Our first electric train, 100 years on

Australian public transport history changed forever on 6 October 1918 - the trial date for Melbourne's first electric train.

An image from the first electric train test at Flemington. The trial, which was held with 1500 volts, attracted much fanfare on the Flemington Racecourse line and was deemed "an undoubted success".

The Age reported four units, each composed of a motor and trailer, were hauled from Jolimont sheds by locomotive to the Newmarket substation.

Trial runs were carried out to the racecourse and back in the presence of "a crowd of interested onlookers and the railway enclosure was full of people of all ages".

Energising the overhead wiring, to the run the trains, only took place four days prior to the trial.

It was a major achievement, especially as this work took place during the latter stages of World War I

Contracts were not honoured, as British factories were ordered to turn their factories towards the war effort.

Equipment and materials shortages also compounded problems in Melbourne.

This major overhaul led the way in Australia, as New South Wales lagged more than seven years behind, and set a precedent for other inter-war projects across across the world.

Despite these issues, and other time delays, transitioning from steam to electrification represented the beginning of an exciting new era for Melbourne commuter rail. 

Electrification articles (sourced from National Library of Australia)