Thursday, September 30, 2010

Motat's "Big Ben", and other tram stuff

Last Sunday, they inaugurated "Big Ben" on the Western Springs Tramway. Email invitations were sent out to annual pass holders, wee flyers distributed, and there was a small crowd gathered at 11 am.

Here's the tram shed.

On the way to the site outside the tram barn, I not only stopped by at the 1908 rail carriage, but also these items.

For coastal searchlight fans out there, this is a 1939 90cm HCD MK3 searchlight, and Fortress projector MK5, 190,000 candle power.

While this is also World War II vintage: a Fargo Pump Hose Layer, built by the Colonial Motor Company, with Colomoco fire pump.

Okay -- come 11 am, instead of allowing some of us to have a clearer view of the main proceedings, that is, the double-decker 1906 tram coming out of the shed, young ladies in tight-fitting corporate clothing shepherded us on the wrong side. The side closest to people giving speeches on a rostrum. So when Big Ben made its entrance, this is the kind of shot I got.

Ah well ... this one was better.

So -- speeches, lots of back slapping, "haven't we done well", thanks to Auckland ratepayers for funding the decade-long restoration project, etc. Some bloke from Australia representing COTMA (Council of Tramway Museums of Australasia) had a bit of a speech as well. Then, the announcement to us ratepayers -- thanks for coming to the speeches, but now the dignitaries and Australians with bright yellow tags around their necks get the first ride on the track. We Auckland ratepayers had to wait until 1pm. So sorry, but ...

Just my opinion, but -- if Motat want to give their mates from across the Tasman and some VIPs first crack, that's okay -- but don't angle the publicity giving the ratepaying public and annual pass holders the impression that Big Ben was going to be available to everyone from 11 am or soon after. One mother I spoke to was disappointed. Her kiddies wanted a ride, but she wasn't able to hang around until 1 pm.

The look of the thing was -- we members of the public were just there to make the dignitaries look good. Motat staff kept apologising, but, hey ...

So, they were all ready to board their first ride. A second tram pulled up at the rear, bearing the orchestra to seranade them as they went along. Very nice. More "Sorry, this ride is only for yellow pass wearers ..."

I wasn't really doing all that much, so I decided to hang about, have a bit of food, see the sights, and wait for 1 pm when we could get a chance to have a ride.

The other tram came back in, unloaded the musicians ...

And Big Ben was parked while the volunteers went off to have lunch.

Special double-decker or no, there was no way I was riding up top. Getting up might have been okay, but as for getting back down? When I did get a ride, from Motat 2 back to Motat 1, I stayed in the saloon.

Another promised feature was a "parade of trams". Well, no -- logistics prevented them having all eleven of their working trams on the line at one time (they might have blown a whopping great fuse), so they said they'd get them on the line gradually as the afternoon wore on. I got seven out of the eleven (I think) on camera, so that was enough for me. I headed for home.

Below are some movies shot with the camera of a few of Motat's trams that day. Click to go to the Photobucket site.





  1. What a stunning tram!
    Love Big Ben, pity about the yellow pass wearers but the photos are lovely :)
    Hope you enjoyed your ride :)

  2. Cheers, Jayne. Yes, the ride was beaut. Got a commemorative ticket for the day a' all. Big Ben's beautiful, but it doesn't like inclines all that much! :-)

  3. Big Ben looks very fine. Not that Auckland is so cold, but much colder places, including England had double deck open top trams. I think CH had them?

  4. Big Ben was a Wellington tram. But yes, Christchurch had them too. Here’s an article about one under restoration there.

  5. Third vid is an ex Melbourne tram.

  6. Yes, it is. Motat have three ex-Melbourne trams: W2 No. 321, SW6 No. 906 and SW6 No. 893.

  7. As a "Motat Mate" of several years' standing (basically it gives unlimited entry for an annual fee) I read this post with interest because the hiccups you record seem to be symptomatic of the organisation. Scratch the surface, and Motat seems to be a troubled organisation. That the museum is generally good seems due more to the considerable skill, dedication and energy of its many volunteers than the facility's management. Not trying to push an agenda here - just making the comment - my only connection with Motat is as a visitor.

  8. I agree, Phil. I'll second the statement as to the volunteers -- they are brilliant, brilliant people, and what they achieve is amazing. I have a particular soft spot for the trammies, who have in the past shown me around the inside of the tram shed, and even invited me once to the lunchroom to have some tucker with them in a time past. Even on Sunday, one of the volunteers went out of his way to get me one of the glossy promo sheets for Big Ben.

    But -- I did feel the management side of things on Sunday were sacrificing PR values with the general public for preen values with some VIPs.

    Doesn't mean I don't support Motat, and I'll still be a "Motat Mate", but -- next time they do something like this, I'll be asking more questions before, and not just going by their promo blurbs.

  9. I have really enjoyed this Lisa thank you I needed to be reminded of the good times you and I have. Wish I had been there with you last weekend. Great photos awesome post..shame the Management had to be the Village Idiots of the week and ignore the folks who came especially for a ride on the trams. They should have had the VIP's a day earlier perhaps so the public could have the entire day with the trams

  10. Cheers, Liz. Yes, I agree -- the VIP stuff should have been a day earlier. But then, they wouldn't have had the crowds to talk to ...