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All aboard the shiny new Tram 17

The fully-restored Tram 17. PHOTOS/SUPPLIED

BECKIE WILSON
[email protected]

Ten thousand hours over four-and-a-half-years has seen the completion of Gladstone couple Greg and Ali Lang’s biggest restoration project yet – the last surviving tram from Wellington’s original 1904 electric tram fleet.

The Langs run The Wheelwright Shop and said the project had been “a big part of our lives”.

The main body of Tram 17 after being removed from its chassis about two years ago.

Tram 17 entered service when electric trams were introduced in Wellington in 1904, and was used on various routes around Wellington, including Oriental Parade, Island Bay and Karori.

It was withdrawn in the mid-1940s, and then served as a holiday bach in Jeep Rd, Raumati South.

But was in a dilapidated state when it was donated to the Wellington Tramway Museum, based in Kapiti’s Queen Elizabeth Park, in 1986.

It was stored undercover in the museum until 2014, before a conservation plan was created, which led to The Wheelwright Shop winning a tender for its restoration.

Greg, who is a Carterton District councillor, said it was “totally satisfying” to see the tram being removed from the work shed.

The biggest challenge was due to the fact most of the tram had degraded, and pieces were missing.

“Back in the day there were only grainy photos taken of the outside and none of the inside,” he said. That made an exact restoration a challenge.

There was a lot of fabrication of the tram with help from a couple of contractors.

The tram was a catalyst in the change of tram seating after a conductor on Tram 17 died in 1913 after he fell out of the tram as it travelled along Oriental Parade.

In those days, there were no aisles in trams preventing internal movement by passengers or the conductor.

The interior of the fully-restored Tram 17.

An act was then passed through Parliament that required all trams to have aisles.

Tram 17 committee chairman Keith McGavin said it was a mammoth project because there was so much to do.

New parts had to be made, old parts restored, and identical parts from other trams used, he said.

“It’s probably the biggest project they’ve ever done because the tram was in a pretty sorry state, but it has been brought right back to life.

“They’ve done a fantastic job . . . they’re experts in heritage-type vehicles.”

Last year, the husband and wife team celebrated their 20th year running their business out of the old Gladstone Store.

Ali and Greg Lang.

In that time, they have been approached to build carts and wagons to order, and many one-off restoration projects.

Early last year, one of their creations was at the forefront of the latest Whittaker’s toffee chocolate promotion videos.

The cart was a replica of the cart Whittaker used in the early 1900s.

Another highlight was the restoration of the Wellington Cable Car “Grip Car No. 3” which is now in the Wellington Cable Car Museum.

Tram 17 was trucked from Gladstone back to Kapiti last week, before cranes lifted and lowered it on to a support base at the park, and it was pushed into the museum.

The tram will be a static display at Wellington Tramway Museum for a while until it becomes operational again.

The restoration cost about $350,000, with funding coming from Lotteries, various community trusts, and donations from the public.

They have a handful of other projects on the go including the restoration of two Mainline Steam carriages. – with NZME

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