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Thomas Bent, Francis Bradford and electric tramways in Melbourne 1904-1909

April 20, 2023 @ 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

$10 – $20

In our first co-presentation for 2023 with Engineering Heritage Victoria, Ken McInnes will speak about the controversies surrounding the electrification of Melbourne’s suburban railway system in the early years of the twentieth century.

In 1904, electrical and mechanical engineer Francis Edwin Bradford (1869-1927), a recognised American electric tramways pioneer, was controversially contracted directly by Thomas Bent, Victorian Minister of Railways, and Premier, to report on and progressively electrify Melbourne’s suburban railway system. But Bent postponed work on the report, and instead requested Bradford design and supervise the construction of an electric tramway from St.Kilda to Brighton, as a first stage of electrifying the railways. Bent’s instructions did not sit well with the Railway Commissioners. After Bradford completed the work, Bent again postponed work on the report, and asked Bradford to operate the system and extend it to Brighton Beach. In 1907 fire destroyed the tramway power plant and rolling stock, and Bent instructed Bradford to restore the works and rolling stock. After successfully restoring the system, he was summarily dismissed by the Railways Commissioners. By then Bent was losing support, and the Railways had instead appointed English engineer Charles Merz to report on electrification. Parliament turned on Bent and Bradford, Bradford successfully sued the government but with his reputation in tatters, left to pursue a different career in England.

This lecture will be a hybrid presentation so you can choose to attend in person or via Zoom. For those attending via Zoom, you will be sent your Zoom log-in details 24 hours prior to the event.

As with all our RHSV events, refreshments are served from 5:30pm – 6pm when the lecture will commence.


April 20, 2023
5:30 pm - 7:00 pm
$10 – $20
Event Category:


Royal Historical Society of Victoria
03 9326 9288


RHSV Gallery Downstairs
239 A'Beckett St
Melbourne, Victoria 3000 Australia
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03 9326 9288