Ballarat's Horse Tramways

Following the discovery of gold in 1851, so great was the influx of gold seekers and supporting business people, that Ballarat was declared a city in 1870. In the mid 1880s the Ballaarat City Council was considering tramway construction as the horse-drawn buses and cabs were inadequate for the growing city. Various proposals were put forward including a cable tramway. Cable line construction was in full swing at Melbourne at the time, but deemed too expensive for Ballarat.

The Council was impressed with the horse tramways of Adelaide, in South Australia, and decided on a similar system for Ballarat. The Council had large

loan commitments and so private enterprise undertook the project. The Ballaarat Tramway Company Limited opened the first line in 1887 from the Botanic Gardens to the City. The Museum’s line runs over part of this original route. The horse tramways provided the first comprehensive passenger services in Ballarat.

There were 17 double and one single-decker horse-drawn trams with around 50 horses, owned by the Company. This large number of horses was required as individual horses were out on the tracks only part of the day to ensure that they were not overworked.   The horse trams were replaced by electric trams in 1905, though most of the Sebastopol line remained horse worked until 1913.

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Sturt St 1897 with horse trams and horse cabs. Map of Ballarat's Horse Tram lines. Horse tram at the Gardens c1905. Postcard view of a horse tram in Sturt St c1900.

Click on the photo to view a larger image and collection record.

Horse Tram No. 1

The Ballarat Tramway Museum discovered horse tram number 1 which had served as an outbuilding at a local residence for about half a century.  It was acquired in 1985 and reconstructed to its original colourful form.

The tram is the only horse tram that has survived and is one of the few remnants of the Ballarat horse tram era left.

Following reconstruction, the tram was launched by Professor Weston Bate on 7 November 1992.

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The tram body as recovered in 1985 on its way to the depot. New underframe built 1987. Taking shape 1989. Being painted and metal work being fitted 1991.

Horse Tram No. 1 at Work

Prior to 1998, the horse tram worked five times: the official launch on 7 November 1992 and then October 1995, November 2001 prior to being run in Melbourne for the 2002 Moomba Festival and the 25 September 2005 centenary celebrations of electric trams in Ballarat. For these celebrations, Bendigo


crossbench tram No. 17 visited Ballarat and ran in conjunction with the horse and other Ballarat trams painted in the colours of the Electric Supply Co. of Victoria. Tramcar No. 17 is currently the only operational company tram.

In May 2008 and May 2010, the tram was run for the Ballarat Heritage Weekend. The 2010 tram carried over 1000 passengers over two days. A great Event.

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Wendouree Parade on official launch 11/1992. Wendouree Parade 2002. 100th anniversary of electric trams 9/2005. Bear leads No. 1 in the Moomba Parade 2002.
Watch some You Tube videos of Horse Tram No. 1 in Wendouree Parade: Movie 1: (25/9/2005) Movie 2: (25/9/2005)

2010 Heritage Weekend - 8 and 9 May.

The City of Ballarat sponsored the horse tram in partnership with the Museum. Rides on both the electric tram and horse tram were free.

The two Clydesdales, D'Arcy (13 years and 16hh)and Princess (16 years and 15.2hh) were supplied by Lyle Drayton of Lara. They were able to be offloaded, housed, groomed, fed, watered and harnessed (and patted) near the loop itself. 
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Click on the photo to view a larger image and collection record.

2011 Heritage Weekend - Sunday 8 May

The City of Ballarat again sponsored the horse tram in partnership with the Museum. Rides on both the electric tram and horse tram were free.

In 2011 the horses were supplied by the Horsedrawn Cab Co. .with Eddie, Napoleon and Lisa supplying the horsepower.
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2012 Heritage Weekend - Sunday 13 May

The Ballarat Tramway Museum operated the horse on Sunday 13 May. Sadly it was not the best weather.



The horses, Katie and Hank were provided by Bruce Hill of Clunes.

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Photos of our 24/1/2016 Running day can be viewed on our facebook page. Noah and Brooke were the horses for the day.

Next Running Day

To be Advised

Links to Other Horse Tram Operations:

Victor Harbor (South Australia)

Isle of Man

Wikipedia - horsecars

Dobeln Tramway(Germany)


Text and Layout: Warren Doubleday. Photos: From the Ballarat Tramway Museum Collection, Photographers as shown in the individual collection records for each photograph, comprising: Carolyn Dean, Bruce Dixon, Warren Doubleday, Dave Macartney, Alastair Reither and Peter Winspur.


© 2020 Ballarat Tramway Museum Inc