The Camberwell Tram Substation, constructed by the Melbourne & Metropolitan Tramways Board (M&MTB) in 1925 as part of the works required for the electrification and expansion of Melbourne's tram system.
The M&MTB was formed in 1919 to electrify, integrate and extend Melbourne's existing cable and electric tram routes. Following the formation of the State Electricity Commission (SEC) in 1920 electricity to power the electric tram lines was taken from the state grid system at substations. These converted the SEC's alternating current (AC) to direct current (DC) at a lower voltage which was then fed through overhead wires to operate the trams. Between 1925 and 1940 the M&MTB progressively electrified the old steam-powered cable tram routes, built new depots and substations, extended the existing tram lines and added new routes. The design of the Camberwell substation is attributed to Alan G Monsborough, the M&MTB's architect, who was responsible for the design of all tramway buildings during the formative years of the electric tramway system. It was built to house the equipment to power the tram lines through Camberwell to Burwood. The building continues in use as a substation.
The Camberwell Tram Substation is a symmetrical Inter-war Stripped Classical style building of brick with a gabled corrugated iron roof. It has a rendered parapet with 'MMTB' inscribed above the front entrance, and rendered dressings around the openings. Along the north side there is a lower brick skillion in a similar style but without openings. The substation has a large central front entrance for the movement of electrical plant, tall steel-framed windows and clerestory lighting on the north side. The original electrical equipment has been replaced, but the building retains its original roller door on the front entrance and the overhead pulley once used to move heavy equipment within the building.
This site is part of the traditional land of the Kulin Nation.
How is it significant?
The Camberwell Tram Substation is of historical and architectural significance to the State of Victoria and satisfies the following criterion for inclusion in the Victorian Heritage Register:
Criterion A Importance to the course, or pattern, of Victoria's cultural history
Criterion D Importance in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a class of cultural places and objects
Why is it significant?
The Camberwell Tram Substation is significant at the State level for the following reasons:
The Camberwell Tram Substation is historically significant for its association with the development of Melbourne's transport systems in the early twentieth century, and with the role this played in the development of Melbourne and its suburbs. It is significant for its association with the development by the M&MTB of an integrated electric tramway system in the city and suburbs from the 1920s. The Camberwell substation is one of four 1920s substations which survive relatively intact, and these, individually and as a group, help to demonstrate the scale of the electric tram network developed by the M&MTB in Melbourne and its suburbs and the infrastructure required for this work. (Criterion A)
The Camberwell Tram Substation is architecturally significant as an example of the application of the Inter-war Stripped Classical style to a utilitarian industrial building and is a demonstration of the scale and quality of the works undertaken by the M&MTB. It demonstrates the form of the first substations constructed by the M&MTB in the 1920s as part of the electrification and expansion of Melbourne's tram system and reflects the aim of the M&MTB to emphasise its modernity and strength through the architecture of its buildings. (Criterion D)