D. M. Wyatt, OAM, RFD
Tasmanian Military History
Tasmanian Military History (Books & CD's)
Military Biographies
Photograph Restoration
Research in Progress
Favorite WWW Links
Contact Me
Research in Progress


Port Arthur Convict Tramway

In the penal period a wooden tram line connected Taranna with Port Arthur, about six miles distant. The trucks used on the tramway were drawn by convicts. Concerning this method of transport, the late Mr. Burn wrote:

"On our return to the settlement (Port Arthur, in 1842), -We had no idea of the speed of the tramway. There is a shoot of a mile and a half near the head of Long Bay, which is traversed al the rate of 40 miles an hour. It requires some little nerve at first to keep ones composure, because, once In motion there are no stoppages, and the least obstruction would, as Jonathan says 'send carriages and their contents to immortal smash,'

In a further description of this convict railway. Mr. Burn said: "At 9 o'clock wo bade adieu to the staunch and fleet Eliza (a 150 ton schooner built at Port Arthur in 1835, in which the journey was made from Hobart with Captain Hurburgh in command) landing on the railway jetty at the head of Norfolk Bay (January 8, 1842). The rall, or rather tramway, is formed from the hardwood of the country, and passes over a space of five miles, thereby affording a rapid and easy means of transit between the heads of Norfolk and Long Bays, the latter of which leads to Port Arthur.

This tramway, the projection of Captain Booth (the fifth commandant), has proved to be a work of the utmost utility, shortening the distance between Hobart Town and Port Arthur and ensuring a rapid and certain communication at times when the long se passage might be impracticable.

The tramway, unlike our English rail ways, follows the natural levels of the ground, the ascent of a hill being compensated In Its opposite descent.

The waggons are propelled by convict three men being generally allotted to do the work of each waggon, which is capable of conveying half a ton of goods at each transit. Upon emergency, the same gang have made their three journeys and back, 30 miles, a day, conveying thus half a ton per man either way."

Summary

Although it cannot be proven that this wheel was used on a convict tram wagon, all the evidence found so far supports the fact that it could have been such a wheel and nothing to indicate that it was not!

The reasons that I believe that the wheel came from a convict tramway wagon are:

• Provenance: A story that came with the wheel was that it came from a convict tramway wagon.(Taranna to Port Arthur).
• A reference that the wheels were small and made from cast iron. See attachment. 
• A reference that the cart wheel had to be greased during operation. See attachment. 
• A reference to locking nuts on the axles. See attachment.
• A flat rim suitable for use on the wooden track. See attachment.


If you can assist with additional information please Email: Doug at dmwyatt@bigpond.net.au