The arrival of the US Great White Fleet in Sydney during August 1908 prompted massive passenger loadings on all transport services in the City. Rail, ferry and tram services were stretched to the limit carrying sightseers on the arrival day and during the many events that occurred during Fleet Week. The following selected images give an idea of the crowds experienced during that time – reminiscent in many ways of the recent Sydney Olympic period during 2000.
At the time of the visit of the US Fleet on 20th August the Watsons Bay tramway terminated short of the village of Watsons Bay – on the sandstone ridge near the principal lighthouse. The line was totally saturated on the arrival day with over 42, 000 passengers being carried on 279 tram trips in about 12 hours. Many adventurous passengers managed to ride on the roof of the trams – not exactly the safest way to travel as the electrical current passing through the trolley poles was in the order of 600 volts ! An estimated crowd of 250,000 watched the arrival through the Heads.
The image of the 2 Marine Officers posing at the front of a steam tram was taken by a member of the US forces. It is a private image issued on a postcard. The remaining images were commercially available during the Fleet visit period – probably on issue before the Fleet left Sydney.
Many ferry passengers were carried with contemporary reports claiming over 2 million passengers carried during the week – out of a city wide population of only 500,000.
It would be many years before an event of such magnitude was to befall Sydney again.