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Can you date this photograph? [Tram in operation at Mosman]

A moment in time……

The traffic certainly looks a little different in this photograph compared to how it is today. If those people in the shot could see what it looked like today they would be shocked. The style of clothing suggests that this is a very early photograph…….do the trams give us any clues as to when it was taken? 

Larger version available in Flickr


 We have many other undated photographs in Photo Investigator and on our Flickr account. If you know the dates or any other interesting facts about these images please let us know.

  • Bernard D says:

    Spit Road at Spit Junction, looking north, c.1900.

    The electric tram service to Mosman commenced in 1893, terminating at Spit Junction. It replaced a horse-drawn omnibus service introduced by Richard Harnett in 1877. The service was extended along Spit Road to The Spit in 1900.

    From the collection of amateur historian and former mayor of Mosman, Dalton (Jack) Carroll.

    Regards, Bernard D
    Internet Coordinator, Mosman Council

    November 30, 2009 at 8:30 am
  • Rhonda Cetta-Hoye says:

    Comparing the tram to the photo on the Loftus Tram Museam site it looks very much like the C Class, which according to thier website was introduced in 1896 and withdrawn in 1926.

    December 3, 2009 at 12:03 am
  • Rhonda Campbell says:

    Hi Bernard and Rhonda, thank you for possible dates for the photograph. From the information you both supplied we have decided that a c.1900 date will probably be close to the mark.

    December 8, 2009 at 7:27 pm
  • Peter Howard says:

    The date can be further narrowed by looking at the electrical equipment on the trams. The trolley poles (the stick which runs from the roof of the tram to the wire to collect electrical current) are side-mounted, which was a legacy of the equipment brought over to the North Sydney system from the original experimental electric system at Waverley. The North Sydney system was converted to centre- mounted trolley pole operation from 30 November 1901 to 23 December 1901. The photo must therefore date to the years before this and the opening of the Spit line, which as Bernard mentioned occurred in October 1900

    December 15, 2009 at 5:17 am
  • Paul Munro says:

    The Sydney Morning Herald reduced it’s price to one penny on 26 June 1893, and had been as high as fourpence back in 1860. I haven’t managed to zoom in on the photo, but don’t see any of the “horseless carriages” that were imported around the turn of the century – a good look at the original might show up tyre tracks on the road maybe?
    I would agree with Peter’s 1900 outside limit, and date the photo 1893 to 1900.
    If some kind soul could email a zoomable copy I’m sure there will be plenty of clues to be found in the detail – army uniforms, school uniforms, fashions, accessories, bicycles, advertisements, shop fronts etc.
    The photo was taken well before my time, but from the lay of the land I’d say Cremorne and Neutral Bay were to the left, Mosman, Balmoral and Taronga to the right, and straight ahead to Balgowlah and Manly via the Spit Bridge.

    December 18, 2009 at 10:48 am
  • Rhonda Campbell says:

    Hi Paul, unfortunately the larger version of the image available on Flickr is the best we can make available. Interesting about the price of the Herald.

    December 22, 2009 at 12:16 am
  • Robert Mills says:

    The image is a ‘copperstyle’ postcard No 175 issued/published by Giovannardi pre 1910.

    The event is the opening day of a new tramway – hence the crowd and high number of trams in photograph. The public are sampling the new service. Reference to David Keenans’ North Sydney Lines book would determine the exact date. My guess is October 1900. I think this image is reproduced in his book. Shunting of trailer cars is in progress at the Junction and yes the side mounted trolley poles indicates very early electric operation.

    December 24, 2009 at 9:41 am
  • Fiona Sullivan says:

    Thanks for your informative comment Robert. It was especially helpful to us as we’re not able to easily access the reverse side of the photograph/postcard. In the New Year, when staff are back on deck we will definitely look in to the reference you have provided. Happy Holidays!

    December 24, 2009 at 10:05 am
  • Paul Munro says:

    The Loftus Tram Museum site mentioned by Rhonda Cetta-Hoye has a photograph of a D Class tram that was introduced in 1899, and if you enlarge it, you’ll see it was on The Spit run, with the photograph being taken on Parriwi Road. The tram had two trolley poles, although I can’t make out if one was side-mounted, and had open sections for smokers fore and aft of the enclosed cabin section. To my eye the tram is very similar to the one central in our photograph that is facing towards the camera and being boarded by passengers, and while I’m having trouble making out the smoking sections on our photograph, the front panel sections with mounted headlights are identical in both photos. I think Robert Mills’ comment re opening day is spot on, as the tram in the foreground and to the right appears to pre-date the C and D class models, and may even have been horse-drawn, particularly as a horse is shading itself under the awning at bottom right of picture.

    January 8, 2010 at 9:12 am
  • Rhonda Campbell says:

    Hi Paul, that’s a very interesting observation about the possibility that it might be a horse-drawn. It’s amazing how a small detail in an image, like the horse, can provide a clue to the date.

    January 11, 2010 at 10:05 pm
  • Peter Howard says:

    Hi all,

    David Keenan’s North Sydney Lines book does not have an exact date for the picture as reproduced.

    The trailer car in the foreground is an ex-cable trailer hauled by electric trams to boost capacity following the cessation of cable services from Milsons Point to Ridge Street. Horse tram trailers had five windows, whereas cable trailers had six.

    January 21, 2010 at 7:54 pm
  • Robert Mills says:

    This image is reproduced on page 20 of Keenan’s North Sydney lines book. The caption reads as follows:

    ” The scene at Spit Junction, looking towards the Spit, on the opening day of the line …..”

    Keenan indicates that the line opened for traffic on the 27th October 1900 and the official opening ceremony took place on Saturday 3rd November 1900.

    As there are numerous family groups present in the image it is most likely the photo was taken on the afternoon of Saturday 3rd November 1900. Other postcard views of this event exist.

    The long shadows indicate a late afternoon shot – well after the speeches down at the Spit where the Public Works Minister was present for the ribbon cutting – and lunch.

    The high level of pedestrian activity here is out of place for an outer suburban locality (as it was then) with low residential densities – so it is logical to conclude that there is a special event taking place nearby. Bushland is present on the left hand side of the image, but not for long !

    Early in September 1900 land was being sold just north of this point and potential buyers were advised to ride to this intersection and walk for 10 minutes –

    “Mosmans Bay, Spit Road Tramway Estate [cartographic material National Library ]:

    large allotments, splendid sites for auction sale on the ground / by Raine & Horne, auctioneers Saturday, 8th September 1900 at 3 p.m. ; J.M. Cantle 90 Pitt St.

    (The) Spit Road tramway extension to The Spit passing the estate will be opened in a few weeks. Purchasers are requested to alight from Mosmans Bay tramway at junction of Military & Spit Roads from whence the land for sale is distant northerly 10 minutes walk.”

    The Crown Plan for this tramway extension (MS Sydney 4600) would also provide locational detail for the site as surveyors often noted existing structures to give context to proposed lines – even trees ! Lands to be resumed for any Public Work were also shown – in red ink.

    January 28, 2010 at 8:40 am
  • Rhonda Campbell says:

    It seems from the comments that this is definitely the opening ceremony for the tram line 3 November 1900. Thank you for all the comments which all together paint a picture of the beginnings of public transport in Mosman.

    August 6, 2010 at 10:52 am