A decade of riding the cable car

16:00, Dec 01 2010
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Spruced up: Grip Car 2, one of the originals, sports its 1970s look.

Wellington's Cable Car Museum will celebrate its 10th anniversary on Sunday with a range of family-friendly fun.

Free tours and activities for children are included.

"The Cable Car Museum has been a great success," said Brett Mason, Museums Wellington's director. "Its location means any visitor who travels up [on] the iconic cable car can stroll into the museum, and they do."

The museum operates from the old cable car winding house adjacent to the depot at Kelburn. Its display area nearly doubled when the extension was opened on the museum's fifth anniversary in 2005.

Mr Mason said that more than two million visitors had been through the museum, making it one of the busiest in Wellington.

"They all love the opportunity to climb aboard one of the original grip cars."

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"Our plan over the next few years is to build on the technology story and to improve the overall visitor experience with a further extension of the building," he said.

Wellington's cable cars first ran on February 22, 1902. Those Dunedin-built "red rattlers" faithfully transported passengers up and down the hill until the demise of the old cable car system in 1978.

The current Swiss-made cars came into service in 1979. Opposition to the new cars faded once patrons saw they preserved some of their predecessor's charm with their wooden seats and red exterior paintwork.

On entering the museum, visitors can climb aboard Grip Car 2 and imagine what riding on an original car was like. The car is restored and painted to resemble its 1970s appearance.

Grip Car 3 went on display on the lower level extension in 2005. It is the only cable car built in Wellington for service on the city's tracks.

Wheelwrights Greg and Ali Lang have expertly restored the car to its 1905 look.

It was then at its most visually appealing, with cream and green paintwork, and windows echoing the design of those in the now-demolished Kelburn tea kiosk – the spelling of the suburb's name was changed to Kelburn about 1917 to avoid confusion with Kilbirnie.

Grip Car 3 was never used as much as the other grip cars because drivers liked it less.Matthew Hardy, manager of Wellington Cable Car Company, will conduct the tours on the hour on Sunday from 10am until 3pm. They will be limited to 15 people per tour, so pre-booking from the Cable Car Museum is essential. Ph 4753578.

The Wellingtonian