Last Days on the Trams

“They lie, the men who tell us, for reasons of their own,
That want is here a stranger, and that misery’s unknown;
For where the nearest suburb and the city proper meet
My windowsill is level with the faces in the street”

— ‘Faces In The Street’ by Henry Lawson

In 1969, Labor Mayor of Brisbane, Clem Jones, declared that the Brisbane City Council (BCC) was going to shut down the trams. In the early 1970s under the ‘Wilbur Smith Plan’ the BCC replaced trams with freeways. Does this sound like the LNP’s Campbell Newman digging tunnels? A one time press photographer, Graham Garner, thought: what can I do? During the last days of the trams, Graham went out to every tram terminus and each tram line and took photos.

What foresight! Thanks Graham. Here are some of the photos that Graham and other photographers shot in the last days of the trams (click to enlarge).

Ian Curr
Nov 2010 (updated 3Aug 2022)

One of the old trams. Before freeways, old comrades celebrate public transport! Photo: Garner, Grahame. ‘Images documenting radical protest and street marches in Brisbane , 1960-1980.’ F3400. Fryer Library, University of Queensland.

When politicians destroy or sell public assets perhaps union members might use their special skill in the way Graham used his skill with a camera.

Visit Graham’s photo collection of Radical Protest and Street Marches in Brisbane, 1960-1980

1971 May Day march – Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley Photo: Garner, Grahame. ‘Images documenting radical protest and street marches in Brisbane , 1960-1980.’ F3400. Fryer Library, University of Queensland.

3 thoughts on “Last Days on the Trams

  1. Dear Readers,

    As a follow up on this story I have received an email from Mal Rowe who, like Grahame Garner, took photos of Brisbane Trams in the late 1960s.

    Previously I had made a mistake in captions attributing one of the photos to Grahame when it actually was taken by Mal Rowe. I have corrected this mistake and some others that I made. I point out it was no mistake of Grahame’s or the Fryer Library which has an excellent collection of photos which is well catalogued. My apologies to Mal for my error.

    Here is a great photo that Mal took in 1968 of a tram turning out of Brunswick Street on its way up from New Farm Park near the Brisbane river.

    We are indebted to photographers like Mal and Grahame who have given us a sense of time and place.

    Ian Curr
    December 2010
    Mal Rowe's Photo of a Brunswick Street Tram in New Farm, Brisbane in 1968

  2. David Smyth says:

    The photo above captioned “1971 May Day march – Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley” I believe is actually the corner of Queen St and Albert St. In the background is the Black Cat Newsagent (now Hungry Jacks). There is an almost identical photo taken a few moments earlier at http://espace.library.uq.edu.au/view/UQ:3882. The facade of the building matches the building now housing Hungry Jacks on the Queen Street Mall.

    1. Thanks for that correction, David. The person holding the SMG banner, ‘Workers Self-Management of Production’, is Bob Walker and beside him is his wife, Betty Walker.

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