Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Shooting through like a Bondi Tram...

My old bike racing club (yes, I have subsequently joined a new one, up on the Central Coast) is based at Heffron Park, Maroubra, and has (with the essential help of the local council) linked together old sections of concrete road with new sections of tar. The completed loop is 2.1km long and quite a testing criterium track. But why were those concrete roads there in the first place? Well Heffron Park (named after a NSW State Premier) was an Army base, like the Addison Road Community Centre in inner-west Marrickville was once an Army base, including a Light Horse stables (amongst many other possible examples, the Addison Road base is famous for some of the "save our sons" demos during the Vietnam War). It's recycling in action, isn't it? Anyway, when the bike club put in some toilets in the clubhouse they had to cut the concrete - and the stories about tanks in Heffron Park suddenly made sense. That concrete was thick.

But not as thick as the successive NSW State governments that oversaw the dismantling of the tramway system, though. (OK, another cheap shot - hindsight is a wonderful thing.) As I mentioned yesterday, some parts of the network remain and are worth re-visiting, if only for the memories. So what features of the inner-west and eastern suburban tramway system can still be discerned?

Well Bondi Beach is a prime example. The trams that famously "shot through" to Bondi terminated at North Bondi where Military Road meets Campbell Parade (AKA 'Scarborough Crescent'). The terminus can still be clearly seen, as can much of the route along Campbell Pde, although cars and buses have tended to take over the trampath for parking. Interestingly, bicycle races were also held on the Campbell Parade "hot-dog", before they too were driven out by the car traffic, firstly to road races along semi-deserted Bunnerong Road and finally into the fully-enclosed Heffron Park.

The tram route to Bondi is well documented with the most interesting deviation from the obvious being where the track took a graceful curve to the right (from Bondi Rd, heading down the hill) into Denham Street, then along Fletcher and onto reserved track just past Dudley Street. (The reserved track later became Rowland Ave.) The track crossed under Wilga Street in a cutting that continued on to also pass under Bondi Road, rejoining the main drag (southern end of Campbell Parade) on the other side of Bondi Road (at the Francis Street intersection). It's hard to imagine now, but yes there was a cutting and 2 overbridges involved in keeping the track at the desired gradient, all subsequently filled in. I witnessed the start of the filling-in in the mid 1970s.

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