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Christchurch tram restored to former glory

Published: 7:01PM Saturday January 23, 2010 Source: ONE News

It is being described as the one of the most ambitious tram restoration projects ever undertaken anywhere in the world as Christchurch's Tramway Historical Society have returned a 105-year-old double-decker tram to its former glory.

Tram number 26 was one of only three double-decker trams to ever run through Christchurch.

After a massive restoration project, led by project leader Graham Richardson, spanning three decades, it is back on the tracks.

"It's a very historic car. it's the only American-built double-decker electric tramcar we know in existence in the world," says Richardson.

It was first commissioned in 1905 to run on Christchurch's then newly electrified tram system.

Forty-seven years of dedicated service later, it was written off and like many trams in the 1950s, was turned into a holiday home.

In the late 80s tram hunters discovered their treasure in Hakatere near the Ashburton River mouth and so Dave Hinman from the Tramway Historical Society says they approached the owners.

"By that time it had been totally enclosed inside the building," says Hinman.

After extraction and rebuilding the owner's bach, the team went about rebuilding the tram as only two thirds of the bottom deck remained.

None of the original mechanical equipment survived so the society searched worldwide for authentic substitutes or used old photos to create replicas, including the entire top deck and staircase.

"It was very challenging," says Richardson.

Every detail has been poured over in preparation for the first test run.

"Being able to ride out in the open on the top deck is going to be a great experience and something that people haven't done for 100 years," says Hinman.

Their hope now is to get it back on Christchurch's city tracks for all to enjoy.