Broome Tramway Project
in association with Broome Museum
Broome Museum
office (08) 9192-2075
fax (08) 9192-3114


A tramway associated with the proposed Mangrove Point jetty was surveyed in 1894.  On May 5th 1895 the contract for the construction of the jetty and tramway connection to the township was awarded to J. & J. Wishart jnr.

The length of the jetty was 2953ft (900m) by 15ft (4.57m) wide with a jetty head 340ft (103.63m) by 30ft (9.14m) wide plus a cattle race on the right hand side and a 25lb (11.34kg) 2ft  (.61m) line on the other.  It was completed within a year, but apparently was not officially opened until 20 December 1902.  In the meantime a goods shed (combined customs and goods) was built and rolling stock supplied.  The line then linked the township (length 1mile (1.609km) via two small jetties one was named Streeters and the other Male.    

This tramway line was completed during 1898 and by the end of that year there were 5 trucks and a 1 ton crane in use.  By the end of 1901 the truck numbers had doubled and a passenger car was under construction.  

The 1904 Public Works Dept Annual Report reported “traffic increased so much in the last 2 years and although the rail are of medium weight and the sleepers of steel, they are hardly equal to the demands placed on them… It is noted that the tramway needs converting to a 3ft 6in (1.10m) gauge with heavier rail and rolling stock to copy with the marked increase in use”.

Early motive power on the line was provided by 2 horses.  The official opening of the line is reported to be 20 December 1902, although the line had been in regular use for the previous 5 years.  This appears to have happened with several public works in the north-west; perhaps dignitaries to perform the ceremonies were few and far between in those days!
By 1904 there were 2 ½ miles (4.02km) of track, and rolling stock had increased to include 18 one-ton (1.016tonnes) trucks, 2 four-ton  (2.032 tonnes) trucks, 2 eight-ton  (8.13 tonnes) bogie trucks, one passenger car and one crane.  Traffic having increased greatly, the tramway could hardly equal the demands placed on it and conversion to 3ft 6in (1.10m)  gauge was considered urgent.
The new line had a loop along Carnarvon St and Dampier Tce so as to avoid the need to ‘run around’ the train, as well as a branch to Streeters Jetty and a spur opposite Mary St  (now Haase st) into the Water Supply Reserve.
The involvement of the tramway with the development of Broome is clearly evident. It is noted that Brome was not proclaimed as a municipality until 28/9/1904.  As a result 1906/7 saw the conversion of the tramway from 2’ to 3’6”  (1.10m) with 45lb (20.41kg) rail.  In the 1906-7 financial year relaying of the tramway to 3ft 6in (1.10m) gauge with 45lb rails was commenced.  A number of reinforced concrete sleepers and Powellised timber sleepers were used for testing purposes.  Eight 3ft 6in gauge wagons were sent to the tramway in that year.  In the same year the port was visited by 77 steam and 7 sailing vessels.
In conjunction with this work the goods shed was extended by 38’ lengthwise, the platform was made continuous, 8 new wagons entered service and a new passenger car was ordered.
Gauge conversion was completed the following year and at the township end the new line ended in a loop along Carnarvon Street and Dampier Terrace making it unnecessary to run around the train.  A new 3ft 6in gauge passenger car was supplied in the same year.
Business continued to prosper for the tramway with the addition of a rainproof shelter with necessary siding, an additional office for customs and another siding in Dampier Tce.
To facilitate an efficient service a 9.5 ton steam locomotive was delivered in 1910 to relieve the load on the horses.  A request for the engine (for the tram service) had been made in 1909 when the Premier and Minister for Works visited Broome and were conveyed by tram.
Horses were replaced in the year ending 30th June 1910 by an Orenstein & Koppel 0-4-OT steam locomotive “Coffee Pot”  builders number 4058.  At the same time further sidings were provided at Dampier Terrace and the depot.  In the following two years, five new trucks, a meat van, a travelling water tank, and two further passenger cars were supplied, whilst an engine shed and pit were completed.

