Ballarat Tram No.26 in the Wendouree Depot
|Locale||Ballarat, Victoria, Australia|
Most of the network was closed and replaced with buses on 19 September 1971 after which the Ballarat Tramway Museum preserved a single electrified track along Wendouree Parade at Lake Wendouree to operate a tourist service. From its depot adjacent to the Ballarat Botanical Gardens, the museum operates its historic collection of electric trams from around Australia, including some that were operated on the original Ballarat system.
Tenders were called in 1886 to operate a tramway in the city. The successful tenderer was Mr. Thompson, of Adelaide who proposed a horse drawn system. He was granted a 30-year licence for the sum of £1575 per annum, after which the system would be handed to the council. Provision was to be made in future for the rolling stock being powered by other means.
Thompson and business partner Moore formed the Ballarat Tramway Company which built and promoted the tramway. The first line was opened at a banquet in the Botanical Gardens on 26 December 1887. The six mile (9.7 km) standard gauge line ran from Sturt Street to the gardens and around Lake Wendouree. The rolling stock consisted of double-decker trams built in Adelaide, each drawn by multiple horses. The company constructed and operated a maintenance facility north of the gardens.
The tramway was immediately popular and it was not long before work began on extensions for the southern branch line to the town of Sebastopol via Skipton Street Redan and Albert Street, and two northern branch lines to service the city's suburbs along Drummond Street North and Soldiers Hill.
At its peak, the horse-drawn system had 19 trams, servicing 5 principle routes: Drummond Street; Gardens; Lydiard Street; Sebastopol; Sturt Street West. All were double decker, with the exception of the Drummond Street tram.
In November 1900, the Ballarat City Council gave permission to the British Insulated Wire Company Limited to build an electric tram network. The building was done by its subsidiary, the Electric Supply Company of Victoria,:13 which was also to supply electricity to the town. A bluestone power station was built at the corner of Ripon Street and Wendouree Parade in 1901 to provide the electricity supply. The company took over the running of the horse trams from the Ballarat Tramway Company in December 1902, and work on the electric network began in November 1904 and the first electric trams went into service on 18 August 1905.:15 The whole tramway was electrified and the rolling stock was replaced by electric trams operated by the Electric Supply Company of Victoria. The last horse tram ran in August 1913 on the Sebastopol line which was officially opened as an electric tramway on 14 August 1913.:16
Despite strong patronage, the system posted its first significant loss in 1937 of £6013. At the time, the Ballarat network was one of the largest such systems in Australia, behind that of Sydney (181 miles (291 km)), Brisbane (65 miles (105 km)), Melbourne (64 miles (103 km)), Perth (57 miles (92 km)), Adelaide (35 miles (56 km)) and Hobart (18 miles (29 km)), but larger than that of Newcastle, Launceston (11.3 miles (18.2 km)), Geelong (11 miles (18 km)) and Bendigo (8.1 miles (13.0 km)).
Throughout the 1960s, passenger patronage fell and operating losses mounted. From 1962 onwards, the SECV and the Victorian government attempted to close the system but did not have the required parliamentary support in the Legislative Council. After winning control of the Legislative Council in the 1970 election, the Bolte government had the numbers to close the tramways in both Ballarat and Bendigo. In 1971 the government announced that the tramway system would be closed and replaced by buses. In September 1971, a large contingent of the Ballarat population turned out to farewell the last trams after the government systematically shut down the network.
In May 1971 the Lake Wendouree Tramway Museum Committee began negotiating with the SECV to continue to maintain a section of track.:41 The Ballarat Tramway Preservation Society was also formed in 1971 to start, and run, an authentic tramway.:44
The Ballarat Tramway Preservation Society's original plan was to keep all the tramway that ran around the shores of Lake Wendouree. However, after discussions with the SECV and the City of Ballarat, only the section of track in the Botanical Gardens was retained. The first trip on the museum's tramway was in December 1974, and the track was officially opened on 1 February 1975.:48 The first tram to run was Ballarat No. 40, which had been the last tram to run on the SECV network.:14
The Society changed its name to the Ballarat Tramway Museum. It operates trams on weekends, public and school holidays. In December 2014, the Museum installed an 18 kW solar power system, with 72 solar panels, which allows the trams to operate on renewable energy.
