Melbourne & Metropolitan Tramways Board Y Class No 469

No 469 was built to test the potential of the Peter Witt design for service in Melbourne and as such is a unique example, being the only tramcar of its class. This design was under serious consideration for development as the standard Melbourne tramcar, but ultimately it was decided to continue developing the W class design. No 469 is also significant as it is representative of the level of industrial disputation between the M&MTB and the union (ATMOEA) during the 1960s.

M&MTB No 469 at the Batman Avenue tram shelter, 1965. Photograph courtesy Mal Rowe M&MTB No 469 at the Batman Avenue tram shelter, 1965.
Photograph courtesy Mal Rowe.

This tramcar was built in 1927 by the Melbourne & Metropolitan Tramways Board (M&MTB) at Preston Workshops as an experimental car for tourist services, entering service on 18 June of that year. It is a double-ended version of the Peter Witt design originated in Cleveland in 1915. This style of car body was designed with the primary objective of reducing fare evasion, achieved by ensuring all passengers boarded via the front door and exited via the central door. This meant that every passenger had to pass a conductor located in the front half of the car. A side effect of this design is that it had the potential for one-man crews, with the driver being responsible for fare collection, in which the M&MTB was especially interested.

No 469 was fitted with electro-pneumatic dead-man equipment similar to that used on the contemporary X1 class, but this was removed in 1945. Originally fitted with timber seats, in 1929 these were replaced by rattan seats. In 1962 these seats were replaced with upholstered seats recycled from scrapped X2 cars 675 and 679, which had previously been recycled from scrapped cars in 1930. As the same time it was also fitted with lined ceilings and improved lighting.

This tramcar spent most of its life allocated to Camberwell Depot with the four Y1 class cars, spending most of its time on the Burwood line, as well as being operated on all-night services on this and other lines. All the Y and Y1 cars were allocated to City (Batman Avenue)-Prahran services not long before their withdrawal in 1965. The withdrawal was the result of a reduction in car requirements after the closure of Hawthorn Depot and the associated route consolidation. This enabled these non-standard cars to be removed from traffic, and also pacified the union, which was concerned over the ability of the Y and Y1 cars to be used with one-man crews.

After withdrawal No 469 was stored in the former Hawthorn Depot along with the Y1 class cars. During times of car shortages it was returned to traffic for brief periods. In 1972 it was allocated for driver training purposes with the training school located at Hawthorn Depot, in which guise it continued until the closing of the school in the 1990s, as well as receiving intermittent use on a number of tourism services.

No 469, along with its sister tramcars of the Y1 class, was known as a ‘Yapper’ by M&MTB drivers and conductors. The reason for this nickname was the lack of a separate driving cab, allowing the passengers to talk or ‘yap’ to the driver.

This unique tramcar is now on display as part of the collection of the Melbourne Tram Museum @ Hawthorn Depot and is owned by VicTrack on behalf of the Government and people of Victoria.

Technical details

Motors: 4 x 40hp (MV 101AN, later GE 247AN)
Controller: GE K35JJ
Truck: M&MTB No 1
Passengers: 53 (seated), 73 (standing)
Weight: 16.5 tons
Length: 45 feet 6 inches
Width: 8 feet 8 inches

Bibliography

Cross, N., Budd, D., and Wilson, R. (1993) Destination City (Fifth Edition), Transit Australia Publishing

Cross, N., Henderson, R. and Kings, K. (1981) Destination City (Fourth Edition), Australian Electric Traction Association