Dog Goes Electric

News and Views from a Tramway Muse by David Fryer

First Electric Tram, 1897. Image courtesy of Brisbane City Council Library

When trawling through dusty and musty sepia images (as sad photophiles sometimes do), I am reminded that we are only on this planet for a short time. 

Take trams for instance; many people did in the early days, but most of the passengers captured on camera have lived their lives and are now long gone. 

The interesting thing is, a flimsy piece of paper – in this case the sepia photograph – has not only outlived the people portrayed and the trams that carried them, it’s often as good as the day it first emerged from the developing tray.

Fortunately, for sad photophiles like myself, relatively few photos were taken in Victorian times. Cameras were incredibly expensive and plate glass images were difficult to handle and store. For these reasons, old sepia photographs are so much more authentic and convincing than the tacky Photoshop fakes that seem to be everywhere these days.  

Sometimes, if lucky, the subjects are identified; and if a viewer is really lucky, the photo may even carry a date or location. Unfortunately, animals are rarely identified, let alone acknowledged. This is especially true for the hapless workhorses that worked so hard to haul heavy trams up the steep hills of Brisbane in the unbearable heat of summer. (Thinks: Who knows how many literally died in the tram lines of duty?).

Fortunately, pampered pets had an easier life, like the well-fed dog in the photos for instance. He / she / it turns up in a variety of trams over a seven year period: on the steps of an early horse-drawn double-decker; in the horse-drawn Bulimba tram taken in Ann Street in 1890; and in the very first electric tram of 1897.  

So who was this well-travelled dog who moved from the primitive horse-drawn era to the hi-tech electric? And who was the custodian? Was it the driver’s dog? Or was it an obliging stage prop for the camera operator? Sadly, there is no record, but he / she / it must have been the best travelled pooch in Brisbane.

You may not see too many dogs at the Brisbane Tramway Museum, but you will see some terrific trams. So why not come along and celebrate Electric Vehicle Day on the 22nd of August. 

The Brisbane Tramway Museum is proudly sponsored by the Brisbane City Council.

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