The second of this year’s Georges River Council heritage markers commemorates the transport links of Kogarah, in particular the steam-tram terminus at Kogarah Station.
The Sans Souci Tramway League was a pressure group in the 1880s which campaigned for the construction of a tramway from Kogarah Railway Station to Sans Souci. The matter was debated in State Parliament, and construction of the line began in 1886. The steam trams burned coal to produce the necessary steam power, and they are remembered for their noisy progress. Their drivers were known as motormen.
The introduction of the tramway had a stimulating effect on the development of the business centre of Kogarah and on housing subdivision along its route. It was arranged that the platforms for the Kogarah train and the steam tram were adjacent, which was a considerable convenience for commuters.
However, at one time the tramway had an unlucky reputation. This began when 69-year-old Walter Targett slipped and fell under a tram at Kogarah, on 7 September 1918. His left leg was severed, and he died the following day in St George Hospital. By coincidence, Mr Targett was the former MLA for Hartley, and would have been one of those who debated the construction of the tramway back in the 1880s.
His death was followed in May 1921 by the death of a seven-year old boy, who slipped and fell under a tram in Railway Parade. Two conductors were badly injured in August 1922 by a tram heading in the opposite direction along Rocky Point Road. Then in March 1925, a William Dodds was fatally crushed at Sandringham terminus, and in May that year another man was killed when he tried to nip across the line in front of an oncoming tram. In April 1926, the motorman of the Sans Souci tram, a Mr Slater or Slatyer was killed, and two conductors were seriously injured when their engine left the rails and overturned, crashing into a power pole.
As if all this was not enough, added to these fatalities could be listed other incidents of greater or lesser injury. Five occupants of a motorcar were badly injured in December 1930, for instance, when it was struck on Rocky Point Road. Particular black spots on the line included the hazardous crossing from Railway Parade into Gray Street, when unwary motorists and horse-drawn vehicles could find the tram swerving in front of them. Early morning trams, which had not had time to get up a full head of steam, were occasionally unable to take some of the inclines on the route, and passengers had to jump out, and according to some anecdotes, help to push!
The steam tram was finally put to rest on 4 July 1937, but not before a final fatal collision with a motor-car in March 1937 on the Princes Highway, in which three other people were injured. After fifty years of operation, the tramway was replaced with a trolley-bus service. A crowd of up to 90,000 saw the journey of the last Kogarah steam-tram.