This article is from a book called ‘Juggernaut’, by David Burke’ and relates an incident in which a steam tram resuces people duringa heavy flood in Sydney.
A steam tram came to the rescue in Sydney’s mammoth floods of May, 1889 when railways and street transport were almost at a standstill.
The downpour began on Friday, 24 May and by next morning rain was falling at the rate of six inches an hour. As Sunday dawned, an emergency had arisen in the low-lying Tramvale Estate bordering Victoria Road Sydenham where, since midnight, residents had been trying to protect their houses.
The motor and single car which made the 7 a.m. trip along Victoria Road on the way to Marrickville terminus ploughed through water a hand’s span deep. A much more desperate scene awaited the return of the first Sunday morning service. In that short time a swirling, muddy torrent had begun to inundate the Estate settlement which a developer had built on ground surrounded by the partly drained Gumbramorra swamp.
Forced to abandon their homes, people clutching small children and a few possessions made for the roadway at the sight of an approaching steam tram. Soon it was packed with some seventy families fleeing for their lives and nowhere else to go.
Before them, the driver watched a wall of water surging across the tracks. His choice was to hope that the level would drop rather than keep on rising or, worse, if he moved, that they could be stranded in the middle of the flood. But behind him came the urging of passengers beginning to suffer from exposure, the sound of crying babies and the sobbing of women and children clad in sodden clothes.
The whistle sounded, the throttle opened, and the Baldwin motor dashed forward, sending out a mighty bow wave that might well return to engulf them. Wreathed in steam, the tram battled ahead, water washing over the firebox grate until, across the danger point at the Victoria Road bridge, they coasted to a halt in safety at the foot of Enmore hill. By now the fire was extinguished, the brakes inoperative, but seventy chilled and shivering families were within reach of succour.
This article is courtesy of the great book called ‘Juggernaut’, by David Burke’ and is brought to you by Tram Scrolls Australia, specialists in premium quality replica tram and bus scrolls, tram banners and bus destination blinds.