Perth Trolleybuses

Australia's First and Last Fleet: 1933 - 1969

Perth Trolleybus 2
Trolleybus #2, operating route 1 to Leederville, loads in Wellington St.

The first generation: 1930s and 1940s

In 1933 a trolleybus service was established from East Perth to Leederville station, running via Wellington St and Cambridge St - the first permanent trolleybus system in Australia.

Although regarded initially as an experiment, it was felt that trolley buses had greater flexibility than the trams. This and the increasingly worn condition of the tram system made it seem likely at one stage that the trams would, in time, all be replaced by trolleybuses.

Perth Trolleybus 1 Kensington St Perth trolleybus #1 with its driver and conductor.

The original fleet contained just three Leyland three-axle trolley buses. Trolleybus #1 was imported complete from England; the other two were imported as chassis and the bodies constructed at the Midland workshops.

The trolley poles were arranged in a radial fashion, which was not repeated in later orders.

The destination number box was also not repeated on later buses.


In 1938 and 1939 the trolley bus system expanded. A further 19 vehicles were obtained - #4 [which had a different body style] was imported complete, and the bodies for 5 - 22 were again constructed at Midland workshops.

Perth Trolleybus 13 Wellington St
Trolleybus #13 in Wellington St.

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By 1940 the fleet comprised 22 Leyland three-axle trolley buses, and trolley buses had replaced trams -

  • to East Perth (Trafalgar Rd)
  • to Claremont via Mounts Bay Road, extending to Swanbourne.
  • along Cambridge St, extending to Keane St.

Also a new route, not previously a tram line, branched off Cambridge St at Gregory St and travelled along Grantham St to Reserve St.

A further 18 two-axle Leylands - #23 to #40 - arrived to help with the overloaded wartime public transport system, taking the fleet total to 40. These additions, with bodies built at the WAGR workshops, were part of an order originally intended for Canton, but diverted due to war conditions.

Perth Trolleybus 13 Wellington St
Perth trolleybus #38 in Wellington St, bound for the Depot.

Restoration work by the Bus Preservation Society of W. A. shows us the interior of Perth Leyland trolleybus #38, as introduced in the 1940s. This vehicle is displayed at Revolutions - the Land Transport Museum, at Whiteman Park:

Perth Trolleybus 13 Entrance
"Canton" trolley bus 38, looking from the front door to the driver's seat and controls.

Perth Trolleybus 8 Interior
The interior of #38, looking towards the rear.

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The second generation: 1950s and 1960s

Trams crossed to the southern side of the Swan River via the Causeway, to Victoria Park, Welshpool, South Perth [Zoo] and Como, and it had been planned to replace these with trolley buses. Fifty two-axle Sunbeam trolley buses were ordered for the replacement service.

Perth's Sunbeam trolleybuses featured a centre entrance, which meant that a two-person crew was required, even in the evening and on weekends when loadings were lighter.

Perth Trolleybus 55
Perth trolleybus #55 in a suburban setting.

Perth Trolleybus 57 Wellington St
Trolleybus 57 in Wellington St, Perth.


When the Causeway was reconstructed in 1950, it was decided that trolleybus overhead wiring on the new Causeway would be unsightly, so the South-of-the-River tram services were replaced by motor buses.

The 50 excess trolley buses were then used in 1951 to replace trams on the Mt Hawthorn line (terminating in Scarborough Beach Rd at Kalgoorlie St), and in 1954 to extend the Cambridge St and Grantham St routes.

A further major expansion of the trolley bus system occurred with the closure of the tramways in 1958, when trams were replaced by trolleybuses on the Inglewood route. In 1959 a new branch was opened along Grand Promenade. The Walcott St branch, which had closed as a tram route in 1953, reopened in 1959 with trolley buses.

Perth Trolleybus 64 Barrack St
Trolleybuses came to Barrack St. with the closure of the last tram route in 1958.

Trolley bus route closures began soon after the last expansions, some being officially associated with various major roadworks around the city. A significant factor was the configuration of the Sunbeam vehicles (by then forming the majority of the fleet): growing wage costs made them, with their two-person crews, increasingly uneconomical to operate. Indeed, trolley buses were not used at night and during weekends in the final years of the system.

  • The Claremont route via Mounts Bay Road closed in 1959 - difficulties connected with the new Narrows bridge over the Swan River were cited.
  • The Mount Hawthorn route closed in 1963.
  • All of the services along Beaufort St were closed in 1968, when the one-way road system in Perth's main business district was being altered.
  • The remaining group of lines, to Wembley and Floreat, closed on 29 August, 1969 - by then Australia's last remaining trolleybuses.
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Perth Trolleybuses

This table gives some information about the Perth trolleybus fleet.

Trolleybus
numbers
Type In
service
Seating Description
1 - 3 Leyland TTB 1933 38 Three axle, front and rear entrance.
Body: #1 - Park Royal, UK
#2-3 - WAGR
4 Leyland TTB 1938 38 Three axle, dual entrance.
Body: Park Royal, UK
5 - 22 Leyland TTB 1938 38 Three axle, dual entrance.
Body: WAGR
23 - 40 Leyland TB5
"Canton"
1942-5 38 Two axle, dual entrance.
Body: WAGR
41 - 90 Sunbeam F4 1950-53 37 Two axle, centre entrance.
Body: #41-50 - Commonwealth Engineering
#51-90 - Bolton "&" Sons

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HISTORY BOOK Tracks By The Swan Cover The story of Perth and its trams and trolley buses - 312 pages, richly illustrated ...
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Tram replacement ... Perth Trolleybus 12 Trolleybuses replaced the trams to Claremont
... and extensions Perth Trolleybus 32 The Claremont route was extended to Swanbourne.
Perth 63
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