Lambton/Mayfield Tramway

The first tramline in the city, running from Newcastle to Wallsend opened in 1887. Only two other lines opened in the next decade, but tramway fervour increased when Edward William O’Sullivan became NSW Minister for Public Works in 1899. O’Sullivan was a passionate supporter of public transport. He was the visionary in the construction of the ornate Central Railway Station in Sydney, and instigated many other rail and tram projects in NSW.

In Newcastle by 1901, Merewether, Adamstown and Mayfield had been added to the tram network, and many other suburbs clamoured to be the next tram destination. Lambton residents wanted a tram between their town and Mayfield. However the Mayor of Waratah, N. B. Creer, was highly critical, declaring that the proposed route

“comprises a variety of pitfalls and the land might subside at any time”

and that the income from passengers

“would not pay for grease for the rolling stock”

Creer’s preference was for Waratah to be connected by a line from Hamilton via Georgetown. The Minister agreed, and O’Sullivan promised that construction would start by 1903. However, drought and a downturn in the London money markets dried up funds, and government spending was reined in. O’Sullivan lost office in 1904 and the Waratah via Georgetown tramline was put on hold. The line eventually opened in 1915, the final extension of the tram network constructed in Newcastle.

In 1918, the Lambton to Mayfield route was again advocated, to provide transport for workers in the western parts of the city to the newly opened steelworks. But it was never to be. In the 1920s the rise of motorised bus services led to a decline in tram patronage, and from 1930 tramlines in Newcastle began to close. The last tram service in Newcastle ran on 11 June 1950 on the Waratah line.

In 2019, light rail services return to the city, and the opening of the Newcastle to Wickham line raises the same question asked in 1901, “Where to next?”


The article above was first published in the January 2019 edition of The Local.

Mayfield-Lambton Tramway Proposals 1901. Map by Ken McCarthy, Trolley Wire magazine October 1982. Courtesy of Sydney Tramway Museum Archives.
A tram sits at the intersection of Howe and Morehead Streets, Lambton, where the
proposed route to Mayfield branched off. Ralph Snowball. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

Additional Information

Timeline of tram operations in Newcastle, 1887-1950

Date Tram line Event
19 Jul 1887 Wallsend/Plattsurg Opened
19 Apr 1894 Tighes Hill Opened
19 Apr 1894 Glebe (originally called Merewether line) Opened
13 Aug 1900 Adamstown Opened
11 Jan 1901 Mayfield (extension of Tighes Hill line to Hanbury St) Extended
21 Sep 1903 Merewether (beach) Opened
27 Apr 1907 Racecourse Opened
19 Sep 1910 West Wallsend Opened
11 Jul 1911 Wallsend (Newcastle to Lambton portion) Duplicated
15 Jan 1912 Speers Point Opened
23 Sep 1912 Carrington Opened
July 1914 Maryville (Port Waratah) Opened
20 Jan 1915 Waratah Opened
15 Dec 1923 Mayfield Electrified
27 Jul 1924 Merewether Electrified
2 Nov 1924 Glebe Electrified
2 Feb 1925 Adamstown Electrified
6 Apr 1925 Waratah Electrified
Nov 1925 Racecourse (possibly 11/11/1925?) Electrified
27 Dec 1925 Wallsend Electrified
15 Aug 1926 Carrington Electrified
11 Oct 1926 Port Waratah Electrified
1 Nov 1930 Speers Point Closed
1 Nov 1930 West Wallsend Closed
19 Nov 1938 Carrington Closed
19 Nov 1938 Port Waratah Closed
26 Sep 1948 Mayfield Closed
6 Nov 1949 Wallsend Closed
25 Feb 1950 Glebe Closed
25 Feb 1950 Merewether Closed
16 Apr 1950 Adamstown Closed
Apr 1950 Racecourse Closed
11 Jun 1950 Waratah Closed

