Monday, February 1, 2016

Vintage Transport 6.3.1885

Trams and cable cars initially horse-drawn then steam-powered and later electric-powered were a vital means of public transport in New Zealand cities for over 100 years. New Zealand town dwellers, having had no option but to rely on their own feet until the latter half of the 19th century reacted excitedly to the first signs of public transport. Where wheeled transport was available wagonettes, drays, and particularly, the high and flimsy horse-buses, made local travel an adventure.
Tram-cars reigned supreme in New Zealand streets for longer than any other public vehicle.  There were weather-beaten drivers holding tightly to their reins, grippers or control handles.  There were the many different conductors collecting fares; and during wartime there were the women who stepped in to help out.
All served New Zealand and New Zealanders over the years, delivering people to their homes, businesses and recreational activities.  The public in turn became attached to these structures of wood and steel that gave everyone the freedom of the cities before the days of the all-conquering automobile.

(24c) The Nelson Horse-Drawn Tram (1862) 
Nelson developed the first passenger street tramway.  A single horse pulled the coach-style tram along 1.6 kilometres of line from the city centre to the Port of Nelson.  The initial sixpenny fare was dropped to threepence to encourage greater use after pranksters laying stones on the rails caused derailments.  In 1901 the service was bought by the Town Council but the cost of modernisation and electrification proved too much and the tramway was dismantled and removed.
(30c) The Graham's Town Steam Tram (1871)
One of the earliest locally-built tram carriages was made of that most famous of New Zealand timbers, kauri.  Its short career had a rather inauspicious beginning.  The discovery of gold at Graham's Town (now Thames) meant many passengers for the country's first steam tramway opened in 1871.  The track ran from Thames to the deep sea wharf at Tararu Point.  In May 1874 a heavy gale partly destroyed the wharf and washed away a large section of the tramway.  Damage was so great both the wharf and tramway were abandoned.  The line closed on 10 November 1874.
(35c) The Dunedin Cable Car (1881) - 35c
New Zealand's first cable cars appeared in Dunedin and came to be widely utilised there.  The Rattray Street cable tramway was the first to operate outside the United States of America.  In the days when horses and steam were the only recognised means of vehicle power, the sight of cable cars climbing the steep hills without visible means of power was awe-inspiring.  The cables were laid in tunnels beneath the road.
(40c) Auckland - Electric (1902) - 40c
Although Dunedin had the first electrics, Auckland was the first to go for a complete electric system and the novelty of the horseless tramcars attracted 15,000 passengers at twopence a ride on its first day in service.  Being cheaper and quicker than the horse-drawn trams, Auckland became a community of tram-riders.
(45c) Wellington - Electric (1904) - 45c
Wellington's first electric tram was a single track, double decker tram which ran for the first time from the Newtown tram sheds to Kent Terrace on 30 June 1904.  Brilliantly lit, the tram came slowly and steadily down the track accompanied by frequent flashes of electricity - the spectacle was unique and fascinated the population.
(58c) Christchurch - Electric (1905) - 58c
Depicted on this stamp is a 1905 Christchurch tram towing a trailer from Cathedral Square.  Early trams incorporated large spring loaded steel fenders mounted front and rear to protect cyclists and pedestrians.  Electric heaters were installed under each seat and winter travellers were often reluctant to leave their warm haven.  Yet unlike the Wellington system, seats were uncushioned, management considering cushioned seats unhygienic.

Thank you Merja for this lovely FDC.

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