Archive | February, 2013

Chatting with James – Two

28 Feb

Despite Dockline Tram being hard work from a business point of view, Operations Manager, James Duncan, is an unflagging optimist.  “We are still hoping to be extended to the Voyager Maritime Museum within two years.  Plans have been put forward to then proceed further along Quay Street to the wharf where the cruise ships arrive.  We would then be on doorstep of the tourist heart of downtown Auckland.  The trams would be the most convenient link with Wynyard Quarter giving us a real reason to operate.

Another possibility would be to provide a morning shuttle service to Karanga Plaza for the ASB employees.  A special fare could apply.  James is confident the two veteran trams would handle the task.  2500 employees are expected at the ASB when it opens mid-2013.

“The long-term Auckland plan is to have a modern light rail system going to Saint Heliers.  It should go ahead owing to Aucklanders increasingly using public transport.  They’re fed up with gridlock.  Light rail vehicles are able to carry more people, are predictable and can offer a frequent schedule.  I have ridden on light rail systems in Britain and mainland Europe.  They have all proved their worth, ’’ says James.  In the meantime he hopes the Dockline Tram extension across the Viaduct Basin can be agreed to soon.  So many opportunities are at stake.

Dockline has struck a good deal with the Railway Enthusiasts’ Society to promote Thomas Days at the Glenbrook Vintage Railway.  The trams carry appropriate Thomas advertising.

Thomas day (1024x829) (2)

“Another worthy agreement is with MOTAT for the museum to sub contract a couple of our tram drives for busy days.  We have had no problems when our paid staff work alongside MOTAT volunteers.

“We are also negotiating with Wynyard Quarter restaurants to offer a pre-dinner tram rides with drinks and canapés.

“At present, weekends are the busier days.  Families turn up to the popular childrens’ playground.  The children typically demand a tram ride before they go home.

Wynyard Quarter progress
James says it’s a wonderful development with many activities including the Friday silo markets.  “Silo movies are also a big hit.  It’s like a drive-in. A recent screening of  ‘The Sound of Music’ attracted over 2000 people.  The sound quality and the image projected onto one of the silos were excellent.

He says the Daldy street redevelopment will be superb .  “It will look beautiful right outside our tram barn door.  In the meantime we are getting shaken by the machinery cleaning up the old oil depot.”

The Wynyard cafes etc are doing well with Rushworth and next door Gelato offering discounts to patrons presenting tram tickets.  “The new ASB will have a ground floor of retail shops.  We need novelty-type stores to complement the cafes and bars and to attract cruise ship passengers looking for something different.

“Our staff of five part-timers are just right for us at present.  It’s all working well.”

I spot James’s trammie uniform hanging neatly and ready for use.  He spends one day a week driving the trams to keep his hand in.
As on previous visits, I am impressed by the neatness of the tram barn.

Tram barn (1024x662) (2)

Chatting with James – One

27 Feb

He’s an interesting guy, James Duncan.  He walks in the present but his passions lie in the past – working with heritage tramcars and an old Wurlitzer theatre organ.  He is involved with trams at the Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT) and is Operations Manager of Dockline Tram trundling around the ever changing Wynyard Quarter.  His enthusiasm is contagious.  Of no surprise, one of Dockline Tram’s new products is the Roaring Twenties Tour.

James tells me it follows the very successful Down Memory Lane, a hit with Auckland retirement villages last year.  Down Memory Lane involved old colour movies of tramcars trundling along Auckland’s Queen Street accompanied by fitting music from a heritage Wurlitzer organ housed in Avondale’s Hollywood Cinema.  The organ music was so appreciated James ventured to build on the concept introducing the Roaring Twenties tour.

“Everything is 1920s,” James tells me.  Well not quite.  He insists the morning tea at Rushworth Café in Jellicoe Street is fresh on the day, although its venue in former Jellicoe Wharf shipping sheds is 1920s.  “And the trams are definitely 1920s.  We went to the Organ Trust archives for twenties music and produced great toe-tapping numbers.  The organ performance is accompanied by a 1920s dance band.”

Now, believe me, elderly folk toe-tapping for all they’re worth to tunes of the past is something wonderful to behold.  Twenties devotees can display an amazing zest for living.  James expects the Roaring Twenties tour to be popular especially through the next couple of months when the weather is cooler but agreeable prior to winter.

Garden Tour

For something a tad different, tram driver Susan Walker, “a bit of a botanist” has taken an interest in gardens developing in Wynyard Quarter.  “Unlike your colourful rose gardens, these are very much nature’s gardens.  A lot of thought has gone into the ecology of the area,”  James tells me.  The tour kicks off with a tram ride.  Susan provides a commentary explaining the history of the flora.  A gentle walk follows, down to the Silo Park wetlands garden.  Of special interest is the environmentally conscious processing of the water and drain systems.  Then there is the abundant native plantings creating a green belt along Jellicoe Street.  “They’re all evergreens chosen so the plants can cope with wind and a degree of salt spray,” says James.  In time, the trees will bring back the bird life.  The container information centre in Karanga Plaza is particularly interesting, having a Scandinavian-style living roof.  The tour finishes off at Rushworth Café, then by tram to return to the participants’ transport.

Both new tours are $14 a head, including the tram ride and morning tea.
For more information and bookings phone (09) 377 7701

Return to the Quarter

27 Feb

It’s been almost a year since I was last at Wynyard.  Eye-catching changes include the almost complete ASB Bank building displaying, brilliant, colourful, architecture offering a stunning backdrop to Jellicoe Street.  Another eye reward is the colourful canvas coverings to several tanks in silo park.  The coverings are embossed with lines from the famous poem “Auckland” by CK Stead.

257 new backdrop (1024x715) (2)

Changing skyline (1024x635) (2)

Tank art (1024x668) (2)

Tank corner (1024x595) (2)

I couldn’t keep away from the cafes and bars along North Wharf.  I enjoyed a coffee fix at Rushworth.  A lunch (slightly expensive) was enjoyed at the Merchant of Venice Italian cuisine.  My choice was a salami and bread entree followed by entree-sized mussels with sumptuous toppings.  Accompanying wine was an excellent Red Tussock Pinot Gris – my best pinot gris to date.

Mussels and wine (1024x685) (2)

The sunny wharf-side table setting was idyllic with views of Waitemata Harbour goings on.  Later, curiosity lead me into Living Fish Restaurant for an afternoon beer and chat to Keita Sato, a young Japanese employee.  His working companion was Korean.  Nearby was a tank of barely animated lobster – the live fish.  One eyed me perhaps wishing it would be my first choice.  But I was really interested in a photo.  Although choosing one’s own live fish to dine on is integral to Asian culture, Keita assured me Live Fish is popular with European diners.

Living Fish (1024x685) (2)

I enjoyed an exhibition of sculpture, a Summer of Sculpture event running to March 15.  Of course I rode the trams and chatted to the tramway boss, James Duncan.

Sculpture (2) (755x1024) (2)