When Tramcars were King
Noel Donaldson first drove a tram in 1942. Now, the 87 year-old is one of a team of drivers at the Kapiti Coast Tramway Museum who take thousands of trippers for tram rides from the Museum down to the nearby beach. Noel still loves getting behind the controls and even has dreams about driving trams.
Gallery: Kapiti Coast Tramway Museum
Noel Donaldson drove his first tram in 1942 aged 16.
Electric trams opened up Wellington’s suburbs from 1904 onwards and in 1964 large crowds gathered to witness the last trams to run and also the last trams in regular passenger service in any New Zealand city. 1964 also saw the opening of the Kapiti Tramway Museum with the aim of preserving and restoring Wellington’s trams.
A restored Double Saloon tram, not renown for comfort especially in bad weather.
Workshops in the suburb of Kilbirnie built the capital’s pre-World War 2 Double Saloon trams and also the postwar Fiducia, which broadly translated means ‘trustworthy’. Fiducia trams even boasted padded seats.
Double Saloon and Fiducia trams in post-war Kilbirnie.
For 60 years these 18 tonne juggernauts dominated Wellington’s public transport. The pre-war Double Saloons in particular, were not renown for comfort, nevertheless, they could transport large numbers of people efficiently and without the traffic jams so typical of modern car-filled cities.
Postwar Willis St at rush hour.
Spectrum’s Jack Perkins explores the Kapiti Tramway Museum and takes a tram trip which reminds him of how he, along with hundreds of pupils travelling to and from Wellington College, used to cling to the trams like iron filings to a magnet. For more information about the Kapiti Tramway Museum go to http://www.wellingtontrams.org.nz/