IT’S HISTORY: Ken Smith of Goonellabah with a bell from the last tram to run in Brisbane. The 534 tram had its last run on April 13, 1969.
IT’S HISTORY: Ken Smith of Goonellabah with a bell from the last tram to run in Brisbane. The 534 tram had its last run on April 13, 1969. Cathy Adams

Lismore tram fan rings a bell for return of light rail

THE BELL that signalled the end of Brisbane's trams in 1969 recently welcomed passengers on the first G Link light rail journey on the Gold Coast.

G Link is a new 13km tram system connecting Gold Coast University Hospital and Griffith University with Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach.

April 13, 1969, was a sad day for rail fanatic Ken Smith, when then Brisbane Lord Mayor Clem Jones turned the power off on the tram network.

As car 534 rattled its way into the Ipswich Rd depot at 11.55pm, it rang its bell for the last time - a sound that would soon become familiar to Lismore's Mr Smith. He quickly tracked down car 534, which had been donated to a kindergarten in the Brisbane suburb of Margate.

"Only a few weeks later I heard a news story that a tram had been vandalised at Margate and when I rang the kindergarten they said they would have to get rid of it," Mr Smith said.

"I was able to get this bell and the gong that used to warn the cars."

Mr Smith said a group of enthusiasts then banded together to form the Brisbane Tramway Museum Society.

"When it was announced in June 1968 that the huge network of trams was going to be closed we thought we needed to preserve some of the trams and create a museum."

The museum opened in 1980 and now operates six trams and is restoring another two.

The same year the Brisbane Tramway Museum opened, Mr Smith began driving trams in Melbourne, continuing his affinity with the rails.

After many years, Mr Smith said he decided to sell the gong from car 534, but he kept the bell, which was engraved in several places with the numbers 534.

When Mr Smith heard that the first G Link journey would run on July 20, he had to be on that train.

So after climbing out of bed between 2am and 3am, Mr Smith was delighted to make the first Queensland tram journey in 45 years.

"The first tram that ran on Sunday left at 5am, and there were about 150 people on board, and I gave everyone the opportunity of ringing the bell."

"When they were doing it, I told them they were riding the first tram in Queensland since this bell was rung when the trams stopped in 1969."