Two Melbourne trams brought to Sunraysia in 1999 did have a role to play in local tourism at a time when visitor levels were dwindling.
The trams were a subject of a story published as an “April Fools” joke on the Mildura Independent Online website on Easter Sunday (April 1).
A large part of the story was correct, but there was quite a section published as obvious “satire”.
The two W series Melbourne trams – numbers 501 and 344 – remain on the Darling River property of Laurie Hughes and Heather Ginn in Kelso Road, Darling View and for the time they are not going anywhere.
In 1999 the historic trams – numbers 344, 501 and one other – were located on property fronting the Darling River purchased by former Mildura Greyhound bus driver and later Travelodge Motel manager and tour operator John Reid.
Mr Reid transported the trams from Melbourne and used them to operate as a “morning and afternoon tea and coffee house” associated with unique river cruises conducted by Captain Eddie Thomas with the MV Loyalty.
The Loyalty would cruise from the wharf behind the Wentworth Club and go upstream on the Darling River pool and passengers would disembark for refreshments in the (then) three trams.
Mr Reid’s property was later purchased by former local policeman Leon Dahlitz.
One of the trams was sold to a Broken Hill man for $1000 around 2001 and it was shifted across the Darling and is now used for storage on a property on the Silver City Highway near Wentworth.
The two other trams were secured by former Mildura butcher Laurie Hughes and moved 300 metres downstream to his own property on Kelso Road at Darling View where they remain.
Tram number 344 operated on the East Melbourne/Melbourne University to St Kilda Beach line while number 501 was housed at the Moonee Ponds tram depot and operated on routes to Niddrie and Strathmore.
Mr Hughes came to the district around 1979 and had a horticultural property at Merbein and a plot of land at Birdwoodton. He sold both to move across to Darling View in 2001.
“We were going to do the trams up but other things got in the way – Heather went into back into horses and jinkers and the trams became neglected,” Mr Hughes said.
“They will have to leave the site one day, so if Council really wants to buy them, they can,” he said Monday.