. The case was considered by the High Court, during the course of which Justice offered a temporary compromise agreed to by both parties, but it appears that a final judgment was never delivered. Eventually, most of the affected bus operators sold their buses to the MTT or other operators who followed the routes described. Up until the end of , most Adelaideans were dependent on public transport for daily journeys. The introduction of private automobiles decreased passenger numbers until petrol rationing during led to a resurgence in patronage; patronage remained higher than before the war, until rationing was discontinued in 1951.

From the start of the great depression until the closure of the network only one lot of trams was purchased by the MTT. Due to shortages there was minimal maintenance of the network during World War II and post-war shortages prevented the purchase of new trams. In 1951–1952 the MTT lost £313,320 and made the decision to convert the Erindale, Burnside and lines to electric trolleybuses. The last trams on these lines ran on 24 May 1952 with the lines lifted from 18 April 1953. A 1953 was held to inquire into the financial affairs of the MTT resulting in a completely reconstituted board. Late the same year, with driver safety concerns about the conflict with increasing traffic on the road, the Glen Osmond line was temporarily converted to motor buses. The line was never converted back to trams and much comment was made about the continuing maintenance of unused overhead lines.

Trolley buses gradually made way for motor buses until the last electric tram or bus service ran on 12 July 1963 leaving only the Glenelg line as a remnant of a once extensive network. Except for the Glenelg Type H, the trams were sold or scrapped. Some were used as shacks, playrooms or preserved by museums.

Renaissance and expansion[]

A 1.2-kilometre (0.75 mi) extension of the line from the Victoria Square terminus was announced in April 2005, which would see trams continue along King William Street and west along North Terrace through and the western city campus of the . An additional two Flexity Classic trams were ordered to cater for the expanded services. Construction commenced in 2007 and a new Victoria Square stop, relocated from the centre of the square to the west, was opened in August 2007. Testing of the extension began in September 2007 before it was officially opened on 14 October 2007 with shuttle services along the new extension until the release of the new timetable on 15 October when normal through services commenced. A free City Shuttle service between South Terrace and City West also began on 15 October to compliment the main Glenelg to City West service. Further extensions at that time were the subject of public debate; Tourism Minister expressed support for the line to be extended to and although the Transport Minister stated that this was not a practical option, with his preferred option the creation of a fare free city loop.

In the 2008 state budget, the government announced that it would extend the tram line further. The first extension, completed in early 2010, was from the existing North Terrace terminus to the in the inner north-west suburb of , with a park and ride service set up on . Following the expected electrification of the and rail lines, new tram-trains were proposed to run to , and by 2018. However, these plans were later scrapped in the 2012 state budget.

In 2017, another stage of expansion was announced, adding a four-way tram junction at the intersection of , and King William Road. One further stop would be provided north of that junction, adjacent to the , and three to the east of it near , and East End at the new eastern terminus in front of the old . The project is expected to cost million with the contract awarded to a joint venture of and . Preliminary works began in July 2017 with major works commencing in October and are scheduled to be completed in 2018. However, signalling issues have further delayed the opening date, and York Civil went into voluntary administration in August 2018.

Glenelg tram[]

Main article:

Adelaide's only tram route is the Glenelg tram, a 15-kilometre (9.3 mi) route from Hindmarsh, through the centre of Adelaide, to the beachside suburb of Glenelg. Trams run at approximately 15 minute intervals at off-peak times, and as often as every five minutes during peak hour periods.

Until January 2006, Type H cars provided all services on the route. In 2005, the entire route was upgraded with new track and improved tram stops, with eleven trams replacing the Type H trams in regular day-to-day service. Six trams entered service in 2009.

Proposed future extensions[]

Through the twenty-first century there have been a number of proposals to expand the tram network both within and beyond the city centre.

In 2016, the released a report detailing a proposal under the name "AdeLINK" that listed five routes that would radiate from a new CityLINK city centre loop: an eastern route to ; a collection of north western routes; a northern route to ; a southern route to either or ; and a western route to . The PortLINK proposal, that would replace the with light rail, is reminiscent of a previous extension proposal to West Lakes, Port Adelaide and Semaphore that was announced in the 2008 South Australian Budget but later abandoned in the 2012 budget.

Following the , the incoming abandoned the previous AdeLINK proposal, announcing that they would instead develop the network within the city centre only, announcing a vision of four routes: Glenelg to North Adelaide via the existing Glenelg line; Entertainment Centre to through the eastern half of the city; a loop service operating from Glenelg along the existing Glenelg line and through the eastern half of the city; and the existing South Terrace to Royal Adelaide Hospital "City Shuttle" service. The proposed city loop service from Glenelg would require the King William Street-North Terrace intersection to be reconstructed with a right hand turn from King William Street to the eastern side of North Terrace, which the Marshall Government announced during its campaign. This will require the junction relaid in December 2017 to be dug up and replaced.