Since the 1990s proposals have been put to the City of Ballarat to reinstate sections of the network. Many of these focus on trams as a major tourist transport facility and tourist attraction. Others support a return of trams as a viable component of the Ballarat public transport system. Proposed destinations include Ballarat railway station, Sovereign Hill, Lake Wendouree loop, Bridge Mall and Sturt Street.
In 2001 there was a strong push to reinstate a tram system. By mid-2001, a vocal lobby for a tourist route through the CBD had gained the support of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Australian Hotels Association and the Ballarat operations of transport manufacturer Alstom. Financial assessments completed in 2002 deemed the $20 million project viable with a projected profit of $150,000 per annum, though dependent on a grant from the state and Commonwealth. Public support for it was also high. The chosen route would have run from Ballarat Railway station at Doveton Crescent, along Lydiard Street, down Mair Street, Peel Street, through the Llanberris reserve to Sovereign Hill and the Gold Museum. Ballarat City Council voted down the proposal in 2002, stating that the idea would not be reconsidered for at least a decade.
Submissions relating to the reinstatement of trams along Sturt Street during the City of Ballarat's CBD Strategy consultation in 2009. The project had been costed at $70 million and deemed as too expensive and inflexible for the local council to maintain in the final report.
The Sturt Street route proposal was dismissed by Ballarat MP and Regional Australia Minister Catherine King in the lead up to the Australian federal election, 2013, claiming that at a cost of $90 million, the project would be too expensive, indicating instead a preference to invest in local sporting facilities. 
Calls were renewed in August 2014 with news that a feasibility study would be undertaken to extend Bendigo's network. A circuit route was proposed from Ballarat railway station to Lake Wendouree via Mair Street, Dawson Street, Sturt Street, Bridge Mall and Lydiard Street back to the railway station. However, this proposal once again met with ambivalence from the council and members of parliament over issues such as the route and cost, and no commitment to a project was forthcoming.
|Size of Network by year|
|1887||6 miles (9.7 km)|
|1934||10 miles (16 km)|
|1936||15.1 miles (24.3 km)|
|1975||0.85 miles (1.37 km):56|
At its peak, the Ballarat network included seven main routes some of which shared the same sections of track:
The operation was mostly running recycled rolling stock from both Adelaide and Melbourne with a wide variety of tram models in service.
There are a number of trams which operated on the Ballarat tramways which have survived, and some are still in service.
The Ballarat Tramway Company operated 18 horse-drawn trams in Ballarat. After the introduction of electric trams some horse trams were used as trailers and towed behind the electric trams. Tram 1 was used by the company to transport the crew's bicycles between the depot and the main terminus. It was then sold for use as a backyard shed. It was later rediscovered and returned to the Museum where it was extensively restored.
The Electric Supply Company operated 23 trams, including some that had been converted from old Sydney cable trams.
The SECV purchased a large number of old trams from Melbourne, Port Adelaide, and Adelaide, which were then used in Geelong, Bendigo and Ballarat. Tram No. 37 was used in Melbourne, Geelong, and Bendigo before being moved to Ballarat in 1960.:133
As well as its collection of original Ballarat trams, the Ballarat Tramway Museum also has several old Melbourne W class trams:
A section of track at Wendouree Parade has caused controversy since 2011 due to a notorious blackspot for cyclists—a curved track intersection emerging from the Tramway Museum depot. Several local cyclists who have been injured due to their bicycle wheels slipping on the track have called for a solution. The City of Ballarat spent more than $15,000 in 2011 investigating solutions, with limited success. In November 2014 the council carried out extensive roadworks at the intersection. The tram tracks were left in place, but the road was realigned 12 metres west. This changes the angle at which bicycles cross the track and should make it safer. The roadwork was completed on 23 December 2014 and cost $420,000.