Melbourne’s historic trams live on in Hawthorn.

The Melbourne Tram Museum is housed in the century-old Hawthorn Tram Depot.

The Melbourne Tram Museum is housed in the century-old Hawthorn Tram Depot.

OPEN HOUSE MELBOURNE is held on the last weekend in July and offers archilovers and history buffs an opportunity to indulge their curiosity and visit buildings they have admired from afar.

For as long as I can remember, the Hawthorn Tram Depot with its red brick and white rendered façade that hugs the curve of Wallen Road opposite Power Street in Hawthorn, has held my fascination. It’s a proud building with an orderly row of arched windows formed by a bricklaying team of master tradesmen a century ago. The American Romanesque design by architect Leonard Flannagan represents the high regard for transport as an important public service at that time and is vastly different from the monolithic, faceless, inner-city and suburban factories devoid of decorative detail where equally valuable work took place.

As a child of outer suburbia, relative to the time, the location also represents a border where a well-heeled middle suburbia ends and the inner-city begins with just a shortish tram ride or drive to the CBD.

What lies beyond the arched windows are now private residential apartments that were completed in 2002. But even limited access to this heritage building is better than none at all. The Melbourne Tram Museum is located in what remains of the depot at the base of the building and in the remaining tram shed behind.

As a Melburnian, trams have formed part of the natural landscape of my life. I’ve noticed the difference in colour, shape and design over the years, and marveled at the balance of tram conductors while admiring their good humour, snappy leather coin bags and ticket dispensers. The politics of ticket design and tram design was and still is a constant white noise, in the same way that the sound of rattling trams on metal tracks and dinging bells herald the daily repetition of a well-used transport system.

While the newer E-class trams have a far greater passenger capacity and are designed for accessibility, they lack a sense of occasion and authenticity that can still be felt when riding the heritage W class City Circle Tram.

The museum is open to the public on the second and fourth Saturday of each month. Take a figurative ride down memory lane, marvel at the details, ring a bell or two, and learn about the political tapestry woven through Melbourne’s historical trams.

Historical tram timetable.

Historical tram timetable.

Melbourne Tram Museum volunteers share their knowledge during Open House Melbourne 2016.

Melbourne Tram Museum volunteers share their knowledge during Open House Melbourne 2016.

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Hawthorn Tramways Trust No. 8 tram built in Adelaide in 1916 saw service in Hawthorn and Bendigo.

Hawthorn Tramways Trust No. 8 tram built in Adelaide in 1916 saw service in Hawthorn and Bendigo.

The Melbourne Metropolitan Tramways Board L.106 tram driver's cab comprises a General Electric K2 series-parallel tramway controller (L) which regulates the traction voltage to the motors, a hand-operated air brake valve (C) and handbrake wheel (R). Foot and door controls are out of view. L.106 was built in 1921.

The Melbourne Metropolitan Tramways Board L.106 tram driver’s cab comprises a General Electric K2 series-parallel tramway controller (L) which regulates the traction voltage to the motors, a hand-operated air brake valve (C) and handbrake wheel (R). Foot and door controls are out of view. L.106 was built in 1921.

Children survey the controls of an historic arched roof tram.

Children survey the controls of an historic arched roof tram.

The T Class No.180 tram and the W7 Class No.1040 trams may share the same green and cream livery, but they have a 39 year age gap. W7.1040, built in 1956, was the last W Class tram to be made.

The T Class No.180 tram and the W7 Class No.1040 trams may share the same green and cream livery, but they have a 39 year age gap. W7.1040, built in 1956, was the last W Class tram to be made.

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Yarra Trams' 1977, Z1 Class No. 81 'Karachi W11' tram is the first Z1 class tram built. It was decorated by Pakistani artisans in 2006 and ran on the City Circle route in Melbourne during the Melbourne Commonwealth Games that year.

Yarra Trams’ 1977, Z1 Class No. 81 ‘Karachi W11’ tram is the first Z1 class tram built. It was decorated by Pakistani artisans in 2006 and ran on the City Circle route in Melbourne during the Melbourne Commonwealth Games that year.

With its highly decorated interior, coloured fluorescent lighting, beads and bells, the 'Karachi W11' tram is a brash and bold addition to the historic collection.

With its highly decorated interior, coloured fluorescent lighting, beads and bells, the ‘Karachi W11’ tram is a brash and bold addition to the historic collection.

The highly decorated 'Karachi W11' tram has been stored at the Melbourne Tram Museum in Hawthorn since 19 June 2015.

The highly decorated ‘Karachi W11’ tram has been stored at the Melbourne Tram Museum in Hawthorn since 19 June 2015.

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