In 1886 the first tram to run on Sydney’s North Shore was a cable tram that ran from Milsons Point to the top of Ridge Street. This line was extended to Spit Junction in 1893 using an electric tram. It was not until 1897 that the line was extended along Military Road to Mosman Wharf and in 1917 to Taronga Zoo and Athol Wharf.
Visitors to Balmoral now had two ways of accessing Balmoral Beach: by ferry or by tram to Mosman Junction or Milsons Point to Mosman Junction and then walking down the Balmoral Slopes.
As early as 1902 discussions were held as to extending the line to Balmoral but because of the topgraphy it was considered too difficult and was constantly being put on the back burner.
With the increase in pleasure seekers to Balmoral it was eventually decided to build a line to Balmoral. The two options were down Raglan Street or Awaba Street using the Spit Junction to the Spit Line that had opened in 1900.
In 1919 the line from Mosman Junction had been extended to Georges Heights to serve the limited population and the patients from the military hospital there.
Eventually in 1922 the line to Balmoral via Middle Head Road , Street Gordon and Beaconsfield Road was built. The Georges Heights line was stopped at Gordon Street to enable the start of the Balmoral line. Because of the terrain, after leaving Gordon Street the line had to gradually descend the slope to Balmoral via a cutting, reverse curves reminscent of railway construction from Beaconsfield Street to the end of Mulbring Street and then via a cutting through the bush to arrive at Balmoral opposite Shearers Baths. It was then extended along Ruve Street, which became known as Lawry Parade and is now The Esplanade. At the terminus there was a scissors crossover so the tram could reverse its journey. The original tram shed at Balmoral still exists today.
In 1923 a line was built down King Max Street so that people arriving by ferry could catch the tram down to Balmoral. By 1932 it was possible to catch a tram all the way from Wynyard to Balmoral.
The Balmoral tram was one of the last trams to run on the North Shore when the system was closed in 1958.
According to some locals once the line was torn up the lower end of the track through the bush was often called ‘Lovers Lane’. Today the walking track through the bush at the end of Mulbring Street is well used.
Some tram tracks and wires have been replaced at the end of the cutting just as it reaches Balmoral to recreate the historical setting.
David R Keenan, The North Sydney Lines of the Sydney Tramway System, Transit Press, Sans Souci, 1987.
Gavin Souter, Mosman: A History, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1994.
A tram travelling through bushland to Balmoral, 1940s (Mosman Library)
A tram travelling along Ruve Street in 1927 (Mosman Library)
Aerial photograph of the tram route in 1943 (Roads and Maritime Services)