World class heritage restoration despite shakes

17 May

Canterbury may have rocked and rolled for the best part of two years but seismic events have not deterred the hardy guys working in Ferrymead’s rambling tram barn down in Christchurch.  Recently I caught up with their latest immaculate restoration, the body of Roslyn electric tramcar No. 1.  It was in the final throes of restoration prior to being on its way to the client, Dunedin’s Otago Settlers Museum.

Past Heritage Tramways Trust president Dave Carr says the project enabled the trust to get sufficient revenue to keep a small team of skilled workers (assisted by volunteers) occupied for 10 months. Previously the trust has relied on revenue from the Christchurch Tramway, closed since the February 2011 earthquake.

It’s a cute tramcar built by J. G. Brill of Philadelphia for New Zealand’s first electric tramway on Dunedin’s Maori Hill line.  It opened on October 23, 1900.  As with all Ferrymead tramcar restorations, Roslyn No. 1 represents world-class heritage craftsmanship.  The project was led by Graeme Richardson.

Restoration materials have included American cherry for panelling and ash for framing, the idea being to emulate original materials as much as possible.

Dave Carr looks forward to seeing the Christchurch city trams going again in the foreseeable future. Apart from providing the struggling Heritage Tramways Trust with much needed income, the tramway will be one of a small number of heritage items returning from the earthquake rubble.

In the meantime, I find it difficult to believe the Ferrymead guys could so calmly watch their painstakingly handiwork disappear from the tram barn on board a truck. Compensation might be in the knowledge Ferrymead has the remains of Roslyn No. 3.  This one will be restored to working order.  Heritage Tramways Trust is completing a former Invercargill Birney Safety car.  It is a joint venture with Christchurch Tramways Ltd, operator of the City Loop tourist tramway.

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