Local History...Local Stories

In the early 1900s the sandy beaches of Cronulla and tranquil waters of Gunnamatta Bay attracted growing numbers of tourists and weekend sightseers. It became apparent that the horse-drawn omnibuses which ran to the beachside township could no longer meet increasing visitor demands and so an 11.9km tramline was built from the southern end of Sutherland Station, on to the Princes Highway, along the Kingsway and then to Cronulla where it finished its journey in a balloon loop along Ewos Parade at Shelly Park. The first steam tram left Sutherland on 12 June 1911 at 5:56am, arriving at the terminus 35 minutes later.

The tramline was a single track, but crossing loops at Acacia Road, Miranda, Caringbah, Woolooware Road and Curranulla Street in Cronulla allowed trams to travel and pass in opposite directions. Penshurst Metropolitan Water supplied the steam trams with the necessary water requirements via a 15cm pipeline which connected to a large overhead tank at the Miranda Loop.

The steam trams are remembered as ‘fiery, noisy, whistling, smoke-belching little monsters’ yet they endeared themselves to many commuters – even though it was not uncommon on Sunday evenings, when picnickers returned en masse from the seaside, for the overburdened trams to stall on the steep bank at Miranda (now located between Sutherland Hospital and Westfield Miranda). The male travellers were often required to alight and help push the cars and motor over the steep ascent while other passengers walked alongside the track.

Sadly, the Miranda bank was the scene of a tragic accident on 10 November 1924 when the 6:37am steam tram from Cronulla hurtled down the hill at a tremendous speed, reportedly attempting to make up lost running time. Steam motor No. 88A derailed at the bottom, overturned and the driver, Sam Wyatt, was killed instantly. Several passengers were also injured in the disaster. A further accident was narrowly avoided when the steam crane which had been sent by the Railway Department itself almost toppled as it was far too light to lift the weight of the derailed motor back on to the track.

The last passenger steam tram ran on 3 August 1931. On 7 August 1931, the Propeller newspaper reported:

The Sutherland-Cronulla steam tram passenger service was replaced last Monday by a fleet of double-deck motor buses. The last tram left Cronulla for Sutherland shortly after midnight. Despite the hour there were about 300 people present. On the last three trips passengers were carried free of charge. When the last trip commenced loud cheers were given by the crowd, and the “cock-a-doodle doos” were sounded on the steam whistle. On the headlight of the engine was hung a wreath of lilies.

The goods service ended on 12 February 1932.