Photography - Sydney exposed

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The State Library of New South Wales was one of the first institutions in Australia to collect photographs as documentary records.


Over the past 100 years the Library has gathered an unsurpassed photographic record of the people, places and events of Sydney from the 1850s through to the present.

Sydney exposed takes the first step in providing an online gateway to thousands of images highlighting the history and changing nature of Sydney, Australia's first and largest metropolis.

Sydney's first photograph, a view down Bridge Street, was taken on 13 May 1841, by Auguste Lucas, a visiting French sea captain. Lucas demonstrated his amazing daguerreotype camera at the stores of Messrs, Joubert, and Murphy, in the hope of selling it. A solitary reporter from The Australian recorded the demonstration, while the majority of locals (about 35,000 people) were looking out for the arrival of the Sea Horse, the largest steam ship yet to visit the colony. Unfortunately, the Bridge Street daguerreotype hasn't been seen since.

Events, festivals and street life in Sydney, suburbs and country, 1979-2001 / photographed by Ben Apfelbaum
2000
Ben Apfelbaum
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Digital ID: 
a430018
Illuminated address presented to George Judah Cohen Esq. on the occasion of his departure from Sydney on a visit to Europe. Royal Exchange Sydney. Feb. 19th 1903.
19th February, 1903
Royal Exchange of Sydney
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Digital ID: 
a4970016
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Typically, 30 to 50 percent of the land area of cities consists of car and truck infrastructure. Despite that, traffic congestion remains a problem. Many plans have been put forward to ease the problem in Sydney, including the removal of trams; construction of a road tunnel under King's Cross; an eastern suburbs railway; and construction of highways to allow Harbour Bridge traffic to bypass the city to east and west. Despite the achievement of all those ideals, it would seem that traffic simply expands to fill the space available.
Sydney nostalgia: portfolios 2,3 & 4, 1930s-1970s / photographed by Max Dupain
1989-1991 (prints from original negatives dated 1930s-1970s)
Max Dupain
View collection item detail
Digital ID: 
a865001

 

apa46146.jpg

Hustle and bustle

Every morning thousands of Sydneysiders head into the city to work, attend to personal matters, shop, meet friends or go to the theatre. Over the past 160 years, Sydney streetscapes, buildings and fashions may have changed but the hustle and bustle of Australia's largest city remains constantly fascinating.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, much of Sydney's population moved out of the city to live in the suburbs and surrounding towns. By the early 1990s, people had begun to move back into the Central Business District to live. Between 1991 and 2004, the residential population increased from 40,000 to 150,000, in addition to more than half a million people who visit the city daily.

Take a look at the cast of characters getting out and about in Sydney as we showcase our first selection of images capturing the hustle and bustle of the city.

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Every Monday, a crowd gathered outside Henry Cockburn's auction rooms for his regular auction of household goods. This view of an auction in progress on the south-east corner of Pitt and Park Streets was taken from his business premises located across the street.

Auction, c. 1870, by the American and Australasian Photographic Company, Carte-de-visite, SPF/575

About this item:

 

Every Monday, a crowd gathered outside Henry Cockburn's auction rooms for his regular auction of household goods. This view of an auction in progress on the south-east corner of Pitt and Park Streets was taken from his business premises located across the street.

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As a cable tram trundles up towards Queens Square, a crowd occupies both sides of King Street. They have assembled outside the Daily Telegraph office, where the latest news was posted each day. The size of the crowd indicates a major story, possibly the start of the Boer War, in which at least 12,000 Australians served. Judging by this photograph, it is not surprising that the 1909 Royal Commission on the Improvement of Sydney was critical of the traffic chaos on Sydney's narrow streets.

King Street, c.1894, by Henry King, Albumen print, SPF

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As a cable tram trundles up towards Queens Square, a crowd occupies both sides of King Street. They have assembled outside the Daily Telegraph office, where the latest news was posted each day. The size of the crowd indicates a major story, possibly the start of the Boer War, in which at least 12,000 Australians served. Judging by this photograph, it is not surprising that the 1909 Royal Commission on the Improvement of Sydney was critical of the traffic chaos on Sydney's narrow streets.

