Very few residents of Sydney know that their city has the longest moving walkway in the Southern Hemisphere, which, when it was built, was the longest in the world. Most moving walkways these days are found in airport terminals and shopping centre, and by comparison are much shorter than Sydney s, which takes pedestrians from one part of the city to another. As its name suggests, Sydney's Moving Walking, also known as a Travelator, is in The Domain, or more correctly, under The Domain. It passes through a tunnel under The Domain, linking The Domain Car Park near Woolloomoloo Bay, to College Street and the northern end of Hyde Park. You can leave the moving walkway on the corner of College Street and either Prince Albert Road or Macquarie Street and from there it is only a short walk to some of Sydney's interesting places, like Hyde Park, Hyde Park Barracks, St Mary s Cathedral, The Queen Victoria Building, Martin Place, The Australian Museum and many others. If you stand still and allow yourself to be conveyed, the journey takes five minutes.
The concept of a moving walkway - which you step onto and stand still as it takes you to where you want to go - is older than most people think or expect. The first moving walkway which we know about was seen at the 1893 World s Columbian Exposition. It ran in a loop down the length of a waterfront pier, transporting travellers to and from a casino. It did have a few major differences to moving walkways we see today. One was that it had two options for travel. Passengers could choose to stand or walk, as we do today, but they could also sit down for the trip.
The Domain Moving Walkway is in fact two walkways, one in each direction, side by side. It passes through a tunnel which has been decorated with murals illustrating the story of Sydney from its Aboriginal occupation, the arrival of the First Fleet and on to the 20th century. Why it came to be built is very much a reflection of the times in which it was concieved - the late 1950s-early 1960s. World War II had ended little more than a decade earlier and the world moved into a very forward-looking, positive era of major growth and rapid development. The future looked bright, the sky was the limit, space travel was looking like a possibility, and everybody began dreaming dreaming of the possibilities for the future and how that future might be.
An integral part of their vision of the future was that machines would eventually take over doing the more mundane tasks of everyday life, and so engineers, designers and manufacturers turned their energies toward turning some of those dreams into realities. One such dram that would become a reality was the Moving Walkway. People thought that, in the future, all pavements would move, making getting about really easy. What they didn t count on was that moving walkways proved to be very expensive and difficult to maintain. They also had to be either indoors or in tunnels, because there was no way to make them weatherproof, and perhaps the most important thing of all that people like to walk.
Around the time the decision to build Sydney's Domain Moving Walkway was made, cars were being purchased at a rate previously not seen, and town planners realised that the city s roads would soon become clogged up with cars unless adequate roads were built to cope with the increase in traffic. Back then, the first suburban shopping centres were only just being built, and apart from the purchase of day to day items, most people still came into the city to shop. So town planners also had to come up with a solution as to what to do with all those cars once they arrived in the city.
Perth and Sydney came up with similar solutions build car parks around the perimeter of the inner city and provide free transport from the car park into the city centre. Perth did this by building car parks on low lying land around The Causeway, and shipping commuters into the city centre by bus. Sydney was a little more imaginative, due to the lack of useable space for car parks, deciding instead to build a car park under The Domain, and get commuters into the city centre via an underground moving walkway. It was expected to be the first of many similar walkways that would convey commuters underground around the city, thus avoiding the noisy traffic on the streets above. At 207 metres long the Domain Moving Walkway was for a time the longest moving walkway in the world.
Along with the Domain Car Park, it was opened by Lord Mayor Harry Jensen on Friday 6th June 1961. Following his speech and cutting a ribbon, the Lord Mayor took his son for a ride on it. thousands of parents followed his lead, bringing their children into the city for a taste of the future. It was seen as a futuristic novelty and received a lot of use, but wasn't without its dramas. Children getting their fingers caught in the moving handrail; men getting their trousers ripped after getting their cuffs caught in a gap at the end of the footway - the newspapers were quick to document every mishap in minute, gory detail.
This single car park was never going to be enough to service the needs of all the motorists who wanted to come into the city, so the plan was to gauge public reaction to the car park and associated moving walking, and if it was popular, more would be built. Due mainly to the lack of available or suitable sites around other parts of the city, similar car parks and moving walkways were never built and the whole concept was soon forgotten. Besides, most people prefer to just walk.
In time the novelty of the walkway wore off; the roar of the motors, the whine of the rollers and the constant movement became a major turn-off. By the 1990s, the mechanics of the walkway were in need of replacement, and for a time it looked as though it would be pulled up and the tunnel left as a walkway. This did not happen; a company that manufactures conveyor belts for mining companies custom-made replacement belts which is still in use today. The refurbished footway was decorated by the Tunnel Vision mural, painted by mural artist Tim Guider, indigenous artists, and children from nearby Woolloomooloo. Today, most commuters to the city don t even know the Moving Walkway exists and besides, there are far more convenient ways to reach the city than by driving through the traffic bottleneck of East Sydney, parking your car in the Domain Car Park, then travelling through a half-lit tunnel on a rumbling moving walkway.