In connection with anonymous donor's photograph of Hobart No 23, Mal Rowe
noted the 'fairly loose attitude to fleet numbering in Hobart'.
Not so much an attitude issue but more that Hobart's fleet numbering system
was probably unique in Australia. Other tramways generally allocated blocks
of numbers to particular types of tramcars but not so in Hobart.
The original fleet of 20 Siemens trams in Hobart were numbered 1-20 but
beyond these, fleet numbers were recycled so that replacement trams, or
trams built to expand the overall fleet took the numbers of retired trams.
If no number was available by this process a newly constructed tram took the
next highest fleet number.
Basically this was no different to the practice adopted by sporting teams
(AFL, NRL, day/night cricket, etc) where the number of a retiring or
discarded player is assigned to a new recruit, or someone 'purchased' from a
As an example, Hobart No 23 was one of four single-truck trams built during
1917/18. Initially there were no numbers available by recycling old ones
from scrapped trams so the first two built in 1917 were assigned
newly-issued fleet numbers 39 & 40. However the next two built in 1918
inherited numbers from scrapped trams and became Nos 4 & 23. The tram behind
No 23 in Mal's post is indeed No 4.
When numbers are recycled within sports teams there is no requirement for a
player awarded a number by recycling to have any similarity (height,
physique, skill level, etc) to the player relinquishing the number, and as
it applied to Hobart tramcars, a similar approach was adopted for the
recycling of fleet numbers.
Fleet number 4 was originally assigned to an 1893 Siemens double-decker
which was taken out of service in 1918 and its number transferred to the
single-decker identified above.
Fleet number 23 was newly assigned to a 1904 bogie double-decker built at
Motherwell, Scotland, and scrapped in 1918 due to the presence of dry rot in
the body. Its number was duly transferred to the other single-decker
The most-used Hobart fleet number was No 18, as per:
.. 1893 Siemens double-decker.
.. Single-decker realised by a 1902 rebuild of the 1893 Siemens
.. Standard double-decker built in 1908.
.. Single-deck bogie tram built in 1935.
To those enamoured by order, logic, or mathematical progression, numbering
of trams in Hobart might scarcely qualify as a 'system'. But each tram was
known by the number it possessed for the time being, in the same way that
ships are identified by a name which might be passed down to a successor.
As far as I know, aircraft registered in Australia carry an ID number within
VH-AAA to VH-ZZZ and I suppose that over time these are recycled. If it
works for aircraft, why not tramcars?
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