Ferrymead Heritage Park
Christchurch, New Zealand

The Tramway Historical Society Inc.


A meeting of interested people was held on 8 February 1960, with a view to forming a group which could take over and restore the last two "complete" items of Christchurch Tramway rolling stock which had not been scrapped. These were Kitson Steam Tram Motor No. 7, and Stephenson Horse Tram No. 50. Both had been saved but were languishing in open storage, and in much need of care and attention.

In 1962 the group started to restore the horse tram and had it in a fit state to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the closing of the Christchurch Tramway System. This commemoration took the form of operating the tram for public rides on a short remaining piece of tram line in Papanui, during the August School Holidays of 1964.

A home was needed for the vehicles, preferably where they could be operated. In 1965 the Christchurch Junior Chamber of Commerce (later Jaycees) presented a plan for a museum at Ferrymead, the site of New Zealand's first steam railway. This plan would incorporate the dreams of a number of independent interest groups, one of which was, The Tramway Historical Society Inc.

In 1967 a major fundraising activity raised the money to purchase land at Ferrymead and construct storage buildings for The Tramway Historical Society Inc and the Ferrymead Railway.

Meanwhile, following the horse tram, the Kitson Steam Tram was restored to operating condition. The body of a double deck horse tram originally operated by the New Brighton Tramway Company had also been obtained and was undergoing restoration.

On January 6 1968 the Ferrymead Tramway opened, the Kitson and double decker No 10 commenced operating on a short length of track.

When the electric tramway system closed in Christchurch the trams were scrapped. A few electric motors and compressors were sold for use in industrial applications, but generally the mechanical equipment was sold for scrap, never able to be used again. A large number of the bodies were sold as Holiday Cottages, Garden Sheds, Sleepouts and Farm Buildings.

The Society had received a lot of publicity with its activities and offers of now redundant tram bodies came in. Along with other bodies located by the Society, a number of these were selected to give a good representation of vehicles operated on the Christchurch Tramway system. Over time a selection of bodies from Dunedin and Invercargill systems were added to the collection.

Before an electric Tramway could operate mechanical and electrical equipment had to be obtained from almost every corner of the world to replace that scrapped in Christchurch a few years earlier. Electrical Equipment was obtained from Trolley Bus Systems in New Plymouth, Dunedin and Auckland.

  • Trucks (tram wheels, motors, etc) from Melbourne, Brisbane, Nagasaki, Brussels and Glasgow to name some.
  • Controllers from Melbourne and Lisbon.

In 1965 the Society began extracting the body of "Brill" tram 178 from the bach (holiday cottage) built around it at Milford near Temuka. Arriving in 1967 the body was the first to be restored in the New Ferrymead Trambarn. In 1970 she returned to service starting the Electric Tramway operation at Ferrymead.

Whilst all this was going on a collection of Trolley Buses started to arrive until representation of all New Zealand Trolley Bus systems were obtained. A number of Diesel buses have been obtained over the years giving a good representation of buses used in Christchurch since the demise of Tramway operations and before.

In the late 1980's Christchurch City Council called for submissions on the development of a tourist transport concept for the inner city. Submissions by the Society were the catalyst for what was adopted, in the form of a street tramway using heritage vehicles.

In 1993 the Society were asked by the City Council to supply Cars for the City Tramway. The Heritage Tramways Trust was set up to undertake the professional restoration of five vehicles to be leased to the City Council then on to the Tramway Operator – currently Christchurch Tramways Limited.

This has allowed greater progress to be made on restoration of the barn full of former holiday cottages and sheds acquired over the years, including the employment of full time professional Tram restorers.

However, there is still a place for volunteers to join our sociable group and have fun in restoring, driving and maintaining the vehicles. A regular monthly Members event is an important part of the activity list. This event may be a meeting with guest speaker, a visit to an interesting old home or industrial site, or perhaps just a jaunt around a former tram or trolley bus route in one of our heritage buses.