Melbourne trams: Horrors of the 57

Melbourne trams: Horrors of the 57

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Yesterday, after an appointment in the city, I boarded my tram, the 57, and headed home. The 57 goes along Elizabeth Street, past the Victoria Market and, after screeching around many dog’s legs, meanders out towards Melbourne’s far west.

It’s one of those trams that’s been on the tracks for whole decades without repair or care – so beaten up and decrepit that if its interiors ever got cleaned, you couldn’t tell. Its seat “upholstery”, for example, is so ripped and crud- and fluid-stained that it takes courage to sit down if, on the very rare occasion a seat becomes available, you care to risk it.

You meet all sorts on a tram.Credit:Penny Stephens

57ers are people who, like serfs watching royalty pass, ogle those new articulated “super” trams, which we sometimes see barrel up Collins Street for the apparently much “leafier” eastern suburbs, only to wonder what we’ve done to deserve such lowly status.

Those pristine and extra-long trams, with doors that glide and shut with a polite, rubberised thud, are clearly not designed for those travelling west. 57ers get slammed on the shoulders when entering or leaving its carriages by a quaint concertina-ed door system designed when dinosaurs took public transport; its doors function both as crude safety measure and message, which seems to be “get on, get off, we don’t frigging care”.