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A brief history of tramways

December 1908 – Wanganui became the first provincial town to have a tramway – population 9000

Mayor C F Mackay steered the town away from a steam system favoured by the previous Mayor Alexander Hatrick, who had seen steam trams in London and Paris.

Mayor Mackay’s argument prevailed – and twelve trams came into service between 1909 and 1912.

Last day of trams in Wanganui for the 20th Century was 24th September 1950. Trams 8, 10 and 12 have survived.

 A brief history of no12

Number 12 Wanganui tram was built by the Boon Tramcar company in Christchurch, New Zealand in about 1911. It was on of six shipped from Christchurch to Wanganui and was brought into service on th 26th September 1912.

The layout of the three compartments: two open and the central one enclosed was termed “Californian” from the American influence on its design. Boon and Co were founded in 1875 [in 1877 as Boon and Stevens] and produced trams for the Christchurch, Wanganui, Invercargill, Napier, Gisborne and New Plymouth systems. Joseph Boon was a coach builder trained at “Coach Factory” in Euston Road London. His tramcars showed the fine workmanship of the horse-drawn vehicle tradition.

Number 12 was operated by the Wanganui Tramways Corporation founded on the 11th December 1908. At this time Wanganui had a population of only 9000. According to anecdotal evidence No 12 operated mainly between Victoria Avenue and the coastal suburb of Castlecliff.

Tram Historian Graham Stewart visited the Wanganui tram barns in 1950. He saw No 12 which was then confined to the tram barn. He describes its state as an image from Miss Haversham’s feast: all there, but draped in cobwebs. It seems likely that No 12 was last used in the early 1940′s.

The Wanganui Corporation Tramway system was closed on the 24th September 1950 and the tram stock disposed of. Number 12 was stripped of its truck, brake system, contollers and pole. It was then sold to be converted into a batch, ironically on the sand-hills near its old terminus at Castlecliff.

Collector Jack Ryder saw it there in 1960, bought it and transported it to a shed in Avondale, Auckland. Aucklander David Harre saw it there some 20 years ago. Later he approached Mr Ryder, now aged 80 and not able to achieve his dream of restoring the tram. He sold it to him just in time as the shed was near collapse and the tram had been severely damged by water leaking through the roof. The tram cost $10,000 plus two chairs from the ill fated inter-island ferry “Penguin”.

The tram was transported, without charge, to a purpose built shed at Oratia by Yukich Bros Contracting. An Incorporated Society to restore the tram was established and the restoration is almost complete, thanks to the dedication of David Harre, hundreds of volunteers and grants from Lotto Environment and Heritage, Pub Charity, and the Pacific Conservation Trust.

Although the restoration of the carriage is complete, the truck of No 12 was lost when all metal parts were sold for scrap in 1950. David Harre has succeeded in his worldwide search for a Brill 21e bogey and a replacement will be shipped from the USA in November 2005. A tram pole and mount has been generously gifted to No 12 by Ian Little of the Trolley Bus Museum at Foxton.

The aim of conserving/restoring the Tram is to gift it to the people of Wanganui through the Wanganui District Council and for it to run again in that city.

The gift to Wanganui is to be made with strict conditions. Among them are:

[1]        The tram must stay in Wanganui

[2]        The Conservation Plan must be adhered to in all repairs etc…

[3]        Appropriate shelter must be provided.

[4]        The Tram must be used as a people’s transport in the streets of Wanganui.

A feasibility study was completed in 2002. The preferred route has the tram traveling about 1.4Kms connecting various cultural locations in the Old Town of Wanganui.

No 12 will be housed, and operate from, a newly restored building in Taupo Quay.

Transport firm Hooker Pacific, free of charge, generously transported No 12 from Auckland to it’s new home in Wanganui on 11th November 2005.

Although No 12 will be owned by the Wanganui District Council, it’s custodian will be the Wanganui Tramways Trust.

Deputy Mayor Dot McKinnon received No 12 on behalf of the citizens of Wanganui at a ceremony held at the A&P Show on 12th November 2005.

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