Not only is this a beautiful quarter scale model of a Melbourne cable tram, but the model itself has a fascinating history encompassing both the 1880 and the 1888 Melbourne Exhibitions. The Melbourne cable tram system was one of the most extensive in the whole world - it ran between 1885 and 1940. At its peak there was 100 kilometres of cable tram route.
The model is painted as a Collingwood & Clifton Hill line tram operated by the Melbourne Tram and Omnibus Company. The line ran along Nicholson Street just outside the museum.
The trailer car was originally exhibited at the 1888 Melbourne International Exhibition to represent a horse-drawn tram. By 1888 it had been modified to represent a trailer car used on the Melbourne cable car network.
There are differences between the model trailer car and a real trailer car. For example, the model has nine windows, where a real trailer car only has eight. Although we don't know who the model maker was, the model was made with a great deal of attention to detail, including these beautiful movable ventilation windows.
This model of the grip, or dummy car as it was sometimes called, was added to the original trailer car at the time of the 1888 Melbourne Centennial Exhibition. The two handles of the grip mechanism which can be seen in the middle of the car control the grip and release of the cable which runs underneath the road. Male passengers were encouraged to use the open grip car, and there was a special working men's fare introduced to help people to get to work from the inner suburbs.