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Kiwi Electric Review 2017

Alan Pearce, 17th April 2018

Alan Pearce's video presentation covered a visit with a very small group to New Zealand in March/April 20177 that visited all of the then operating urban systems using electric traction as well as the country's tramway museums. Arriving in Auckland from Hong Kong the group worked their way southward to end at Christchurch before moving to Australia - but that is another story.

The Auckland Dockline Tram is a fairly recently built heritage line operating as the name suggests in a redeveloped part of the city's former docks using cars from Melbourne. The route is laid out as a unidirectional loop but roadworks have curtailed the current working line to part of the line that perforce operates against the traffic in one direction and for this reason is only operated on Sundays at present. In the western suburbs quite a lengthy line is an integral part of the Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT) connecting two part of the museum's site with a line running alongside a main road. Unusually this line is laid in dual 4-foor and standard gauge track to enable operation of cars from Wellington as well as from Auckland itself as well as various other locations in Australasia. An open top 4-foot gauge Wellington car was a particularly interesting survival; it was latterly used for overhead line work in the tunnels of its home system. A Baldwin steam tram locomotive from Sydney via Wanganui operates once a month but the date was unable to be fitted into the group's schedule.

The first stop after quite a long drive from Auckland was the very short heritage line at Whanganui (previously spelt as Wanganui) with one surviving car from the local system that closed in 1950. This is intended to form part of a longer line in the future. Further south a brief visit was also paid to the now moribund museum trolleybus museum operation at Foxton that is no longer operable.

The Wellington area had three separate operations with the Wellington Tramway Museum at Paekakariki, which is quite a way north of the city being the first to be visited. Situated in a very attractive rural location the museum is entirely devoted to the former 4-foot gauge Wellington system and began operations just a year after the city tramways themselves closed in 1964. Moving to Wellington we saw the then quite extensive trolleybus system that had replaced the former tramways. Well suited to the very hill topography of the New Zealand capital the entire network was nevertheless closed down at the end of October 2017. Features included three tunnels with one being a long one that required signal operation since it had originally been single track in tramway days.

A surviving urban operation in Wellington is the cable tramway from the city centre to the suburb of Kelburn with three intermediate stops. Opened as a double track line of 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) gauge in 1902 it was rebuilt in 1978-9 as a single track with a passing loop on the metre gauge with two new Swiss-built cars

The final city visited was Christchurch on the South Island with an expanding heritage line serving the city centre and a museum line in the Ferrymead Heritage Park located around five mile from the city. The original circular line in the city centre dating from 1995 was expanded in 2015 with a spur that is now served by a double run as part of the service and is intended to be extended further. Operated with mix of restored local and ex Melbourne cars the route is through an area that had been devastated by a major earthquake in 2011 with much rebuilding in progress.

The Ferrymead tramway has cars from various New Zealand and Australian tramways showing the influences of both UK and American tramcar design with a highlight of the electric fleet being a Christchurch open top car The trolleybus collection runs on what is now the only operating trolleybus line in New Zealand. Alan had said how welcome they had been made at all of the places visited with many exceptional facilities being made available. One such was the opportunity to stage a meet between a former Christchurch Kitson steam tram locomotive and trailer and a trolleybus. The steam locomotive only runs once a month and the date had been a pivotal point in the planning of the entire trip.

The audience greatly appreciated the images we had seen from so far away and thanked Alan for the time and effort in taking the material end editing down to a suitable length for our enjoyment.

Geoffrey Tribe

London Area - 17th April 2018


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