Keith Kings collected material relating to public transport for over 70 years. This is the most comprehensive collection known to exist in Victoria and has been donated to the Library by Mr Kings.

Keith Sydney Kings was born in Melbourne in 1928 and spent his childhood in the Camberwell area. Surrounded by suburban routes he used trains, trams or buses on the journey to and from school, cementing a lifetime interest in all modes of public transport.

The collection includes books, magazines, journals and transport themed collectables. A major component is photographs taken by Mr Kings himself. These document the evolution of Melbourne’s public transport from the end of the Second World War to the beginning of the 21st century. Well known as a transport historian, his photographs provide a comprehensive record of passenger vehicles, track works and equipment.

Many models of the Leyland Bus company were named after big cats. This logo featured on the Lion model issued in 1960s.

In 1955 commercial advertising was introduced on the external panels of trams. The Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board aim was to raise revenue, as patronage declined in the post war period with the growth of the car ownership. The billboards showcase mid-20th century advertising, food products and business logos.

Equally of interest are the background streetscapes. These images capture incidental events, which remain unknowable, such as why this group of men is crowded around the window of Hudson’s Hardware Store at 655 Bourke.

An oft told anecdote in his family is Keith Kings choice of treat for his 21st birthday; filming the night works on the Hartwell Railway Bridge. Many of the photographs in the collection document maintenance works in progress and the equipment and rolling stock used. Non-passenger trams were painted in this black and white colour scheme.


Works on Bridge Road

 Works on Power Street and Riversdale Road

Works on St.Kilda Road

The Z class of tram (below) were the first new trams in Melbourne for 20 years, and there was great interest in the new design. In this photograph taken in 1972, Mr Kings has captured the prototype tram (number 1041) and one of the first trams to be built at Preston workshop (number 5). The new orange livery was a shock to many Melbournians, replacing the traditional paint scheme of green and cream which had been the standard since 1925.

Keith is a member of numerous transport societies, such as the Australian Railways Historical Society (ARHS), the Bus and Coach Society and Tramway Museum Society of Victoria (TMSV).  He was a founding member of Bylands, the tramway museum.  Keith restored vintage vehicles now operational at the museum and featuring in film and television series.

His collection includes images taken on society tours, or to festival outings for special rolling stock. On this trip he photographed the tram decorated for the Eaglehawk Dahlia and Arts Festival, held every year in March.

The collection is progressively being catalogued by the Library, with the aim of digitising many of the unique images. Records of the collection material can be found online.

Madeleine Say, Picture Librarian

This article has 3 comments

  1. Thank you for sharing this collection Paul. I wish we could see these trams in Melbourne street for the time being. 🙂

  2. The night (and next morning) of Mr Kings 21st birthday was spent watching the Railway Bridge at Alphington (over Darebin Creek) being duplicated – unfortunately it does not appear that any photos were taken on that occasion. Although this was not Mr Kings profession, to describe him as an amateur transport historian does not do him justice – his records are both comprehensive and meticulous, and thoroughly professional in every sense; we are fortunate that someone of his talent took the time and care to document a part of our everyday lives that is now consigned to history. Well-done Keith, and thank-you !

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