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In 1900, Willem van der Velden took hundreds of wide-angle photographs of the city for Sydney-based view photographers Kerry & Co. He worked from the top of a specially built four-metre tower, mounted on a horse-drawn trailer. This view looking south in busy George Street towards Queen Victoria Building is notable for the variety of horse-drawn traffic, the single cyclist and the ornate stanchion in the centre of the roadway, erected in 1899 for the city's first electric trams.

George Street, 1900, by Willem van der Velden for Kerry & Co, Albumen print, PXA 448/9
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Amateur photographer Frederick Danvers Power had a concealed detective camera, which he used to snap these women crossing Martin Place at George Street with the Post Office behind them. This image gives us a more accurate idea of what women actually wore, than formal studio photographs or magazine illustrations. People wore their best outfit to the portrait studio and parasols and hats, which shaded the face, were not permitted. On the other hand, the idealised renditions of fashion published in magazines show neither creased clothes nor worn shoes.

Pedestrians on George Street, c. 1900, by Frederick Danvers Power, Glass negative, ON 225/17
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On a winter's day, Sydneysiders go about their business in Martin Place in the centre of the city. The General Post Office on the right of the photograph was constructed in stages from 1866 to 1891. Following the great fire of 1890, which destroyed the block to the north of the GPO, a widened Martin Place was created.

Martin Place, c. 1905, Star Photo Co., Albumen print, PXE 711/383]
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In October 1926, a procession of 4 horse teams dragging wagons with safe doors wended its way from the wharves at Circular Quay to the new Government Savings Bank of NSW (now the Commonwealth Bank) on the corner of Elizabeth Street and Martin Place. Crowds lined the pavements as the last wagon, pulled by 13 horses, carried a massive 27 ton circular door.

Delivering Chubb safe doors, c.1926, by Hall & Co., Silver gelatin photoprint, PXD 930/7/14
Miss Australia, 1927, by Sam Hood, Glass negative, DG ON4/6310

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In a competition organised by the Daily Guardian and Smiths Weekly, Beryl Mills became the first Miss Australia, in 1926. Enormously popular with the public, she was mobbed wherever she went, even after Phyllis von Alwyn had been selected as her replacement. Here, the crowd has to be restrained during the fourteenth week of her appearance at the Haymarket Theatre in George Street.

Miss Australia, 1927, by Sam Hood, Glass negative, DG ON4/6310
Pigs on Day Street, c.1929, by Ted Hood, Glass negative, DG ON4/3805

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As odd as it may seem, in the past Sydney regularly had livestock in its streets. However, this example of a truck driving a herd of pigs along the Day Street waterfront towards Market Street is out of place as the area for penning animals had become the City Council depot and the city livestock markets had moved 20km out of the city to Homebush.

Pigs on Day Street, c.1929, by Ted Hood, Glass negative, DG ON4/3805
Crowd in George Street, c.1930, by Sam Hood, Glass negative, DG ON4/2581

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This huge crowd outside Mick Simmons' sports store in George Street has blocked the traffic to greet cricketing hero Don Bradman. The sports store had wisely put Bradman on its staff in 1929.

During the 1930 Ashes tour, Bradman scored a world record 334 in the third Test at Headingley, before finishing the tour with 2960 runs at an average of 98.66.

Crowd in George Street, c.1930, by Sam Hood, Glass negative, DG ON4/2581
Advertising "Street scene", c. 1932, by Sam Hood, Silver gelatin photoprint, PXE 789/56/53

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During the Great Depression, movie houses were keen to advertise their films and gain publicity by any means. King Vidor's 1931 Street Scene was marketed locally with an early form of interactive media. Two 'giants' on stilts walked the streets and even appeared on Bondi Beach handing out free tickets. One stilt walker then photographed the crowds for publication in The World newspaper, while Sam Hood recorded the scenes for the motion picture magazine Everyones.

Advertising "Street scene", c. 1932, by Sam Hood, Silver gelatin photoprint, PXE 789/56/53
Crossing the road, c. 1935, by Sam Hood, Silver gelatin photoprint, PXE 789/11/34

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Before traffic lights, crossing city streets was a hazardous affair. In 1933 the first traffic control lights were installed at the intersection of Kent and Market Streets and the Police Traffic Branch launched a major road safety campaign.

