Cross remembers going on a school excursion to the Preston tram enclave and thought
he might one day
like to work there. But Norm also has rail transport in his blood. His father
worked on the trains for thirty years and his uncle put in five decades on steam
I was a boy I used to stand on the corner of St George's Road and mark off the
numbers of the trams as they went past on their jourmey to the city," recalls
Norm. "On their return journey I'd notice if one was missing and then wait
and sometimes see it being tramsported back to the workshop on the back of a truck."
taken hundreds of photographs and kept journals and diaries of his experiences,
Norm has also written books about trams. He was also eagerly sought out by local
filmmakers Graham Parker and Nadia Tass to be tram consultant on the AFI-winning
I'm what they call a special service tram driver. I drive all the defective and
recently-serviced trams to and from the workshops and the depots. My technical
knowledge comes in handy as I am able to detect faults quicker than most
fed my family," declares Graham Jones, another veteran of the Melbourne tramways.
"I started as an apprentice coachmaker at Preston workshops doing a four-year
apprenticeship - and four years became forty-four!"
Since then Graham
has been foreman of the bodyshop and has overseen the construction of our trams
at Preston workshops for most of his working life. He hasn't missed a beat,
also working on special projects and rejuvinating some of our beautiful vintage
recently he has been involved with international tram engineering projects worth
hundreds of millions of dollars in Asia.
Graham admits that when he started
as an apprentice he was not interested in trams. But time on the job soon changed
his outlook. "When
you work at any one job for a long period of time it becomes part of you. After
a while you realise it's not blood running through your veins, it's trams!"
points out that even before his reign, Preston Tramway workshops began as a massive
operation opened by the government owned M&MTB in 1926. Back then the massive
number of workshops assembled under one roof was created to satisfy the growing
demand for Melbourne's expanding tram fleet. This included the introduction of
the (then) new wooden-bodied W-class tram.
today fifty or so 1930s era SWs, built at Preston workshops, are still running
on heratige routes around the city. Although they are intermingling with the modern
Z-class, the boxier A-class and the longer, caterpillar-like bend-in-the-middle
Norm Cross still remembers the day in the early 1980s when
he was asked out of the blue what was the best A-class running on the system.
In his opinion number 521 was in the best condition he said and asked why.
music star Elton John wanted to buy a wooden-bodied W-class tram and ship it back
to his home in England. So they jumped to it. Mont Albert tram number 521 was
promptly pulled off the tracks and sent down to the docks.
recently the razor-sharp blade of economic rationalism has been applied with increasing
pressure. The once plentyful species known as tram conductors finally became extinct
in May 1998. Oh well, at least new European-style low-floor trams were promised.
- a human construct measuring the steady pulse of the universe and the interval
until the next number 64 tram - waits for no passenger.
article (c) Paul Norris www.norrismediaproductions.com
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