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The Queensland provincial city of Rockhampton was ahead of the game when it operated a network of steam trams from 1909 to 1939.
Today, the city has what is believed to be the only operational tram of its kind remaining in the world.
The wealth generated by the Mount Morgan gold rush of the 1880s skyrocketed Rockhampton to a bustling and prosperous town to the extent that the city was proposed as the capital of a breakaway state.
It is with this backdrop that in 1908 the Rockhampton Council purchased four steam trams from Bordeaux in France to build a city tramway.
The trams were made by Valentin Purrey and were in operation in Rockhampton from 1909 to 1939 with nine tramcars and six trailers in the fleet.
Popular with localsThe council struggled to make the trams financially viable due to loans for repairs, restorations and upgrades.
The trams operated for three decades, carried more than 40 million passengers and travelled more than 7.3 million kilometres.
They were involved in many accidents, but it is believed the steam trams were generally a safe and reliable mode of transport.
Now the world's only operational Purrey steam tram lives at the Archer Park Rail Museum in Rockhampton.
"These trams ran in Portugal, Spain, Italy, South America, various cities throughout France and in Paris. Rockhampton is the only place they worked in Australia," said volunteer tram driver Alex Limkin.
"We have rung around to make enquiries and this tram here is now the only working Purrey steam tram in the world.
"The only other one we could find is in a museum in Paris."
Mr Limkin said the trams were eventually replaced by diesel buses.
"They got rid of them and put them out in the scrub," he said.
How does the tram work?Volunteer president Dennis Sheehan said the trams were operated with water, coal and coke.
"It was part of the municipal transport in the early days of Rockhampton and besides taking passengers, the tram used to actually deliver medicines from the pharmacies on the route," he said.
"The water for the boiler, which produces the steam which actually drives the tram, is located in stainless steel tanks under three of the seats.
"The Purrey tram here uses Stanwell demineralised water and that keeps the boiler in tip top shape.
"The coal comes from Clermont and that's donated free of charge and coke is our biggest problem now.
"It normally used to come from Bowen … now Bowen Coke Works has closed down so we've got to source coke from another place around Australia if possible, otherwise we just go back to using coal in the tram."
'Train mad' volunteerBill Head, 89, has been volunteering at the Archer Park Rail Museum for almost two decades.
"I've been a train buff all my life. As far back as I can remember trains are the only thing I wanted to work with," he said.
"I left school at the right time in 1946 and I've been train mad all my life and I'm still interested in them.
"Apart from meeting people from all over the world, it's interesting because you get visitors in and they mightn't have been in the railway, but their father or grandfather was and they're a bit interested.
"Not only that, we've got our own little group of volunteers here and we've all become good friends … 18 years and I hope I'm here for a few more."
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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