Motat still applying lessons from 113-year-old Kingsland tram tragedy video

Hugh Collins/FAIRFAX NZ

Motat tram enthusiast and motorman James Duncan explains the significance of the Kingsland tram disaster of 1903.

An Auckland tram tragedy that happened 113 years ago is still providing valuable lessons for today's Motat tram drivers.

Tramway enthusiast and Motat motorman examiner James Duncan said the museum has always made particular note of the Kingsland tram disaster of Christmas Eve 1903.

The accident occurred on New North Road when a brake failed on a double decker tram heading towards Eden Terrace.

Motat tram motorman James Duncan has done extensive research on the Kingsland tram tragedy.
HUGH COLLINS/FAIRFAX NZ

Motat tram motorman James Duncan has done extensive research on the Kingsland tram tragedy.

It rolled backwards and collided with another tram, killing three and injuring up to 60.

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An inquest found the cause of the collision was through a "ratchet brake" failing.

A tram at Motat very similar to the one that had its brakes fail in the Kingsland tragedy.
HUGH COLLINS/FAIRFAX NZ

A tram at Motat very similar to the one that had its brakes fail in the Kingsland tragedy.

On November 30 the Central Leader published a story on the tragedy and how two Auckland women have been calling for relatives of the disaster to come forward.

They said the tragedy was never properly recognised and are planning a formal commemoration ceremony with the unveiling of a new plaque at site of the crash.

Duncan saw the story in the Central Leader and came forward to say that Motat, who operate 23 historical trams, still apply lessons learned from the fateful tragedy.

James Duncan has been a Motat tramway volunteer since he was 15.
HUGH COLLINS/FAIRFAX NZ

James Duncan has been a Motat tramway volunteer since he was 15.

"We've always placed a strong emphasis on our drivers always knowing how to stop if their brake fails," Duncan said.

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Drivers in 1903 were not trained to properly control the tram if the primary brake failed, he said.

"The people that trained me were bringing in all that knowledge from the way they trained the tram drivers in Auckland with the Kingsland crash always lingering in the background."

In 2013 Duncan put together a detailed account of the accident for two tramway publications.

He said the event was the Erebus disaster of its day.

"I think personally because it had such a big impact on the tramway world in New Zealand and on Auckland, it's something we really shouldn't forget.

"Everybody in Auckland knew somebody that was on one of the two trams."

Duncan said at the time of the disaster trams were relatively new and people didn't really understand how electricity could make such a large object move, he said.

"They knew that whatever it was was dangerous and here's this man with this handle at the front controlling all this unseen dangerous energy force which no one really understood."

Duncan, who has been a Motat volunteer since the 1970s, said he was always intrigued by trams.

His grandfather was a tramway conductor in Auckland and he is now the operations manager for the tramway in Auckland Wynyard Quarter.

A commemoration ceremony for the Kingsland tragedy will take place on December 23 and a plaque will be unveiled at the corner of New North Road and New Bond Street.

Relatives of victims will be invited to light a small lantern.

The crash killed Mt Eden resident Ann Young Hogarth, Benjamin Morrison Lindsay of Kingsland and William Caley, an accountant of New North Road.

If you believe you are connected to one of these names contact the Kingsland Business Society on (09) 379 5553 or business@kingslandnz.com.

For a full list of those injured visit kingslandnz.com and search 'tram'.

 - Stuff

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