Crossing the road, c. 1935, by Sam Hood, Silver gelatin photoprint, PXE 789/11/34
Tram and taxi accident, 1937, by Sam Hood, Copy negative, Home and Away, 15214

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Trams and their operation were blamed for many accidents in Sydney's narrow streets. In this case, traffic in Pitt Street was held up when a taxi pulled out from the curb and was struck by one of Sydney's notorious 'toastrack' trams. Pedestrians have added to the confusion, creating a bottleneck. In 1921 regulations were passed which required motorists to signal their intention to stop or turn, but hand signals were not always given or seen.

Tram and taxi accident, 1937, by Sam Hood, Copy negative, Home and Away, 15214
About this item: 
Typically, 30 to 50 percent of the land area of cities consists of car and truck infrastructure. Despite that, traffic congestion remains a problem. Many plans have been put forward to ease the problem in Sydney, including the removal of trams; construction of a road tunnel under King's Cross; an eastern suburbs railway; and construction of highways to allow Harbour Bridge traffic to bypass the city to east and west. Despite the achievement of all those ideals, it would seem that traffic simply expands to fill the space available.
Sydney nostalgia: portfolios 2,3 & 4, 1930s-1970s / photographed by Max Dupain
1989-1991 (prints from original negatives dated 1930s-1970s)
Max Dupain
View collection item detail
Digital ID: 
a865001
Crowd at newsreel, 1946, by Sam Hood, Film negative, DG ON4/21314

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Tommy Burns fought Vic Patrick at the Sydney stadium for the Australian welterweight crown and was knocked out in the ninth round. The crowd was 13,000, with another 5000 across the road listening to the radio broadcast. The newsreel of the event shown at the Lyric Theatre was just as popular with huge crowds in George Street for the six daily sessions. Before television, continuous newsreel film theatres were a necessary means of seeing current events.

Crowd at newsreel, 1946, by Sam Hood, Film negative, DG ON4/21314
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Photographer David Moore found Martin Place was a great source of images. "My special time was near high summer, when the western sun illuminated the canyon like a studio spotlight as the early evening exodus from the offices began. Punctuated by the AWA radio tower piercing the western sky the chasm of the street was fertile and vital, expressing the essence of the city to my youthful eyes."  

Workers, Martin Place, c. 1949, by David Moore, Silver gelatin photoprint, PXA 907/20/40
Lincoln Coffee Lounge, c.1949, by Brian Bird, Film negative, ON180/11

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The Lincoln Coffee Lounge and Cafe, in Rowe Street, which ran between Pitt and Castlereagh Streets, is known as the birthplace of the 'Sydney Push'. It was an important meeting place for Sydney's artists and post-war modernist thinkers, with a mixture of university students, lecturers, bohemians and libertarians. The Lincoln and Rowe Street disappeared in the early 1970s, beneath the construction of the MLC centre in 1974.

Lincoln Coffee Lounge, c.1949, by Brian Bird, Film negative, ON180/11
Flower stalls, Martin Place, 1960, by Don McPhedran, Film negative, APA 08177

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Flower sellers have been a feature of the city since the nineteenth century and Martin Place became their home. One of Sydney's more colourful characters was Martin Place flower seller Rosie Shaw, whose outbursts of operatic singing entertained passers-by from 1931 to 1971. Cut flowers are big business. The Sydney Flower Market at Flemington has 170 flower vendors and an annual turnover of more than $100 million.

Flower stalls, Martin Place, 1960, by Don McPhedran, Film negative, APA 08177
Elizabeth Street, 1961, Australian Photographic Agency, Colour transparency, APA 46312

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Pedestrians cross Elizabeth Street at its intersection with Market Street, having just arrived by train at St James Station. The underground railway, which terminated at St James in 1926, made the city accessible to shoppers from the suburbs. The David Jones store (to the right), which opened in 1927, took advantage of the location of the station. The second David Jones store, diagonally opposite in Castlereagh Street, was opened in 1938 to mark the store's centenary.

Elizabeth Street, 1961, Australian Photographic Agency, Colour transparency, APA 46312
Pedestrians in George Street, 1968, by Jack Hickson, Colour transparency, APA 46146

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Today, the flow of traffic and pedestrians in the city is mostly controlled by automatic traffic lights. As late as the 1960s, more than 200 police were used to regulate traffic on major intersections in the city as automatic signals could not manage the heavy volume of traffic. In 1974 a computerised traffic light management system called SCATS was installed. With SCATS the longest phase is 3 minutes, with most phases being shorter than 150 seconds.

