The Journal of the DH Lawrence Society of Australia

ISSN No: 1039-9658

Vol 16. No 2. March 2009



DHL Society members Rob Darroch, Sandra Jobsob and
John Ruffels (seated) with the O 1111- class tram
which Lawrence and Frieda took from Manly
to Narrabeen in 1922
By Sandra Jobson
Photographs by John Lacey

ON a balmy winter's Sunday in 1922 Richard Lovatt Somers, a visiting English writer and his wife Harriett (aka DH Lawrence and his wife Frieda) took a "ferry steamer" across Sydney Harbour to Manly, where, as Lawrence relates in Kangaroo, they wandered up the street which looked "like a bit of Margate lined with sea-side shops and restaurants" to the ocean beachfront where they ate some lunch before going back to an "eating-house" where they warmed themselves with some soup before setting off by tram for Narrabeen.

"They sat on the tram-car and ran for miles along a coast" before arriving at the terminus near Narrabeen Lagoon (the tram shed still exists on that same spot) before alighting and walking along the sandy road beside the Lagoon towards the ocean.

Lawrence and Frieda sat on the sand and ate some pears and watched the lazy antics of some locals, paddling and playing. Somers couldn't get over the Australian men's muscular legs: "They seemed to run to leg, these people."

Unlike their later trip to Thirroul, which was by train, a mode of transport which Lawrence describes in some detail, he didn't describe the tram they took to Narrabeen.

But I know what it looked like - for I saw it, (see photograph above), or one of its class, at the Vintage Tramway Festival Open Day on Sunday February 22, 2009, at the Sydney Tramway Museum at Loftus, when a small contingent of the DH Lawrence Society of Australia went tram-spotting and held a BBQ.

The "Lawrence" tram was not on public display that day but we were privileged to get a private view of it. It was an O 1111-class, one of nine that plied the route from Manly to the terminus at Narrabeen and back to Manly in 1922.

It is a green and cream semi- "toast rack" model with varnished wood seats. The front and rear sections (the rear became the front and vice versa as the tram went up-and-down the line to the terminus and back to Manly) are open, allowing passengers to hop on and off easily. The rest of the tram has sliding doors. (for another photo of the tram see over page with DHL Society Vice-President, Robert Darroch, Secretary, Sandra Jobson Darroch and Archivist John Ruffels.)

We also witnessed a rare event: the official ceremony for the welcoming of the sole surviving veteran J tram 675 (see photo over page ).

John Lacey, our DHL Society President, is a serious steam train buff but his knowledge also encompasses trams. About the J tram, he says: "47 small four-wheel J Class were built in Edwardian times to operate the busy tram route along King St. Sydney through Kings Cross and out to Watson's Bay. It was one of Australia's busiest tram routes and also one of the most demanding, with sharp curves and steep grades. When modern corridor trams arrived in 1933, the elderly J Class were withdrawn and scrapped.

Setting off into the Royal National Park
on the veteran R393




"Now, 75 years later and following a four-year restoration the J train made its second debut."

After the unveiling ceremony, where a ribbon was cut, the various trams were ready to take visitors for a ride. We sat at the very front next to the driver on a F393 dating from 1902 and set off with a load of passengers (see photo over page).

We held up the admiring traffic as we crossed over the Princes Highway and then entered the Royal National Park, travelling along an old railway track through the bush (the tram and train gauge tracks were the same dimensions).

Back at the exhibition there was a whole lot more to enjoy with up to seven century-old trams in operation throughout the day, including C 290 of 1896, C 29 of 1898, F 393 of 1902, N 728 of 1906, as well as many more trams on display in the Museum..

These trams are surviving relics of Sydney's once thriving tram-network, which at its height, John Lacey relates, was the largest tramway system in Australia.

Lawrence had quite a lot to do with trams over the years. Not only did he travel to Narrabeen on one - he (or his alter ego Somers) also took a tram from Cremorne Wharf on Sydney's north side to Florence Avenue.

This tram was either the same model as the famous Bondi tram or the other one that went to Bondi via Bellevue Hill. (By the way, the legendary Bondi tram "shot through" at weekends because its passengers only wanted to get to Bondi Beach - as fast as possible - hence it cut out all the intermediate stops and thus gathered speed.)

Lawrence, in his youth, living at Eastwood, often travelled on the local double-decker colliery trams that plied up-and-down the hills between the Midlands villages.

In a lively short story, "Tickets Please", Lawrence describes the precarious journeys of "the most dangerous tram service in England as the authorities themselves declare with pride".

The drivers were young men medically unfit to join in World War 1, but daredevils nonetheless, and the conductors were study local girls with sharp tongues and warm wit.

"The ride becomes a steeplechase. Hurray!" Lawrence writes, "we have leapt in a clear jump over the canal bridge - now for the four-lane corner. With a shriek and a trail of sparks we are clear again. To be sure, a tram often leaps the rails - but what matter! It sits in a ditch till other trams come to haul it out…"

This short story, with a lead character named John Thomas, is a joy to read.

Lawrence certainly had a soft spot for trams.

Click HERE to see more photos of the TRAMS