Archive | September, 2011

Learning to drive a tramcar

15 Sep

Auckland Dockside trams need to be staffed my drivers usually called “motormen” Even women prefer to be motormen. Around 100 applicants were received for potential motormen. Eight were chosen from a short list of 20. Ages of the eight range from 22 to 70.Two tram drivers from Christchurch, Ken Henderson and Joe Pickering did the training over a short time before the tramway opened in August. Joe, in particular, has been training Christchurch tram drivers over several years. He taught me.
“It’s not rocket science,” he says. But he admits propelling a large tramcar along a busy street can be daunting if one is new to the task. The two Dockline trams are identical to drive with easy self-lapping air brakes. One licence, issued by the tramway, covers both trams. Also the 1.5 km track is not complicated and traffic is light.
“The new Dockline drivers caught on very quickly,” says Joe. A trainer needs to judge the best distance to stand from the rookie motorman – not too close or too far away. “It takes time to build up confidence when training. You have responsibility but no control of the tram.” He says it is important to drive a tourist tram well which usually means smoothly. “I am impressed with the capabilities of the new drivers. But they need to concentrate on honing their skills. Future staff will look up to these initial drivers for guidance and encouragement.”

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Cutest tram you’ll ever see.

10 Sep

Head on down to the Dockline Tram . The cute Brunswick-green 4-wheel tram, No. 44 was the first tram  built locally in 1906 for Auckland’s fledgling tramways. It was  rebuilt from a former freight-car tram, also No. 44, and ran for a time on the Herne Bay line. Additional similar trams were built and dubbed “Dinghies””. They were frequently seen in pairs, “The Twins.” With open motorman compartments, they were ideal for fine balmy days.  Get a ticket to ride and check out the fine kauri woodwork. No 44. is temporarily on loan from MOTAT where it was lovingly restored.

Conflict between cars and trams

10 Sep

It had to happen. A small car and a big tram got into a scrap in Wynyard’s Jellicoe Street. Several blogs have already been penned. The pity of it is that Jellicoe Street is not car free. A Jellicoe Street mall for trams and pedestrians would have been the way to go. We had car free streets on the Christchurch tramway. In Christchurch cars parking on, or too close to, tram tracks was an ongoing woe that no authority took seriously. It was not in the agenda of council parking wardens. I suspect the same situation is replicated in Wynyard Quarter.
These days trams have no privileges over other traffic as one-time was the case. Maybe it is time to readdress the situation. It would be timely. Christchurch trams will run again and on a longer route. Christchurch and Auckland are gunning for modern tramways known as light rail. Auckland’s Dockline Tram is likely to be extended in the shorter term. In five years people might be travelling to work in Wynyard Quarter by tram. Sadly tram tracks are rarely registered in the brain of a motorist navigating into a car park.

Checking out Wynyard Quarter

4 Sep

The trams are so popular. Standing room only at weekends if you can find somewhere to stand. Some media have fired negative comments re the route claiming it has little interest. But I find plenty to interest and when I finally found a space to stands, the tram driver certainly offered great idea for recreation. I spent five years working on the Christchurch trams. So I was surprised at how well Auckland’s rookie trammies were performing in their third week into it. The two red trams are cute. Dockline trams. I love them. The entire concept of Wynyard is an excellent one.