Pedestrians in George Street, 1968, by Jack Hickson, Colour transparency, APA 46146
Dixon Street, Chinatown, c. 1985, NSW Government Printer, Colour negative, GPO 4 - 39059

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In 1980, Dixon Street became Sydney's official Chinatown. Sydney City Council, Dixon Street property and business owners raised funds to build the ceremonial archways, lions, pavilions and lanterns which decorate the area. Chinatown had earlier been centred on Campbell Street, the Chinese moved to the area bounded by Dixon, Hay and Sussex Streets in the 1930s.

Dixon Street, Chinatown, c. 1985, NSW Government Printer, Colour negative, GPO 4 - 39059

Getting around

Until the 1850s, Australian cities were small and their transport needs easily met. When gold was discovered in 1851, people began pouring into the country increasing the need for cheap and accessible transportation around its rapidly growing cities.

Sydney's first form of public transport was most likely the 'jingle', a one-horse, single-axle cart available for public hire. Photography is a perfect medium to record the changing impact of technology and transport systems on cities over the past 160 years.

More than 200,000 Sydneysiders commute to the city every day, including over 112,000 workers arriving by train. Approximately 480,000 vehicles travel through the Central Business District daily while 600,000 trips around the city are made on foot!

From horse and cart to 21st century light rail, track the dramatic changes in Sydney's transport system through our selection of images, documenting the way Sydneysiders have been 'getting around' for the past 160 years.

