Tramway Lane, close to what is locally known as Cabarita Junction, is a reminder of what was once an extensive network of tramlines linking Enfield, Ashfield, Burwood, Concord, Mortlake and Cabarita. Collectively known as the Enfield lines, the system operated independently from the city lines from 1891-1948. Steam trams were used until 1912 when the electrification of the line was completed.
Cabarita Junction was the point at which the line, built to transport workers to the Mortlake gasworks, was joined by a spur line down Cabarita Road to convey crowds of picnickers to Cabarita Park and Thomas Corey’s Pleasure Gardens.
The tramway played an important part in the development of Mortlake and adjacent areas. It featured in advertisements of land sales and auctions along its route as realtors spruiked the benefits of the tramway, not least the potential for it to increase land values.
The development of road transport between the wars brought a decline in traffic on the tramway. The line became increasingly uneconomic and was closed in 1948.
About midday on 11 November 1907 a terrible accident occurred on the line when a tram travelling south along Burwood Road moved onto a passing loop outside Concord Public School and stopped to allow another tram in the opposite direction to pass.
The outbound tram was full of picnickers heading towards Cabarita to celebrate a public holiday for the Prince of Wales’ birthday. Just as it reached the stationary tram there was a tremendous explosion completely wrecking one engine and blowing the other off the line.
Such was the force of the blast that debris was found as far away as Salisbury Street. Some even landed on the roof of the nearby Concord Primary School.
Both drivers were killed and the conductor of one tram was severely scalded. Other passengers had to be treated for cuts and burns.
An inquiry was unable to establish the exact cause of the accident, but the public concern it caused hastened the replacement of steam locomotives with electric motors, consistent with Sydney’s other tramways.