Current rolling stock[]

Main article:

H type[]

Main article:

Refurbished 370 and 380 at the former City West terminus in January 2009

Until January 2006, 1929-vintage H type trams provided all services on the Glenelg line. These trams were built for the electrification of the line and have many of the characteristics of North American cars of the same period. Thirty H type trams were built by a local manufacturer , with road numbers 351 to 380.

Twenty-one remained in service in 2005. After the arrival of the Flexity Classics, five H-class trams were refurbished in 2000 with the remainder disposed of. By 2012, three were in store at 's plant. The remaining two were refurbished by , one briefly operating weekend services in August 2013. The only other recorded use of the pair was in February 2015 when they operated a charter. To make room for new Alstom Citadis trams at the depot, in December 2017 both were moved to the 's facility.

Flexity Classic[]

A contract for nine trams was awarded to in September 2004. The first three arrived at on 15 November 2005. One (103) had been damaged in transit when machinery shifted on board the ship during a storm and was despatched to Bombardier's plant for assessment. It was later declared beyond economic repair and became a source of spare parts at Glengowie depot with a replacement built.

The other two were unloaded at Victoria Square on 22 November 2005. Following a period of commissioning and staff training both entered service on 9 January 2006. The remainder were landed at , moving to Adelaide by road. The last of the original nine arrived in Adelaide in September 2006.

A further two were added to the order in 2005 following the decision to extend the line along King William Street. Both arrived in the first half of 2007, 111 being diverted to ' and completing over 400 kilometres of trial running on the . The replacement 103 arrived in June 2007.

Another four were ordered in June 2008 as part of the Adelaide Entertainment Centre extension, entering service in 2011/12. Numbered 101-115, all were built by Bombardier in , Germany.

Citadis 302[]

In May 2009 the State Government purchased six five-car trams for million. Manufactured by in , France, they had been ordered for the system in , Spain, but became surplus following the line they were ordered for being scaled back.[89] Most had not been used.

The trams were delivered in two separate batches of three being landed in Melbourne on 9 September 2009 and 10 November 2009 for modifications at Preston Workshops before being moved by road to Adelaide. Delivered as Metro Ligero's 165-170, they were renumbered 201-206. In December 2017 a further three arrived.


The following table lists patronage figures for the network (in millions of boardings) during the corresponding financial year. Australia's financial years start on 1 July and end on 30 June. Major events that affected the number of boardings made, or of how patronage was measured, are included as notes.

2000s Year N/A 2001-02 2002-03 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10 Patronage
(millions) 2.07 2.08 2.16 2.10
1.88 2.06
2.11 2.42
References 2010s Year 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 Patronage
(millions) 2.63 2.42 2.27 2.29 8.88
8.89 9.26 References
  1. Line closed for upgrade during June 2005
  2. Line closed for upgrade during July 2005
  3. City Centre extension opened in October 2007
  4. Entertainment Centre extension opened in March 2010
  5. All free travel included (previously only seniors free travel was included)

See also[]


