Inside the Collection

Celebrating Engineering Week 2014: A Model steam tram with double-decker trailing car


Model of a Sydney steam tram and carriages by Bob Cutcher, 1970
Powerhouse Museum Collection, object B2566. Gift of A Cutcher, 1984.

I chose this object to celebrate Engineering Week (4-10 August 2014). It’s an excellent working model of a steam tram, the first type of tram that served Sydney. Now the city’s light rail system, which is tiny compared to the extensive electric system that followed the steam tram era, is set to grow. If you’d like to hear top-level presenters speak about this extension, you can register to attend a free Engineering Week forum on Sydney’s Light Rail on 6 August, 6 to 8 pm, at the Powerhouse Museum.  Several other events are also planned for the week.

Should transport engineers be inspired by the model, with its double-decker trailing car? People are already questioning whether the new trams will have enough capacity to meet demand in the busy south east of the city, which has no heavy rail service. Sydney led the world with its extensive use of double-decker trains, and double-decker buses recently returned to the city’s streets; perhaps double-decker trams should be considered as well.

Design drawing of Super Tram by Charles Beauvais
Powerhouse Museum collection, object 97/195/1-1/27. Gift of Mrs Beverley Cox,1997.

This 1940s drawing by industrial designer and illustrator Charles Frederick Beauvais shows a streamlined Super Tram with seating on two levels. Beauvais thought deeply about how the design of vehicles and transport systems could be improved. He produced concept drawings for streamlined cars and a futuristic city as well as for trams, and he suggested an elevated concrete and glass roadway carrying quiet pneumatic-tyred double-decker electric trains as the solution to congestion in the central business district.


Detail of model tram engine.
Powerhouse Museum collection, object B2566. Detail of model tram engine.

This photo reveals the engine, boiler and water tank of the model tram, which was made by Courtenay Lowell (Bob) Cutcher in 1970. Cutcher went to school and technical college, and married and started a family, in Newcastle; he later lived and worked in Sydney. The model salutes both cities: it is numbered 31A, the number of a Sydney steam tram, and the destination board displays the name Waratah, a suburb of Newcastle. Cutcher, a fitter and turner and self-taught model-maker, took two years to complete the model, ‘occupying a pleasant hour of his spare time each day’.

Written by Debbie Rudder, Curator

One response to “Celebrating Engineering Week 2014: A Model steam tram with double-decker trailing car

  • I’ve been into the museum to look at this model many times over the last couple of years, but have never seen the carriage. It was made by my Grandfather, who passed away before I was born. Very interesting to read about it here.

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