New Zealand's last electric tram trip

2 May 1964

The second-to-last tram at the railway station stop on its way to Newtown (© Chris Bradley)

Tram no. 252, displaying the message ‘end of the line’ and driven by Wellington Mayor Frank Kitts, travelled from Thorndon to Newtown zoo. Large crowds lined the streets to witness the end of electric trams in New Zealand.

In 1878, Wellington had been the first city in the southern hemisphere to operate a steam tram service (see 24 August). This proved unpopular and by 1892 the city had reverted to horse-drawn trams.

Facing financial problems, the Wellington City Tramways Company was purchased by the Wellington City Corporation in 1900. Two years later the WCC decided to introduce electric trams. On 30 June 1904, the first electric tram ran from a new depot in Newtown to the northern side of the Basin Reserve. The system was later extended to the new Lambton railway station at the intersection of Thorndon Quay and Featherston St.

In its heyday, Wellington’s tramway network covered more than 52 km. The increasing number of public buses and private cars eventually forced the closure of New Zealand’s last electric tramway system in 1964.