It’s a rocky ride on the historic Ballarat tramway.
We’re sitting in a 100 year-old tram with Ballarat Tramway Museum operations manager Neville Britton.
He slows it down to pass a particularly rough section of the track on the South Gardens Reserve end of Wendouree Parade.
Mr Britton sees first hand the impact the rough track has on the trams, most of which are more than 100-years-old. He sees the ‘wear and tear’ while volunteering his time to do maintenance work.
“These old trams are quite robust, but when they do need repairing it is quite expensive,” he says.
We get off the tram and Mr Britton points to the poor condition of the 113-year-old tracks. He describes parts of it as crystalised – pieces of the metal have flaked away ‘like ice’.
In some sections, underneath support has failed, causing the joins to break.
Mr Britton and other Ballarat Tramway Museum volunteers are hoping to rally community support for their new campaign to replace the tracks to provide a smoother ride for both passengers and trams.
The group has made a $200,000 funding bid as part of the state government Pick My Project grants scheme.
“We are passionate about it. But when it gets to this higher level maintenance and track replacement it is beyond our capacity to be able to fund it,” Mr Britton says.
“We’re actually getting more visitors through our museum than what MADE was getting – they got millions of dollars and we don’t get any support really.
“This goes beyond Pick My Project. We are also just looking for the support of the Ballarat community to be able to say we are looking for funding to match the $250,000 council are offering to get the job started.”
Trams have been running along there for 130 years. We are keeping that going.Neville Britton, Ballarat Tramway Museum
Mr Britton says replacing the track would ensure longevity of the tramway.
“Trams have been running along there for 130 years. We are keeping that going,” he says.
“Using new track laying techniques, I reckon the new track will last a lot more than 113 years, particularly using it as a heritage operation.”
The Ballarat Tramway Museum is one of only a couple in Australia that operates on its original tram tracks.
“To have the same tram cars travelling along the same length of the rail for over 130 years, I think it is historically significant not only for Victoria but for Australia,” Mr Britton says.
The Ballarat Tramway Museum has big visions for the future with plans to build a new display museum at the tram depot and long term visions to extend the tram route.
Community members can vote for Pick My Project proposals until Monday. Visit https://pickmyproject.vic.gov.au/.