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This early view from Dawes Point of busy Campbell's Wharf on the western side of Circular Quay shows the importance of shipping to Sydney in the nineteenth century. Sea transport provided a vital link to the outside world and was the principal means of communication between colonies around the coastline of Australia.
Campbell's Wharf, 1859, by Edwin Dalton, Glass transparency, ON 235/9
Union Bank, Pitt Street, c. 1863, by unknown photographer, Carte de visite, PXB 258/18
This photograph of the Union Bank on the corner of Pitt and Hunter Streets provides a rare view of Sydney's horse tram, which ran from 1861 to 1866. The two yellow trams, named Old England and Young Australia, provided transport between the Quay and the old Central Railway Terminal, until one ran over a prominent citizen. Complaints from Pitt Street businesses about the raised tram rails and outrage at the passenger's death led to the tramway's closure. The Union Bank was demolished in 1889.
Union Bank, Pitt Street, c. 1863, by unknown photographer, Carte de visite, PXB 258/18
Pitt Street, Sydney, c. 1865, by unknown photographer, Albumen print, SPF/340
A row of gentlemen's carriages parked in Pitt Street await their owners. Like the cars of today, there were several hundred types of horse-drawn carriage available in the nineteenth century. The choice of carriage was as much based on status and fashion as it was on practicality and performance. The building in the background is `Bible Hall' at 100 Pitt Street, on the corner of Spring Street, with the Australian Mutual Provident Society building behind it.
Pitt Street, Sydney, c. 1865, by unknown photographer, Albumen print, SPF/340
Bridge Street explosion, 1866, by unknown photographer, Albumen print, PXA 412/38
Sydney's citizens were rudely stirred from their Sunday dinners on 4 March 1866 by a massive nitroglycerine explosion in Bridge Street, which shattered windows as far away as Macquarie Street. Fortunately no-one was killed, but the premises of ship-brokers, Molison and Black, was totally destroyed. Recording the aftermath, this image also shows hansom cabs awaiting fares in the centre of the road. The horse-drawn hansom cab, with its enclosed cabin and driver seated high up behind, was the nineteenth century equivalent of today's taxi.
Bridge Street explosion, 1866, by unknown photographer, Albumen print, PXA 412/38
Double-decker steam tram, c. 1880, by unknown photographer, Albumen print, SPF/340
To accommodate the expected crowds of visitors to the 1879 International Exhibition arriving at the Central Railway Terminal, a temporary tramline was built along Elizabeth Street to the exhibition venue in the Royal Botanic Gardens. For the first two weeks, horses pulled the carriages, until four Baldwin steam trams and six double-decker trailers arrived from America. The line proved unexpectedly popular. This led to calls to extend the tramway system at the close of the exhibition. Construction of additional routes began in 1880.
Double-decker steam tram, c. 1880, by unknown photographer, Albumen print, SPF/340
HMS Nelson and Brighton, c. 1885, by Charles Bayliss, Albumen print, PXA 422/29
The paddle wheeler Brighton steams past HMS Nelson, the flagship of the British Navy squadron in Australian waters. Brighton was the largest paddle steamer on Sydney Harbour, entering service on the Manly run in 1883. It was able to carry 1200 passengers and was luxuriously equipped with a wine bar, breakfast bar and orchestra.
HMS Nelson and Brighton, c. 1885, by Charles Bayliss, Albumen print, PXA 422/29
Cable tram, King Street, c. 1900, by Frederick Danvers Power, Glass negative, ON255/16
Sydneysiders scurry to board the King Street cable tram on a wet day. Sydney is unique among Australian cities, in having had all forms of tram traction - horse-drawn, steam, electric and cable. Cable trams were pulled by a continuous cable running between the tram rails, to which the cars were connected. They were suited to steep grades and Sydney's first cable tram ran between Milson's Point Wharf and North Sydney in 1886. The King Street Cable tramway to Edgecliff was established in 1894 and the line extended to Rose Bay in 1898 with an electrified track. The last cable tram ran in 1905.
Cable tram, King Street, c. 1900, by Frederick Danvers Power, Glass negative, ON255/16
Delivering gas cylinders, c. 1900, by Frederick Danvers Power, Glass negative, ON255/21
A horse-drawn omnibus passes a wagon of gas cylinders being unloaded in the city. By 1888 there were 400 horse-drawn omnibuses in Sydney with another 1000 hansom cabs and 500 delivery wagons and carts. Too many slow moving vehicles created congestion. Horses remained a common sight on Sydney's streets until the 1930s, their numbers having peaked at the end of the Great War, when there was about one horse for every two people in the state.
Delivering gas cylinders, c. 1900, by Frederick Danvers Power, Glass negative, ON255/21
Hansom cab, c.1900, by Frederick Danvers Power, Glass negative, ON225/29
An elderly gentleman is helped into a hansom cab outside the Australia Hotel in Castlereagh Street. Sydney cabs were regarded as expensive at four shillings (40 cents) an hour with half fare extra after 10pm. However the vehicles were among the best in any city. The cabmen drove at a fast pace, usually over the regulation of ten kilometres per hour.
Hansom cab, c.1900, by Frederick Danvers Power, Glass negative, ON225/29
George Street looking north, c. 1920, by Sam Hood, Glass negative, DG ON4/7961
Electrification of the tramway system began in 1890 and a route between Circular Quay and Pyrmont along George and Harris Streets opened at the end of 1899. Electric trams possessed the virtues of being more economical to run and more comfortable for passengers than steam trams. The tram system expanded rapidly, so that by 1923 there were 291kms of network across the city, with isolated lines feeding train and ferry services. Not surprisingly, trams became the preferred means of transport from the suburbs to the city.
George Street looking north, c. 1920, by Sam Hood, Glass negative, DG ON4/7961
Park and Elizabeth Streets, c. 1927, by Sam Hood, Glass negative, DG ON4/3487
This view looking south along Elizabeth Street at Park Street shows an increasing number of motor cars in the city and also the frequency of tram services. There were 1535 trams on Sydney lines in 1935, with passenger numbers peaking at 404.6 million passenger journeys in 194445, averaging 1.1 million per day.
Park and Elizabeth Streets, c. 1927, by Sam Hood, Glass negative, DG ON4/3487
Opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, 1932, by Sam Hood., Glass negative, DG ON4/5244
The Sydney Harbour Bridge opened to traffic at midnight on 19 March 1932. Remarkably the queue on the southern side extended past Sydney Town Hall and on the north side was 1.6km long. The toll was steep at sixpence (five cents) per car and driver, plus threepence for each adult and a penny for each child. The price did not seem to deter motorists.
Opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, 1932, by Sam Hood., Glass negative, DG ON4/5244
Railway Square, c. 1945, by unknown photographer, Silver gelatin photoprint, PXA 907/16/33
For pedestrians, the twin crossings at Railway Square were hazardous. Before 1961, it was a complex intersection of rail, tram and bus services. When buses replaced trams, the terminus became even more confused, with a marshalling area and pick-up area. Crowds of up to 200 frustrated travellers waited in the open for suburban services.
Railway Square, c. 1945, by unknown photographer, Silver gelatin photoprint, PXA 907/16/33
Circular Quay, c.1947, by unknown photographer, Silver gelatin photoprint, PXA 907/22/16
In 1947 the Cahill Expressway and Circular Quay station had not been built. The city underground railway lines terminated at St James (in 1926) and Wynyard (in 1932). Construction of Circular Quay station and the raised railway did not begin until 1948. The station was opened in 1956, completing the city underground loop. The Cahill Expressway opened two years later.
Circular Quay, c.1947, by unknown photographer, Silver gelatin photoprint, PXA 907/22/16
Electric 'Red Rattler', Central Station, 1956, by John Alfred, Colour transparency, Slides 41/4720
The decision to build Sydney's underground railway provided the impetus to electrify the entire suburban system. The eight-car single deck electric train (commonly called a 'Red Rattler') formed the backbone of city and suburban rail services for more than forty years. Eventually single-deck trains were unable to meet passenger numbers and double-decker trains were introduced in 1964, becoming two thirds of the rolling stock by 1986.
Electric 'Red Rattler', Central Station, 1956, by John Alfred, Colour transparency, Slides 41/4720
Castlereagh Street, c.1956, by John Alfred, Colour transparency, Slides 41/597
By the mid-1950s, the Sydney tramway system was in need of refurbishment. Despite high usage during the war years, little maintenance or replacement had been undertaken. For instance, this 'toastrack' tram had been in service for over 40 years when it was photographed in Castlereagh Street. The government baulked at the cost of replacement and the entire tram system was abandoned, to be replaced by diesel busses. The last Sydney tram ran in 1961.
Castlereagh Street, c.1956, by John Alfred, Colour transparency, Slides 41/597
Rail Strike in Sydney, 1962, by David J. Hickson, Photonegative, APA 13378
When rail workers called a 24 hour strike on 24 September 1962 over a new Federal award, 3330 suburban, country and interstate trains were cancelled. Over 1300 Sydney buses moved 900,000 passengers during the day and many workers drove their cars into the city. More than 600 drivers parked in the Domain, 1000 in Moore Park and another 200 found spaces at Wentworth Park. Police estimated that traffic had doubled and 20,000 cars crossed the Sydney Harbour Bridge during the afternoon peak.
Rail Strike in Sydney, 1962, by David J. Hickson, Photonegative, APA 13378
Double-decker buses, c. 1963, Government Printing Office, Photonegative, GPO 2/25983
This view from Town Hall shows Government double-decker busses in George Street. The bus takeover of tram routes began in 1939 with the closure of the Manly tramway system and continued throughout the 1950s. By 1958 all George Street trams had been replaced by busses. At one time Sydney had 1200 double-decker busses, but the last government operated double-deckers were phased out in 1986. Ironically they are now being suggested as a means of accommodating increasing bus passenger numbers.
Double-decker buses, c. 1963, Government Printing Office, Photonegative, GPO 2/25983
Sydney Light Rail, 2000, by David Hodgson, Silver gelatin photoprint, PXA 1062/91
The Sydney Light Rail, seen here in Hay Street, runs on a 12.7km track between the old tram concourse at Central and Dulwich Hill via 23 light rail stops, and transports more than 8.4 million customers each year. The service first ran in 1997, with the extension from Wentworth Park to Lilyfield opening in 2000, and the Dulwich Hill extension completed in 2014. Further extensions are to be completed in 2018.The seven German - designed Variotram vehicles can carry 200 passengers.
Sydney Light Rail, 2000, by David Hodgson, Silver gelatin photoprint, PXA 1062/91
Monorail, Darling Harbour, 2001, by David Hodgson, Silver gelatin photoprint, PXA 1062/88
Built amid much public controversy, the TNT Harbour-Link Monorail first ran in 1988. It was seen as an essential transport link between the city and the new tourist and leisure hub in Darling Harbour. Before it was decommissioned in June 2013, the journey took 15 minutes to cover the eight stations around the city loop.
Monorail, Darling Harbour, 2001, by David Hodgson, Silver gelatin photoprint, PXA 1062/88

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