M and I were heading from her place in Footscray to her friend Clare’s party in Armadale. Train into the city, then either: train to Armadale (quicker, but a 15 minute walk) or tram 6 (slower but much closer). The train had just gone (next in 15 minutes), so we walked over to the tram stop to see when the next 6 was. The sign said 9 minutes.
While I was trying to calculate in my head which would get us there quicker, a tram pulled into the stop. The destination sign on it said “Malvern Town Hall”, route 7.
Something in the gunzel part of my brain clicked. I had a vague recollection that a 7 is a 6 in disguise, which is going just to the depot. If so, it could take us to one stop from where we needed to be. So I asked the driver to confirm my hypothesis: “Are you going down High Street?” He said yes, and we jumped aboard.
The mysterious route 7 tram went as expected, almost right where we needed to go. Few people were on board, I suspect in part because nobody knows where route 7 goes, which also meant it was an express run all the way. Saved: 9 minutes waiting time plus a few minutes for speed.
The silly thing is there’s a whole bunch of these secret tram routes. They’re the tram equivalent of ghost trains. Sometimes they’re for special events, but there’s loads of them for runs to the depot.
They’re not officially documented anywhere, and their runs are mostly missing from the timetables. Some of them seem to be based on the main route numbers, but lots of them are obviously derived from something no longer current, so for the most part there’s little logic to them.
|Secret number||Route||Short version of|
|2||Melb Uni to South Melbourne||1|
|7||Melb Uni to Malvern Town Hall||6|
|9||City or St Kilda to Preston Depot or Thornbury||112|
|11||Spencer St/Collins St to West Preston||112|
|12||Kew to Malvern Depot||16|
|18||City via Elizabeth St to Brunswick Depot||19|
|20||City via Elizabeth St to Coburg||19|
|27||City via La Trobe St to Kew depot||24|
|28||La Trobe St/Spencer St to Richmond||48/75|
|41||La Trobe St/Spencer St to Kew||48|
|47||Port Melbourne to Kew tram depot||109|
|49||City via Elizabeth St to Niddrie||59|
|51||City via Elizabeth St to Essendon station||59|
|52||City via Elizabeth St to Essendon||59|
|54||City via Elizabeth St to Maribyrnong River||57|
|58||City via Elizabeth St to Showgrounds||57|
|61||Melb Uni to South Caulfield Junction||64|
|62||Melb Uni to Hawthorn Rd/North Rd Caulfield South||64|
|66||Melb Uni to Glenhuntly Depot||67|
|66||North Richmond to Glenhuntly Depot||78|
|71||Flinders St/Spencer St to Surrey Hills||70|
|73||Melb Uni to ||72|
|76||City via Flinders St to Camberwell depot||75|
|81||City via Elizabeth St to Essendon Depot||59|
|85||Moonee Ponds to West Maribyrnong||82|
|87||City via Bourke St to La Trobe Uni||86|
|89||City via Bourke St to Preston depot||86|
|91||St Kilda Beach to Bourke St/William St||96|
|92||Spencer St/Bourke St to Clifton Hill||86|
|94||Brunswick East to Southbank depot||96|
|95||City via Bourke St to Melbourne Museum||96|
|97||St Kilda Beach via City to North Fitzroy||96|
|98||East Brunswick via City to Fitzroy St||96|
|108||Box Hill via City to Southbank depot||109|
|111||Port Melbourne via City to Kew Depot||109|
|121||Flinders St/Market St to MCG/Tennis Centre||70|
|124||Flinders St/Elizabeth St to Telstra Dome||48|
|125||Flinders St/Market St to MCG (Wellington Pde)||48/75|
|129||LaTrobe St/Swanston St to Telstra Dome||24|
In my book, in most cases the secret numbers shouldn’t be used. If a tram is travelling along a substantial part of the route, it might as well use the same route number. Most people won’t care that it doesn’t make it quite all the way. Or it could use a suffix such as D for Depot — though that would probably require the few 3 digit route numbers to be cropped back to two for simplicity.
(Source 1; Source 2 — they conflict in some places, and the above list may not be complete. The second source includes some old ones which I’m not sure are used anymore. Feel free to post corrections in the comments, though of course it’ll flag you as a bigger gunzel than me.)
See the related Age article On our tramway’s secret service (14/9/2008)
A couple of years later, Yarra Trams introduced “d” suffixes for depot runs, and got rid of all the obscure route numbers. Bravo!