The Grand Union Tramway Junction at the junction of Balaclava Road and Hawthorn Road, Caulfield is an example of a complex tram track intersection; the four-way junction allowing tramcars to turn in any direction. The main elements are the overhead wire system and tracks which are all later replacements.
In the early years of the twentieth century the cable tram network of inner Melbourne, which had been built in the 1880s, was augmented by an electric tram network built by municipal tramways trusts in the various expanding suburbs. The Prahran and Malvern Tramways Trust (P & M TT) was the first municipal electric tramway in Melbourne; established by two municipal councils (through act of parliament in 1907), its tramways spread through seven municipalities between 1910 and 1920. The P & M TT became the largest independent electric tram network in the suburbs, creating almost all of the system in the south east suburbs that exists today. The Melbourne & Metropolitan Tramways Board took over the cable tramways in 1919, and all the municipal electric tramways in 1920.
The Prahran and Malvern Tramways Trust (P & M TT) opened a double track tram route from Dandenong Road, Malvern via Hawthorn and Balaclava Roads, to St. Kilda Beach on 12th April 1913. Later that year, on 13th November, the Caulfield electric line was opened from Balaclava Junction (the intersection of Hawthorn Road with Balaclava Road, Caulfield) via Hawthorn Road and Glenhuntly Road to Elsternwick Railway Station, and via Glenhuntly Road to Grange Road, Glenhuntly, and via Balaclava and Waverley Roads to Darling Road, East Malvern. On 24th April, 1914 the Caulfield Station loop line was opened, mainly to serve the nearby racecourse.
The Grand Union Tramway Junction is believed to date from November 1913 (although it has not been possible to confirm the precise date of construction and determine whether the current configuration was constructed in a single phase or whether it developed over a period of time). The Grand Union Tramway Junction at Caulfield is the most complex junction on the P & MTT network, and located at a central position in the P & M T T system. The four-way junction allows tramcars to turn in any direction. The tramway junction retains no original fabric.The junction was renewed in 1947 and the radius of curvature increased to 11 feet. The rails and overhead wires were completely replaced in 1986. The junction is still in use; it was upgraded in 2005, when the tracks, poles, switch boxes (and possibly the overhead cables) were renewed. An electronic system was installed which allows points on the road to change automatically when a tram approaches. Previously, tram drivers had to manually operate the lever system which shifts the turning plates on the road. The access covers and other items of infrastructure were removed at this time. The network of rails are set in concrete with asphalt road margins.
Three other grand union junctions are known to have existed in Adelaide (including The Great "Four way crossing" at Victoria Square, constructed circa 1909). These were all later removed. This is the only example of this configuration still in existence in Victoria and in Australia.
How is it significant?
The Grand Union Tramway Junction at Caulfield is of historic and scientific (technical) significance to the State of Victoria.
Why is it significant?
The Grand Union Tramway Junction is of historical significance for its association with the development of the suburban (electric) tram network which aided the expansion of Melbourne as a suburban metropolis, and for its connection with the Prahran & Malvern Tramways Trust which was the first municipal electric tramway in Melbourne and played an important part in the development of transport in Melbourne.
The Grand Union Junction is of technical (engineering) significance as a complex tram track intersection; the four-way junction allowing tramcars to turn in any direction. The main elements are the overhead wires system and tracks which are all later replacements. No evidence of the earlier lever system remains. Although the infrastructure has been replaced on several occasions and no original fabric remains, the configuration can still be discerned, providing an illustration of a complex tramway junction.