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
1 Sep 1900"The land on the suggested Lambton to Waratah route comprises a variety of pitfalls, and where falls have not taken place the land might subside at any time, a great deal of the country being undermined and the coal extracted from near the surface. "
"The Mayor of Waratah contends that a tramway between Waratah and Lambton would not pay for grease for the rolling stock, and suggests that this project might be dropped so as not to prejudice the construction of the Georgetown route, to which the Minister and the Commissioners are said to be favourable."
4 Sep 1900"The construction of a tramline between Waratah and Lambton is not advocated solely with a view of benefiting the residents living in the vicinity of the route, but also for the convenience of the travelling public of the whole district, more especially the people of the large centres of Wallsend and Plattsburg, who are at present unable to reach Hanbury, Tighe's Hill, Mayfield, or the Hunter River by tram unless they proceed via Wickham, which is both a costly and tedious journey, in order to reach those centres of population."
15 Nov 1900
13 Nov 1900
Conference between Lambton Citizens’ Committee and Waratah Council to discuss the competing routes. Lambton argued that the tram was “necessary as a means of conveyance for youths employed at the Soap Works, a number of workmen who travelled at week-ends and holidays to the river to fish.”
14 Jun 1901
13 Jun 1901
Mr G Fischer, the Engineer for Tramway construction, inspects a number of proposed tram routes. There is detailed description of the Lambton/Mayfield route that was subsequently illustrated in the map in Trolley Wire magazine in 1982.
The praises of William O'Sullivan are sung … “Very little doubt exists that a line will be made if Mr. O'Sullivan remains in power. His vigorous policy has already done much good for the district, and his present tramway proposals are held to be an evidence of his sincerity to make Newcastle up-to-date as the capital city of the great northern part of this State.”
15 Mar 1902"New South Wales is shortly to go on to the [London Money] market, but is holding back because of the unsettled condition of the market owing to South African affairs."
19 Mar 1902The Minister for Works writes to Waratah Council stating that the Waratah Broadmeadow tramway extension could be commenced at the end of June next. (June 1903)
20 May 1903"A deputation … interviewed the Minister for Works, Mr. O'Sullivan, to-day, and urged for the early redemption of his promise to construct the extension of the tram from Broadmeadow to Waratah."
The Minister said "he had given promises in good faith, but a man was sometimes the victim of his environment, and so was the State. Since the promises were given they had fallen upon bad times. The drought, the bad money market in London, and other troubles, and the Government had decided to reef-sail in the matter of expenditure."
8 Aug 1905"The residents of Waratah … are waiting patiently for the construction of the branch line from Broadmeadow Junction. The line was surveyed some years ago, and pegs mark the proposed route. "
"When Mr. O'Sullivan was Minister for Works he was taken over the route. He decided then that it was the proper way to take the line, and promised that it should be constructed. However, he went out of office, and the matter has been hung up since. "
19 Jun 1918Lambton Council meeting: "Correspondence was received from J. Estell, intimating that he would assist thecombined councils in urging the Government to construct a tram line from Lambton, via Waratah and Mayfield, to the steel works."
10 Mar 1920Call to convene a conference "for the purpose of taking concerted action towards procuring the construction of a tramway to the Steel Works either from Lambton or New Lambton."
10 Apr 1920"The necessity for constructing a line of tramways to give direct access from the western suburbs to the Steel Works at Port Waratah was affirmed by a conference of municipal representatives held at the Lambton Council Chambers last night."
24 May 1920“The proposal for the construction of a tramline from Lambton to the steel works was mentioned by the Mayor ... Mr. Phillips (District Superintendent of Tramways), in reply, said that he could see very little hope of any new lines being constructed in the Newcastle district until electrification was brought about.”
21 Oct 1930
1 Nov 1930
Speers Point and West Wallsend tram services cease. They had been operating at a loss of £16,229 per annum.
12 Jun 1950
11 Jun 1950
Last tram service in Newcastle, on the Waratah line.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *