The inner city’s trams are iconic Christchurch at its best. But the latest addition to Christchurch Attractions’ eye-catching fleet is Tram 1888 – a handsome blue R-class with a very colourful life.
Built in 1934 and leased from the Sydney Tramway Museum, Tram 1888 started life at the Fort Macquarie Depot – now the location of the Sydney Opera House. It was used on the city’s Watson’s Bay line until the Fort Macquarie Depot closed in 1955 and even received air raid precaution modifications to minimise window damage during World War II.
From 1955 to 1960, the tram was shuffled around Sydney depots until the body was written off and sold to a tobacco farmer in New South Wales, where it accommodated seasonal farm hands for 24 years until 1984, when the farmer donated the battered tram body to a local council interested in its preservation.
The restoration involved removing hundreds of nails that had been hammered into the inside of the body for coat hooks, lantern holders and clotheslines. The tram was furnished with original R-class seats before being put on display in Bondi Junction for five years. In 1993, it entered storage before the Sydney Tramway Museum took responsibility for it in 2000.
The museum shipped Tram 1888 to Bendigo, where it was restored to an operational level. In subsequent years, it was put on display in Melbourne, repainted and used on a tour around Melbourne’s tram system. In 2009, Tram 1888 was leased to Auckland’s Museum of Transport and Technology, before being leased to Christchurch Attractions late last year.