City celebrates first electric tram

BRIDGET JONES
Last updated 14:46 29/09/2012
Tram
JASON OXENHAM/Fairfax NZ
HITTING THE TRACKS: Auckland Waterfront celebrates the city's first electric trams.

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The Auckland Waterfront is winding back the clock this weekend to celebrate the city's first electric tram.

On November 17, 1902, Sir John Logan Campbell drove the first electric tram up Queen St to open the largest municipal tramway project in New Zealand.

Now, 110 years later Auckland Mayor Len Brown strapped himself in to an almost identical tram to mark the first day of the Auckland Heritage Festival.

MOTAT's Tram No 44 was the historic stand in on the journey around the Wynyard Quarter tram circuit, along with Auckland's two Dockline Trams.

Last year, as part of the recent revamp of Wynyard Quarter, two former 1920's trams from Melbourne began running in a 1.5km loop around the waterfront area.

James Duncan from Dockline Trams says the reintroduction of the historic machines has injected a spark into the area.

"Many of the visitors we get love to come for nostalgic reasons and to admire these beautifully crafted vehicles. It's a huge novelty for the kids and an insight into how things would have been all those years ago whilst for others it's a trip down memory lane."

The construction of the Auckland tram system started in 1899, and within three years, more than 27.5km of tracks had been constructed and 43 tram cars were operating. 

By the time they stopped running in 1956, there were 256 trams covering 72km.

Waterfront Auckland chairman Bob Harvey says in addition to being heritage attractions, this form of transport still holds so much potential for the city.

"We can't forget how successful trams were for many years as a form of public transport and the city leaders such as John Logan Campbell should be applauded for introducing them to the city. This event is a way of acknowledging that and it is also a reminder of the potential trams hold for Auckland's future."

Waterfront Auckland are currently working on plans to extend the existing tram loop past Wynyard Quarter. The aim is for a light transit system connecting the area with Quay Street to run within the next few years.  

This year on the centenary of the death of Sir John Logan Campbell, who is often known as "the father of Auckland", Auckland Heritage Month celebrates the cultural and natural history of Auckland with hundreds of events around the region.

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- Auckland Now

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