Circle-City Tram

Design Architect: Patricia Corrigan
Project Team: Frank Godsell & Patricia Corrigan

June, 1980. Melbourne’s city circle tunnel, grossly over-budget and years overdue, finally approaches completion. Sadly, this belated finish would also put paid to one of the city’s most novel additions to the public transport network.

Engineer's Specifications - Cortocelleli Partners, 1978

In late 1978, Godsell & Corrigan had been invited to design an interim tactic toward the provision of a ‘city-circle’ – a method of transport that would anticipate and formalize approaches for the slowly approaching city-loop. Their solution was – and remains – one of the strongest and simplest urban gestures to ever be employed at an infrastructural level; a 6 kilometre long interconnected chain of carriages, an endless, continuous tram encircling the city centre.

 

Photo Sketch - G&C Archives, November 1978

Periodically slowing at the seven cardinal tram stops, which were spaced at equidistant points along the route, the endless tram would disgorge and take on passengers before accelerating back up to circuit speed1. While the large distance between stops may have suggested an overarching inefficiency in the system, more seasoned riders were adept at ‘hopping’ the tram while it was moving; stepping up onto the running-board on LaTrobe street, walking widdershins down the tramway corridor, and leaping to the pavement outside their destination near the mouth of Flinder’s Lane. Fatalities and injuries over the lifetime of the system were surprisingly uncommon2; a fact that is often attributed to the presence of a highly trained cadre of onboard conductors and safety attendants.

Less successful was the integration of the Circle-City tram into the wider business concerns of the CBD. The endless, snakelike worm-ouroboros of tramcars essentially blocked all vehicular traffic larger than a motorcycle from entering the inner city – necessitating the creation of a fleet of dedicated rickshaws and cargo-tricycles capable of navigating both the platform infrastructure and the internal corridors of the tram itself. While business in the city saw a temporary decline, semi-legal street vendors took up shop in the tram itself, and the continuous corridor became known as both a gourmand’s delight and, after hours, one of the initial sites of the inner city’s ‘nightlife renaissance.’

Following the completion of the city-loop tunnel, the circle-city tram was broken up into its constituent elements – its core modules going on to be used in the articulated A and B class trams. Remaining elements of the platforms can be seen at the corner of Nicholson and Victoria Streets, and the loading facilities for the cargo rickshaws remained accessible in Caledonian lane until the late ‘90s.

 

1 A moderate walking pace – between 8-9 kmh.

 

2 The Age records 12 dismemberments (without recording their lethality) in the period between March 1979 and June 1980.

 

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3 Responses to Circle-City Tram

  1. I remember the alliterative menu that followed the carriage assignation and the generous liquor licence, peppered piquant polish plum porridge comes to mind.

  2. Rev. Neil Downing says:

    Hey, we used to run a 24/7 outreach on that thing! Do you remember? It was called Four Hundred and Ten Wheels for Jesus. Man, those were the days!

    • admin says:

      Neil,

      That sounds fascinating. As a firm, G&C is very interested in reconstructing a notion of what it was like to use/occupy the CCT over the course of its short life.
      Please let us know if you’d be available to chat to us about this outreach centre.

      Kind regards,

      G&C web team

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