Weed Burning Tram
the 16th of April 1956 a unique, small vehicle emerged from
the tramway workshops in Randwick. Mounted on a Sydney Number
4 bogie from a withdrawn O class tram was a vehicle designed
to solve the problem of overgrown, weed infested reserved
Up until that point the use of flamethrowers back burning
the weeds by hand had been an expensive but necessary task.
Tests were conducted where oxy-acetylene equipment was mounted
to the rear of a scrubber tram and weeds were back burned
from the moving vehicle. Unfortunately due to the vibration
and rocking motion of the 4 wheel trams it proved difficult
to keep the flame aligned. It was therefore decided to mount
the equipment on a more stable platform separate from the
tram. Built to design of Inspector R. Hudson of the per-way
section, this simple vehicle sped up the whole process reducing
the cost dramatically.
vehicle was given the number 144s and was the last
piece of rolling stock to be built for the tramways
in Sydney. It weighed 3.5 tons and measured 9ft 10in
in length. Mounted on the vehicle were 6 gas bottles
on one side and 5 on the other to allow space for
the operator at the front left hand side of the vehicle.
Burners were mounted at the front of the vehicle and
could burn strips up to 6 inches wide either side
of the rail without overheating the rail itself.
could adjust the mixture of oxygen and acetylene when
the vehicle crossed special track work or areas which
could be damaged by the flames such as wooden bridges.
vehicle was designed to be either propelled or towed and
this was usually done with a scrubber car. The vehicle was
used 3 times a year for a period of 15 days and most work
was concentrated around the Eastern to South-Eastern suburbs
where long expanses of open ballasted track existed. The
many sidings and lines at the showground were also a common
site to see the weed burner in action.
weed burner remained in active service on the tramways of
Sydney right up until the closure in 1961. Fortunately the
vehicle was donated to the Sydney Tramway Museum on the
17th of March, 1961 where you can now inspect the vehicle
every Wednesday and Sunday at Loftus.
New South Wales Tramcar Handbook 1861-1961 Part one, K.
McCarthy, N. Chinn, South Pacific Electric Railway Co-operative
Society Limited, Sydney, 1975.
Destination Circular Quay, A pictorial review of Sydney
Tramcars, J. Richardson, Traction Publications, Canberra,
Sydney Tramway Museum, Handbook of exhibits, South Pacific
Electric Railway, Sydney, 1986.
Guide to the South Pacific Electric Railway, SPER, 1965.
Sydney Tramway Museum, Visitor Souvenir, South Pacific Electric
Railway Co-operative Society Limited, 2004.