Australia’s oldest tramway museum, founded in 1950, and the largest in the southern hemisphere is located in the southern Sydney suburb of Loftus. Sydney Tramway Museum is the trading name of the South Pacific Electric Railway (SPER).
The Sydney tramway service was a world class undertaking, operating 1535 tramcars at its peak. In 1944/45 it carried over 404.6 million passengers. An excellent video on the system, called “Shooting Through”, is available from the Museum.
The museum operates over 3 km of track including the 2 km Royal National Park line. The Royal National Park service operates separately to the Museum’s historic service as a tourist tramway known as “Parklink”. “Parklink” commenced operations on 1 May 1993 over a former suburban railway branch line constructed in 1886. The Museum converted the line to light rail standards and connected it to the existing museum line to establish what is now a most popular means of access to the world’s second oldest national park.
The museum was officially opened at its original site at the edge of the Royal National Park by NSW Deputy Premier Pat Hills in 1965. It relocated to a larger site across the Princes Hwy which opened on 19 March 1988. Prior to the opening of the new site the museum had operating tramways at both locations.
The museum has an extensive collection of trams from Sydney and from cities in Australia and around the world. There are two tram lines from the museum used to run tram rides for museum visitors. One line runs 1.5 km north almost to Sutherland railway station, paralleling a suburban highway in a way typical of Sydney’s previous tram system. The second utilises a former railway branch off CityRail’s Illawarra railway line to penetrate 2 km into the Royal National Park that flanks Sydney’s southern boundary. A number of Sydney’s suburban electric train services used to terminate at Royal National Park, but the line closed in 1991, and Waterfall is now the southern terminus for suburban electric train services on the Illawarra line.
The Sydney Tramway museum is run entirely by volunteers and self-funds its day to day activities, restorations and construction programs from gate takings and donations from the public.