Friday, 4 April 2014

Auckland Electric Tramways Company Limited

Management of the Auckland Electric Tramways Company Limited , Local Consultant and Messrs J G White and Co Ltd, the contractors (back row, from left) Messrs F N Smock, A Brown, T Duncan (middle row) Messrs Dando, R A Wilber, A Hessell Witham, W St John Clark, H Rogers, Mr James (front row) Messrs J Reed, H Clifford Eddy, W S Turner, Paul M Hansen, Matthew F Carey, James Stewart, S A Mahood  ( photo 1902)

There’s something about a tram. I love the swishing noise it makes as one travels along. Going to Melbourne again got me to thinking about the things I like about Melbourne which of course includes the tram transport – one can “ ride a tram” in central city. 

In Auckland it is not as long distance as in 1902 - however the Wynyard Quarter is a start of the past NZ History of trams.

CBD Tram Melbourne Photo ASB 2014

Auckland Electric Tramways

In a Presidential Address written and read to the Auckland Institute in 1901, James Stewart C.E. was to say on electric traction and electric trams:

“In electric traction the last decade of the century has furnished probably the greatest revolution ever witnessed in the realm of applied science, although so far as Great Britain and the Continent of Europe are concerned it has only just commenced.”

He also was to refer to his “hope that before our meeting next year, on a similar occasion to the present we shall have a practical illustration of electric traction in our midst”.  ( Presidential Address in Transactions & Proceedings, Royal Society , 1901 )

This was the construction and implementation of Auckland Electric Tramways being referred to. After what could be said to be very protracted and very confusing negotiations, with the Auckland City Council for concessions to run an electric traction system, things were moving. (The endless debates over whether tramway construction should be undertaken by Private Enterprise or Municipal Authority. Then the endless debates over whether it should be private ownership, municipal ownership or a mix.)

The Electric Tramway Debate was no different to the Water Supply proposal of the 1860’s or the Railway Construction proposals of the 1870s to 1880s. It is known that Stewart with his philosophy of “the greater good for the greater benefit of many’ did support Municipal Ownership for an established system. As by way of profits, there would be money to maintain or construct other municipal works.
If one compares the original Water Supply proposal with that of an Electric Tramways System the concepts were very similar. ( Daily Southern Cross 03/04/1860, page 2 )  However the 1860’s Water Supply proposal was turned down by Provincial Council because of an aversion then to private enterprise and perceived powers of the Provincial Superintendent.

The Electric Tramways system survived the early debates. The Auckland Electric Tramways Company Limited, formed in March 1899, obtained the deed (dated 28 June 1900) which delegated powers to the Company under the City of Auckland Electric Tramways Order (No 1). ( Progress, 01/02/1906,page 80 )

The other suburban authorities followed with agreement and the outcome was Auckland got an extensive Electric Tram system. Progress reported the following in 1906:
“The British Electric Traction Company, Limited, were appointed consulting engineers, and in July, 1901, contracts were placed with Messrs. J. G. White & Company, Limited, for the whole of the traction construction, overhead line, feeder system, and power station and plant. Subsequent contracts have been made with the same firms for the cars and the condensing system. The consulting engineers kept the construction and equipping of the car depots in their own hands.” ( Progress, 01/02/1906, page 80 )
The Auckland Electric Tramways Company Limited was headed by General Manager Mr. Paul M Hansen; Matthew Carey was appointed Electrical Superintendent. James Stewart C.E. was involved as local consultant engineer, a position he held until final retirement in 1912 (aged 80 years old.)
Paul M Hansen In The Cyclopaedia of New Zealand, Vol 2, Auckland Province. Christchurch: Cyclopaedia Company Limited, 1902.

“A System that surpassed all Dreams & Schemes”

The Auckland Electric Tramway System – new transport technology for a new century. An engineering feat in itself to rip up the old horse drawn tram tracks and lay the new electrified track system – twenty nine miles of them, both formation and permanent way - ( a “Spaghetti” network system of rails and electricity) To build a Power House and Electricity Reticulation supply for the tramway – fourteen months of rapid construction from September 1901 to November 1902.
                                           The Power Station Photo in Progress O1/O2/1906, Page 80
                                                                 Papers Past, National Library NZ
There was still not the technology in 1901 as we have today in 2014. No modern computerised cranes, dump trucks and motorised track laying machines, motorised concrete trucks or Hiab trucks. Again sheer “hard labour” graft – picks, shovels, handcarts, lift and carry. There could be no “over runs” on contract time because Private Enterprise was constructing and “over runs” meant huge costs. The newspapers in December 1901 reported 250 men involved in track laying for the Auckland Electric Tramways, with further work suggested for another 150 once work was fully underway.

Opening day in November 1902, when Sir Dr. John Logan Campbell drove the first tram, drew huge crowds. It was fitting that he drove the first tram, given his long years of support and involvement for tramways and railways. Forty two years on from that very first wooden tramway built from the Drury Coalfields to Slippery Creek. One that he as Chairman and Director of the Waihoihoi Coal Company Ltd and Stewart as Contracted Engineer to design the Tramway, had been involved with. It was said the two were pretty elated about this new Electric Tramway System.

Stewart, as local consultant Engineer with the Auckland Electric Tramways Company Limited was involved with the Tram Depot at Epsom , the Ponsonby Car Depot, and workshops, along with track laying. It was said the last work was documentation for the Mt. Eden and Mt. Roskill extensions. It was said that the rapid construction progress and the success of the tram transport once up and running, surpassed even his initial dreams and visions of such a system.

                                                    Auckland Star 6 January 1902 p8 Advertisements Col 8
                                                                  Papers Past, National Library NZ

             Car Sheds at Ponsonby - Progress 01/02/1906 p81
Twenty seven years later:

A PONSONBY LANDMARK GOES.—The last wall of the old Ponsonby tram barn was demolished on Saturday. Th... 
[truncated] Auckland Star,  20 May 1929, Page 10 Papers Past, National Library NZ 
The Auckland Electric Tramways Limited who constructed and ran the Auckland Electric tramway until 1919 was a private enterprise. In July 1919 it passed to the ownership of the Auckland City Council and then in January 1929 the operations were taken over by the Auckland Transport Board.

Reference Source:
1 . The Cyclopaedia of New Zealand, Vol 2, Auckland Province. Christchurch: Cyclopaedia Company Limited, 1902.
2. Stewart, Graham. The end of the penny section : when trams ruled the streets of New Zealand. Rev. enl. ed.Wellington.N.Z.: Grantham House, 1993.
3. In Transactions & Proceedings NZ Institute ( Royal Society NZ ) Volume 34, 1901, Art. I.—Presidential Address. , By Jas Stewart C.E

4. Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand

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