Melbourne & Metropolitan Tramways Board Y1 Class No 613

No 613 is the only surviving tramcar that operated on the Victorian Railways Sandringham to Black Rock line. It is also the only tramcar that the M&MTB loaned to another tramway operator, and it was also significant in the role it played in industrial disputation during the 1960s between the M&MTB and the ATMOEA.

This tramcar was one of four of this class built in 1930 by the M&MTB at Preston Workshops. It is a double-ended version of the Peter Witt design of car 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 has the potential for one-man crews, with the driver being responsible for fare collection.

M&MTB No 613 in Spencer Street, 1979. Photograph Mal Rowe M&MTB No 613 in Spencer Street, 1979.
Photograph courtesy of Mal Rowe.

The original order was for fourteen cars, to be numbered from 610 to 623, but construction of the final ten cars of the order was cancelled due to the onset of the Depression and union opposition to the design. Further cars of the general Peter Witt layout were not to appear in Melbourne until 1973 with the prototype of the Z class, PCC No 1041.

The design of the car was based on the sole Y class car (No 469) built in 1927, but there were several changes. The most important of these was the use of larger wheels than standard to improve the ride quality and reduce noise. This required the floor to be on three different levels in order to provide sufficient wheel clearance.

The other major change was the use of angled windscreens, which improved night-time driver vision by removing reflections of internal lights. The cars were also fitted with electro-pneumatic dead-man equipment similar to that used on the X2 class, but this was removed in 1935.

Between February and May 1933, No 613 was loaned to the Victorian Railways for operation on its Sandringham to Black Rock tram line, with the objective of testing the Peter Witt layout for driver-only operation. The test was successful, and the result was the modification of two of the standard VR bogie drop centre cars to a similar design as the Y1 class. This work was carried out at the M&MTB’s Preston Workshops, VR 51 being modified in 1934 and VR 50 in 1938.

No 613 was updated in 1963, its original No 9A bogies with 33 inch wheels being replaced with standard No 15 bogies with 28 inch wheels as used in the W5 through W7 class tramcars.

Initially the Y1 cars were used on the Collins Street routes to East and West Preston, but they were transferred to the Toorak route in 1934. Two years later they were then moved to Camberwell Depot where they spent most of their service life on the Burwood line, as well as operating all-night services over 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 613 was stored in the former Hawthorn Depot along with its sister cars. During times of car shortages it was returned to traffic for brief periods. In 1973 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 613, along with its sister tramcars of the Y and Y1 classes, 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 heritage tramcar is owned by VicTrack on behalf of the Government and people of Victoria. It is now on display as part of the collection of the Melbourne Tram Museum @ Hawthorn Depot.

Technical details

Motors: 4 x 40hp (GE 247AX2)
Controller: GE K35JJ
Truck: M&MTB No 9A (as built) M&MTB No 15 (from 1963)
Passengers: 53 (seated), 75 (standing)
Weight: 19.7 tons
Length: 45 feet 0 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