View of Manly Corso c 1912, with people walking and a tram

Transport in the Past

Learning resources for primary school students studying Human Society and its Environment

How did people get around the cities and country towns of Australia over a hundred years ago? Let's examine our historical photography collection to learn more. The activities and prompts on this page are designed to expand students' ability to look at historical sources, such as photographs, critically.

The Corso Listening Activity

Join one of our education officers as they discuss this historic photograph of Manly Corso.

Download transcript (docx, 531KB)

Let's look at these modes of transport

  • How many different kinds of transport can you see in the pictures?
  • How fast (or slow) do you think each kind of transport would be? Would they be a comfortable way to get around?
  • Have you ever been on a steam train or sailing boat? What was different to modern trains or motor boats?
  • The Sydney Harbour Bridge wasn't completed until early 1932, how do you think people crossed the harbour before then?
  • Do you think a car would have been more expensive to purchase than a horse and cart? Which one would be more expensive to maintain?
  • The ship "Cavanba" regularly travelled between Byron Bay and Sydney transporting people and goods, what would be the fastest way to get to Byron today? 
  • How do you get to school? How do you think children in the past got to school?
  • This camel and camel herder probably came from central Asia or the middle east, one of 1000s who came to work in Australia's desert regions from the 1860s onwards. Why do you think camels were more suited to these areas than horses or early motor cars?
  • Look at the people in these pictures and then think about the makeup of our modern Australian society, who is missing from these pictures?

Download Driving into History (pdf, 496KB).

Extension Activity

A view of Circular Quay, Sydney prior to 1930

Photographic print, [Circular Quay Sydney], Photographer: J. G. Park, Sydney, c. 1900-1930 

This photograph looks out over Sydney's Circular Quay and was taken before 1930. There are some famous landmarks that are missing from the picture. Using the observational skills you have learned through the activities on this page, research current pictures of Circular Quay and see how many differences you can spot.

Featured image (top of the page): Glass negative, The Corso Manly, Photographer: Kerry and Co, New South Wales, c.1912 (detail)