The tram trial in Sydney

The following article about the trial of one of Thomas Parker's battery-powered trams, appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, on Saturday 2nd June, 1888:

A Successful Trial

A very successful trial of an electric tram motor was made yesterday afternoon (Friday, 1st June, 1888) on the tram line between Sydney and Botany. The system of which the capabilities were demonstrated is that patented by M. Julien, the right of using which in Australia and New Zealand has been purchased by Mr. E. Pritchard, who is well known in connection with the construction of the main trunk sewer to Bondi, as well as in relation to railway works.

The trial was witnessed by between 200 and 300 gentlemen, who were conveyed to and from Botany by a special tram. Amongst the spectators were Mr. W. Clarke, Minister of Justice; Mr. Cowdery, Engineer for Existing Lines; Mr. E. C. Cracknell, Superintendent of Telegraphs, and a very large number of members of both branches of the Legislature. The vehicle used was one specially constructed at the establishment of Elwell-Parker, the electrical engineers, in Wolverhampton, England, and it was built in accordance with the principle laid down by the inventor of the system exhibited.

The vehicle resembled in appearance an unusually large omnibus, and reminded those who have visited Adelaide of the tramcars used in that city. The car, which is a car and motor combined, was of a larger pattern than those employed at Rio Janeiro, New York, Philadelphia, and Brussels, in all of which cities the Julien system is in operation. In those cities the cars used seat 35 persons, whereas that shown yesterday seats 50 persons, 26 on the upper deck (which is uncovered), and 24 inside.

Undue haste had been shown in the construction of the car and the consequence was that it did not present that finished appearance looked for in regard to new vehicles, and some defects had arisen in course of construction which contributed to make the trial a very severe one. One fault which was very noticeable was the unnecessarily substantial character of the car, which was much stronger and much heavier than was absolutely necessary. The car was said to be heavier comparatively than those now used in connection with steam traction. It weighs when empty 5 tons, and when full from 8¼ to 9 tons.

The motive-power is stored in lockers, situated underneath the seats, and access is gained to these by hinged panels over the wheels. The motor consists of 8 trays of accumulators, each tray holding 15 cells. One charging of the car is sufficient for 80 miles or 7 hours actual running, and a similar time is occupied in storing a fresh supply of electricity. The storage of electricity is accomplished in a shed in which are employed a 10 hp. boiler and engine and one of the Elwell-Parker dynamos. To take out the exhausted cells and substitute newly charged ones occupies only about five minutes. The electric tram-motor seen yesterday is designated a 20 hp. motor.

When in perfect working order, and that was not claimed to have been the case yesterday, it is capable of running at a rate of about 15 miles an hour. The maximum reached yesterday was about 10 miles per hour. The car is capable of running up a gradient of 1 in 10, but it is not considered desirable to run it on a steeper gradient than 1 in 15.

The car was at Botany and taken on several spins by the electrical engineer, Mr. Bullimore, who pointed out to the passengers various peculiarities in construction, and showed that he had an intimate acquaintance not only with the electrical but with all the other systems of tramways; so much so that he was able to point out the various respects in which other systems failed to come up to the requirements of a perfect tramway service.

A strong case was made out in favour of the Julien system, on the ground that it could be applied to almost any description of car, and especially those in use on the Sydney tramways, that it would put an end to shrieking whistles, abolish all smoke and smut, and enable the car to which it was applied to travel almost noiselessly.

After several spins had been taken with the car at Botany it was duly freighted, and sped off to the city on the Government tramline. This route is said to afford the most severe test that could possibly be applied to any tram conveyance, and those of the citizens who remember incidents which frequently happened in connection with the establishment of the tram system between the city and Botany will not be inclined to deny that that line affords more than one severe test. The gradient from Liverpool Street to Belmore Park is 1 in 18, and is said to be the steepest on the whole of the Sydney tramways. The Barrackhill at Paddington is generally regarded as one of the most difficult for a tram to surmount, but that is only 1 in 22. In running from the terminus at Botany to King Street in Sydney, the electric motor occupied 35 minutes, and the journey was not only a novel but a very pleasant one.

A noteworthy improvement that would be effected by the general adoption of some such car as that used yesterday would be in respect to the seating of the passengers. In the cars now in use, passengers who may sit vis-à-vis are almost of necessity brought so close to each other as to produce anything but a pleasant sensation. In the vehicle used yesterday the seats are placed longitudinally, and a sufficient space intervenes to allow of a conductor passing along the centre of the car without incommoding the passengers.

The question of the cost of working was discussed, but no definite information was forthcoming upon this point, beyond the fact that in England it had been found to be equal to about 6d. per tram mile. Manual labour is used in connection with the recharging of the cells, and to the English estimate of 6d. per tram mile would have to be added the difference in the value of labour as between England and New South Wales.

There were only two weaknesses noticed at yesterday’s trial, and these would have escaped observation had it not been for the presence of some gentlemen whose special training in electrical science had led them to look for a perfect electrical machine. Both of these weaknesses, it was pointed out, are capable of improvement. One was the large amount of care seemingly required to always ensure a speedy application of the brake, and the other was a slight grating noise, resembling the escape of steam, and at the same time suggestive of the sound caused by the application of a brake to a heavy vehicle descending a steep incline, the first fault is susceptible of improvement, so that the car can be brought to a stand within its own length, and the second can be remedied by the substitution of an electrical brake for the ordinary chain brake now in use.

Whilst the car was under examination at Botany, refreshments were partaken of. A little later Mr. O. R. Dibbs, M.L.A., referred to the enterprise shown by Mr. Pritchard, and the gratification which the visitors had experienced at inspecting the vehicle. He felt convinced that electricity was the motor of the future. He was sure that the visitors thanked Mr. Pritchard for the entertainment he had given them. At the call of Mr. Dibbs, three cheers were given for Mr. Pritchard. The compliment was duly acknowledged.

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