History of the Loopline
The Tramways Act of 1885 states that the building of a street tram needed approval from the local government as well as from parliament. As early as 1896 a proposal was presented to the Kalgoorlie town council to connect Kalgoorlie and Boulder with an electric tram.
Opposition from within both the Kalgoorlie and Boulder Councils made agreement difficult.
In 1899 a draft agreement between the Kalgoorlie Council and the Kalgoorlie Tramways Syndicate to construct a Kalgoorlie town system was reached. There was opposition from the Boulder Council to the plan, but while the two councils squabbled, the Kalgoorlie Roads Board signed an agreement with a private company to construct a tramway connecting the two towns.
The Western Australian Premier, John Forrest believed that the electric tram with the ability of frequent stops would be complementary and not in opposition to the steam engines of the Loopline.
The proposal was accepted but a select committee was appointed to assess the impact the tramway would have. The committee recommended against the tramway as it duplicated the government owned Brown Hill-Boulder-Kalgoorlie Loopline system.
The Kalgoorlie tram was built in 1902 and after initial opposition from Trade Unions the Boulder tram was built in 1904.
As predicted, the Loopline suffered severely from the competition and had to cut down services.
The trams ran along Burt Street, out to Fimiston (the Boulder Block) via the subway, Lane St, Hopkins St, Vivian St and into Kalgoorlie and Hannan Street along Maritana Street ending at the Tower Hotel.
In early 1903, the first electric tram was ordered from Philadelphia. Tramcars came in two sizes and were remarkable in their speed. The small trams were four-wheeled with two motors; the large double bogeyed and had four motors.
The smaller trams could travel 30 miles per hour, the larger trams could reach 45 miles per hour. The trams had electric lights. Customers could attach their bicycles to the rope cowcatcher on the front of the tram. Prams were stored at the back.
The small trams relied on the strength of the ‘motor man’, as the driver was known, to stop the tram by using a winding hand brake. The big trams were controlled by air brakes; with hand brakes for emergencies.
The larger trams pulled carriages, called ‘dummies’. Dummies were attached to the tram during shift change on the mines. On race days or football finals, three or four dummies transported large crowds.
These trams ran daily every quarter of an hour between 6.30am and 11.30pm. As the tracks began to wear down and the drivers tried to make up time as they ran late, the ride on the small tram would become rough, earning them the nickname of ‘square-wheels’.
In the early days with open carriages, tram drivers and passengers needed to be hardy, braving wind, rain and sandstorms. Reversible seats were hard and unpadded.
Saturday night dog races were held at McConnell’s Halfway Hotel, the Cruickshanks Trotting Ground, the Horseshoe Inn in Forrest St, Boulder and near the grey dump east of the Cornwall Hotel.
Dog owners would take their dogs on the tram and pay for a seat for the valued animals. Great care had to be taken that no-one would ‘nobble’ them by feeding them pies or other heavy foods whilst on the tram.
The tram service lasted for fifty years, before being superseded by the motorcar. Today no tracks remain to show where the trams once ran.