Soul on wheels

Just a short post this week (and next week will be even shorter; I’ll be in hospital). This you can file under the “live with more” heading, not the minimalist “live with less”.

I live in Melbourne, Australia, not to be confused with Melbourne, Florida or Melbourne, Kentucky or any of the other Melbournes that are pretenders to the throne. 🙂  One of the delights of living in Melbourne is the tram network.

Originally in Australia Melbourne was hardly alone in having trams: Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo, Perth, Fremantle, Kalgoorlie, Hobart and Launceston all had tram networks, among others. But over the decades in the mid 20th century, these all closed down (save Adelaide, which kept one tramline) as in the 1950s and 1960s the car assumed dominance. Why wait for trams when everyone could own a car? The car had another unfortunate impact on urban planning: people moved way out to the burbs and built McMansions, where two people live in a house with six bedrooms and four bathrooms that get cluttered with junk and… </rant>

But back to Melbourne. There was a concerted push to eliminate trams here, just as they had been eliminated in all the other cities — they were progressive. But Robert Risson, chairman of the Melbourne & Metropolitan Tramways Board, was having none of it. And Melbourne, with its wide boulevards and grid plan, kept its trams. (Robert Risson now has a tram terminus — in Elizabeth Street next to Flinders Street Station — named in his honour). Not only that, Melbourne’s tram network kept expanding, until now, Melbourne has the largest tram network in the world. Not just the Southern Hemisphere, but the whole planet.

And what I love about trams is that trams are convenient, more so than trains. You get on and off a tram from the middle of the street — no going to an entrance like a railway station and possibly using stairs to access a platform. But more importantly, trams have soul. There’s something utterly charming about riding around in a tram, even the sleek modern ones, that is hard to explain. And the scale is human, too; getting off the tram you can personally thank the driver, which you can’t do on a train.

If I was looking for things to appreciate — going on a “rampage of appreciation” as Abraham Hicks would put it — trams would appear somewhere on the list. And that can only be a good thing.


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