The passenger tram service was heavily used by the Asian pearl divers at the time of their seasonal trips home.  It also proved to be too popular locally and the Broome Council was requested to stop the running of the tram except on steamer nights. It was felt that money earned by cabbies remained in Broome whereas money from tram fares went to the Treasury in Perth.  Obviously competition was tough!
An engine shed and pit (to service the locomotive) was completed by June 1912.  The same year 2 timber trucks, 1 meat truck, 2 passenger cars and a travelling water tank were supplied.  Water quality (due to the oxides in the water) caused concern regarding the steam engine. Subsequently an internal combustion  Dyckerhoff locomotive ‘New Century” engine was ordered from Germany - to be called “Kaiser”. In the next five years six additional jetty trucks were supplied. Kaiser was delivered in 1912 (the first combustion engine in Australia) and was later transferred to Wyndham in 1915. This was brought about because a new jetty, with a 3ft 6” gauge tramway, was being constructed at Stony Point at Wyndham, about one mile north of the town jetty, to service the meat works.

Very little is known about the operation of “Kaiser” at Broome or at Wyndham.  It must have been considered sufficiently useful to justify its transfer in 1915.  In 1944 the ‘Kaiser’ was festooned in weeds and appeared to be set aside.  This was at a time when many older steam locomotives were still in regular use, so perhaps the “Kaisers’ performance had ultimately not been up to expectations.  After years of disuse, and several years on display in a park in Kununurra it was brought back to Wyndham, to be preserved.

In 1916/17 two new jetty trucks were supplied together with another four two years later.  They were needed as the port was busy.
January 31st 1922 and new English steam engine – known as “Kimberley” arrived in Broome.  Before the end of its working life in 1950 “Kimberley” was transferred to Carnarvon.
In 1923/4 it handled 139 vessels with cargo handled of 7,873 tons.  Two years later demand was such that an extra track was provided for shunting and a request was made for even more trucks to enable economical working of traffic.  Loco No. 1 had been overhauled and returned.
1926 saw some cyclone damage to the Goods yard but the Goods Shed survived.  In fact, the Goods Shed was then made more useful with the installation of an outside ramp.  Extra shunting room was needed and when included on the west side of the jetty enabled shunting to be done by locomotive power instead of by hand.  Cargo handled included wood, mother-of-pearl shell, cattle, but changes in the pearling industry resulted in reduced general cargo and sandalwood trade had also come to a standstill.
1939 Demco meat works were built.  More railway line was laid to service the meatworks.  Some trucks were modified to carry the frozen meat.
The tramway was largely destroyed in 1942 when the town came under Japanese air attack.  Passenger services were not restored until 28 October 1946 when a rail motor (constructed from a utility truck with flanged wheels) provided a service between the opposite ends of town.
Internal combustion locomotives were used in the early days of the line, including at least two Fordson tractors, but no details are known of these.  The inevitable dieselisation occurred in the 1950’s, and by 1966 motive power consisted of two Simplex-Dorman four –wheel locomotive, NW7 of 1950 “Katie”  and NW8 of 1954.  The Simplex engines ran between the jetty and the meatworks.  The line was closed in 1966 and NW7 was transferred to Derby while NW8 was dispatched to Port Hedland.  .  Unfortunately a fire in 1970 was to destroy the Broome Goods Shed leaving just a few twisted remains
The old Broome jetty could not meet the demands of modern shipping, particularly considering that vessels were left sitting on the mud at low tide when moored alongside the jetty.  On 23rd July 1966 a new deepwater port facility was opened at Entrance Point, several miles west of the town.  The new jetty is serviced entirely by road vehicles.  Since then the old jetty has been completely demolished, the tramway dismantled and the rolling stock broken up.

The death sentence for the tramway was finally executed with the opening of the new Broome Jetty in 1966.

Site built and maintained by John Kennedy -