  1. . Retrieved 5 December 2013. 
  2. The Critic (1909), p.6
  3. ^ The Critic (1909), p.8
  4. Kingsborough L.S. (1965), p.2
  5. Radcliffe, I.C. (1974), p.23
  6. The Critic (1909), p.7
  7. Lewis H. (1985), p.139
  8. Hickey A. (2004), p.16
  9. ^ Steele C. (1981), p.11
  10. ^ Steele C. (1986), p.5
  11. Kingsborough, L.S. (1965), p.8
  12. Horse tram line opening dates from Steel C. (1981), p.10, The Critic (1909), p.9-11, Nagel P. (1971), P.50 and Lewis H. (1985), p.139
  13. Nagel P. (1971), p.50
  14. Lamshed M. (1972), P.30
  15. Kingsborough L.S. (1965), p.17
  16. ^ The Critic (1909), p.14
  17. 1945 map of the 1907 Horse tramways, Published by the MTT and created by L.S. Kingsborough and C.J.M. Steele. Kingsborough L.S. (1965), p.85
  18. Australian Electric Transport Museum (1974), p.24
  19. Radcliffe, I.C. (1974), pp.31-33 and The critic (1909), p.13
  20. ^ The Critic (1909), p.15
  21. Kingsborough L.S. (1965), pp.43-44
  22. ^ State Transport Authority (1978)
  23. The Critic (1909), pp.17-18
  24. The Critic (1909), pp.19-21
  25. ^ The Critic (1909), p.21
  26. The Critic (1909), p.37
  27. The Critic (1909), pp.15,17-18
  28. The Critic (1909), p.27
  29. McCarthy, G.J (22 June 2005). . The University of Melbourne eScholarship Research Centre. Retrieved 2007-04-23. 
  30. ^ Steele C. (1981), p.15
  31. ^ Steele C. (1981), p.37
  32. The Critic (1909), p.23
  33. The Critic (1909), p.32
  34. The Critic (1909), p.34
  35. The Critic (1909), p.35
  36. State Transport Authority (1979), p.9
  37. Steele C. (1986), p.43
  38. The Municipal Tramways Trust Adelaide (1952), Electric Transport System Map
  39. ^ Oldland, Jenny (16 January 2007). . Yorke Peninsula Country Times. Retrieved 2007-02-06. []
  40. 15 December 2016
  41. "Here & There" issue 352 February 2018 page 19
  42. The Tramway Museum, St Kilda (S.A.) (Undated), information brochure on tram fleets
  43. Steele C. (1981), p.23
  44. Steele C. (1981), p.32
  45. "Murrayville" Buses, , 14 July 1928.
  46. Steele C. (1981), p.32
  47. Steele C. (1986), pp.23,43
  48. Steele C. (1981), p.42
  49. Steele C. (1981), p.43
  50. Steele C. (1981), P.45
  51. Steele C. (1981), P.47
  52. 14 October 2007
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  64. ,
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  70. TransAdelaide
  71. "Glenelg Tram Refurbishment Project" Trolley Wire issue 285 May 2001 pages 16-19
  72. "Adelaide tram news" Trolley Wire issue 328 February 2012 page 16
  73. 27 July 2013
  74. 15 February 2014
  75. "Here & There" Trolley Wire issue 341 May 2015 page 22
  76. "Here & There" Trolley Wire issue 352 February 2018 page 19
  77. "Metros" December 2004 page 820
  78. ^ "Adelaide's New Trams" Trolley Wire issue 304 February 2006 pages 16, 17
  79. "Adelaide news" Trolley Wire issue 307 November 2006 page 26
  80. Department of the Premier & Cabinet
  81. Tramway Museum, St Kilda
  82. "Adelaide - another Flexity enters service" Trolley Wire" issue 309 May 2007 page 16
  83. "Adelaide: last Flexity arrives" Trolley Wire" issue 310 August 2007
  84. "Additional trams" Trolley Wire issue 314 August 2008 page 15
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  86. Castello, Renato (24 May 2009). . . Retrieved 27 October 2013. 
  87. Fenton, Andew (7 June 2009). . . Retrieved 27 May 2014. 
  88. "Six new trams for Adelaide" Trolley Wire issue 318 August 2009 page 21
  89. Rail Express 24 June 2009
  90. . Trams Down Under archive. 10 September 2009. . Trams Down Under archive. 11 November 2009. . Trams Down Under archive. 11 November 2009. 
  91. 18 October 2017
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  • Lamshed, Max (1972). Prospect 1872–1972, A portrait of a city. Adelaide: The corporation of the city of Prospect.  . 
  • Lewis, H. John (1985). ENFIELD and The Northern Villages. The corporation of the city of Enfield.  . 
  • Metropolitan tramways trust (1974). The Adelaide tramways, pocket guide. A catalogue of rolling stock 1909–1974. Adelaide: Metropolitan tramways trust. 
  • Metropolitan tramways trust (1975). 1907–1974 Development of street transport in Adelaide, Official history of the municipal tramways trust. Adelaide: Metropolitan tramways trust. 
  • Nagel, Paula (1971). North Adelaide 1937–1901. Adelaide: Austaprint.  . 
  • Radcliffe, I.C.; Steele C.I.M. (1974). Adelaide road passenger transport, 1836–1958. Adelaide: Libraries board of South Australia.  . 
  • State Transport Authority (1979). Adelaide Railways. Adelaide: State Transport Authority. 
  • State Transport Authority (1978). Transit in Adelaide : the story of the development of street public transportation in Adelaide from horse trams to the present bus and tram system. Adelaide: State Transport Authority.  . 
  • Steele, Christopher (1981). The burnside lines. Sydney: Australian Electric Traction Association.  . 
  • Steele, Christopher (1986). The Tramways and Buses of Adelaide's North-East Suburbs. Norwood, South Australia: Australian Electric Traction Association.  . 
  • Taylor, Edna (2003). The History and Development of ST KILDA South Australia. Salisbury, South Australia: Lions Club of Salisbury.  . 
  • The Critic (1909). The Tramways of Adelaide, past, present, and future : a complete illustrated and historical souvenir of the Adelaide tramways from the inception of the horse trams to the inauguration of the present magnificent electric trolley car system. Adelaide: The Critic. 

Further reading[]

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