The restoration and building of the tram sets was done entirely by volunteer labour, initially led by Keith McMillan and a team of largely retired people. The second grip car was built by Donald Errey and donated to Portland Cable Tram Inc.
After the Melbourne cable tram system was transferred to the electric system, the existing cable tram cars were sold off to whoever wanted them. One saloon car found its way to Portland as a holiday shack, the first appearance of a cable tram in the town. Many years later a “work for the dole” scheme restored that saloon car and also built a replica grip car under the auspices of the Portland Vintage Car Club and project manager, the aforementioned Keith McMillan.
Once the two cars were restored and built, the question was “what should we do with them?” And that’s where Portland Cable Trams Inc. came in.
Established in 1996, the not-for-profit community organisation wanted to give back to the community, and the lovingly restored tram cars seemed the perfect way to do just that. Another two cars were sourced, a track built and the rest, as they say, is history. The Portland Cable Tram officially started operating in 2002 and has had more than 135,000 passengers over that time.
The Portland Cable Tram project including the track works is estimated to have cost more than $2 million. The money was raised through the generosity of many wonderful supporters including the Handbury Family Trust, the Glenelg Shire Council, the State and Federal Governments, and many local people and businesses who contributed both cash and in-kind donations. We thank each and every one of them!
Portland Cable Trams is now run by a dedicated group of some 60 volunteers who work as tram drivers, conductors, administration, Officers In Charge, tram maintenance workers, depot cleaners, track maintenance, customer service officers, gardeners, and museum display and maintenance workers.