For a great couple of hours, at just $5 a head, rest home residents from around Auckland are having a ball visiting Dockline Tram. I join a lively bunch of about 16 such people as they take a tour. It begins with Operations Manager, James Duncan, firing up a video presentation with punters seated in the Tram Barn. The video is a good one. It is largely made from old film shot by an Auckland Tramway employee who worked on the overhead power supply. Thus some interesting angles are presented, as the once familiar tramcars ply Queen Street. The women amongst us marvel at the 1940s ladies’ fashions, the hats in particular. The guys are agog at the American cars. The musical accompaniment is also veteran, it being a composition by well-known English tram devotee and veteran organ performer, Len Rawle. Rawle, a recent visitor to Dockline Tram, plays his composition on Auckland’s 86-year-old Wurlitzer organ. Motorman, Peter Jessup, then takes the group for a couple of circuits while delivering an informative commentary. Peter, a one-time journalist, is well versed in maritime history and events. His elderly passengers are smiling like a bunch of school kids. They laugh when Peter points out the reproduced tram ticket images on the Daldy Street Tram Barn. Those days one could ride a great distance, apparently, for just two pence. The tour pauses at Rushworth Cafe in Jellico Street where cafe staff provide a decorative afternoon tea. 40 minutes later the tram is outside to return the group to the Tram Barn, and their mini bus. Wide smiles confirm it is indeed an excellent outing.
James Duncan, a dinkum trammie, has taken over from John Smith as Operations Manager of Wynyard Quarter’s bustling Dockline Tram. John Smith, Operations Manager of Christchurch Tramway Ltd, relocated to Auckland to oversee the successful introduction of the Dockline project. He is back in Christchurch to be involved in new company projects including the re-introduction of Christchurch trams sidetracked by seismic events. James Duncan has been involved with heritage trams at MOTAT (Museum of Transport and Technology) since age 15. He is a qualified motorman and tram driver trainer. He has a broad heritage interest being chairman and concert manager of Auckland’s Wurlitzer Organ Trust. The 86-year-old Organ was installed in the Regent Theatre in 1926 to replace live musicians accompanying silent films. The organ, a creation of American Rudolph Wurlitzer Company, differs from a traditional church organ, it being more of a show-performance instrument. Look out for James in the Tram Barn (at the cnr. of Daldy and Pakenham Streets.) He’s the tall pleasant guy in his motorman’s uniform.