A guide to the Christchurch Tram
during the trip travellers are treated to a guided tour of the city from the driver himself
Since the destructive earthquakes of 2011 the iconic red and yellow trams of Christchurch have been noticeably absent from the city centre. However, November 2014 saw the full return of this metropolitan staple, and today travellers can once again opt to hop aboard the quaint carriages and rattle along the rails through the heart of the Garden City.
What’s more, the return of the Christchurch Tram has been accompanied by a whole host of all-new improvements to the historic attraction, which now offers visitors an immersive and enthralling journey back in time, right in the middle of South Island’s largest city.
The History: The tale of the Christchurch tram from 1880 to 1960
Trams have been criss-crossing their way through the heart of Christchurch since the end of the 19th century, when the city council and the Canterbury Tramway Company opened the very first lines between Cathedral Square and the centre’s various train terminals, using steam locomotives to complete the journeys.
By the end of the 1910's the whole system was gradually being electrified and Christchurch had trams to rival even San Francisco. Passengers would hop on at Worcester Street and ride the lines all the way out to New Brighton, North Beach and Sumner on the bay, while whole suburban districts began to spring up along the routes, with the residents there commuting into town on the carriages every morning.
Unfortunately, after the war the city’s tramlines fell into disrepair and the ascension of diesel buses meant that the historic wagons were to remain inactive until the 1960's, when a group of enthusiastic restorers sought to reintroduce the Christchurch tram to the city. The result was the Tramway Preservation Association, who eventually succeeded in creating a standalone tram route and an adjoining exhibition at the Ferrymead Historic Park.
The arrival to the present day
In 1995 the city council looked once again to trams as a transport solution for the centre, and the result was a small circuit of lines that weaved through the heart of the town, between Worcester Boulevard, Cathedral Square, the edge of Hagley Park and Armagh Street to the north.
In 2005, the focus of this circuit became touristic, and restored carriages from the collections of the Tramway Preservation Association were put back on the rails for the first time since the early 20th century. This gave visitors to the Garden City a unique sightseeing opportunity - to witness Christchurch’s major attractions from the windows of a worthy attraction itself!
Unfortunately, the 2011 earthquakes put the Christchurch tram out of action once more and travellers eager to case out the city in historic style would have to wait another three years to ride the coloured carriages again. But ride again they did, and today the attraction offers visitors one of the most informative journeys through the sections of the city that were completely destroyed in 2011; past the burgeoning Re:Start Mall; along High Street, and beside the rises of Christchurch Cathedral.
What to expect from the Christchurch Tram
Now operated by Christchurch Attractions, the Christchurch tram offers travellers a fascinating trip through the past, present and future of the Garden City.
Not only does the route taken by the rattling historic carriages weave its way past iconic spots like Cathedral Junction, the Canterbury Museum and New Regent Street, but an all-day ticket also allows passengers unlimited travel from morning until night - meaning it’s possible to jump off for a spot of punting on the Avon, a ride on the soaring Christchurch Gondola or go on a walking tour of famous Hagely Park and the Botanic Gardens along the way!
What’s more, during the trip travellers are treated to a guided tour of the city from the driver himself; delving into the long history of the tramlines themselves, exploring the effect of the destructive 2011 quakes, and taking a look at the future plans for the centre, too.
For an added experience, visitors can book a 'Christchurch Tramway Restaurant Dinner Tour' and combine dining with a sightseeing tour aboard a luxury 36 seater, colonial style dining tram.
The Practical Bits
During the summer months (September - March), the Christchurch tram operates every day from 9.00am - 6.00pm, while in the winter (April - August) it goes from 10.00am - 5.00pm.
There are 3-4 trams operating every 15 minutes. In total, a full circuit run takes around 50 minutes with 17 stops.
The journey begins at New Regent Street and passes through Cathedral Junction, Cathedral Square, Canterbury Museum, Hagley Park, Cranmer Square and Victoria Square. There are currently ten stops along the route.
Adult tickets cost $20 and children (5 - 15 years) ride for free. (prices as of February 2015). For more information visit the Christchurch Attractions website.
Photo Credits: Welcome Aboard / 1930's tram image - Transpress NZ