Electric Trams Return To Christchurch – 4th February 1995

On 4th February 1995, after a few years of preparation, the Hon. Vicki Buck officially welcomed electric trams back into the city of Christchurch after a forty one year’s absence.

In 1993, the C.C.C. was approached by the Tramway Historical Society with a suggestion for the upcoming Worcester Boulevard Project. Could a tram line be added, heading east from the Arts Centre to Cathedral Square – for tourist traffic and those locals who would delight in the return of this piece of history?

Even with very little protest from the public about this historic return, special care was taken in the selection of the necessary but possibly unsightly cable posts. Replicas of the original 1905 ‘more pleasant looking’ posts were chosen, also adding much to the historic feel. Five vehicles were lovingly restored, one even being sourced from Invercargill. Soon, with expressed interest from other parties, an extended tram route was planned and constructed.

With the earthquake of February 2011, just two short months after a Clydesdale powered tram had delighted Christmas shoppers at Cashel Mall (pictured), the city’s tramlines were damaged and closed. It was November 2013 when the route was used on a limited basis and just a year later, the complete circuit was reopened by Mayor Lianne Dalziel and Michael Esposito of Christchurch Trams.

No.11 is Christchurch’s oldest working tram, beginning its service in 1906 (pictured on the back of a truck leaving Ferrymead). It was on 6th June 1905 when the first electric tram did its first run. The day before, seven trams had marked this upcoming occasion by traveling along Papanui Road in tandem.

From 1880, horse and steam powered trams had rattled along Christchurch’s streets, owned by numerous private companies. This system seemed to work just fine but the push for progress around the turn of the 20th century forced the city to review its transport options. New Zealand’s other big cities already had electric trams operating and Christchurch needed to catch up.

The Christchurch Tramway Board was formed in 1902 and they would be responsible for construction, purchasing and ownership of our local transport assets. They would also set up the new public transport services. It wasn’t long before their name was changed to Christchurch Transport Board (CTB).

2400 poles, 101km of trolley wire, 105km of feeder cable, 80,000 sleepers and 5500 tons of rails were used to set up what would become the largest tram network in New Zealand. By the 1930’s, with more people owning their own cars and bicycles, the trams began to suffer. Christchurch had also grown bigger and it proved cheaper to have buses run these routes than add more railing to the roads. All tram tracks had disappeared between the end of WWII and 1954.

*Image of No.11 courtesy of the Auckland Tram Blog – https://aucklandtram.wordpress.com
*Image of Trams in Cathedral Square courtesy of the Alexander Turnbull Library – Arrival of the Southern Cross at Christchurch. Crowd scene showing trams. Crown Studios Ltd :Negatives and prints. Ref: 1/2-191541-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22804865
*Image of Clydesdales in Cashel Mall (9/12/2010)courtesy of Ruth Reflections – https://realruth.wordpress.com


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