Tram no. 252, displaying the message ‘end of the line’ and driven by Mayor Frank Kitts, travelled from Thorndon to the Zoo in Newtown, Wellington. Large crowds lined the streets to witness the end of electric trams in New Zealand.
In August 1878 Wellington had become the first city in the southern hemisphere to operate a steam tram service. The Wellington City Tramways Company’s route was laid from a terminal near the Government Buildings in Lambton Quay to its depot at the corner of Adelaide Rd and King St. Three small steam engines, ‘Hibernia’, ‘Wellington’ and ‘Zealandia’, each hauled a passenger tramcar; there were also two horse-drawn cars. The fleet grew to eight steam engines, but they were not universally appreciated. They were dirty and their noise frightened horses. By 1892 the company had reverted to horse-drawn trams.
Facing financial problems, the company was purchased by the Wellington City Corporation in 1900. Two years later WCC decided to introduce electric trams. On 30 June 1904, the first electric tram ran from the new depot at Newtown to the northern side of the Basin Reserve. The electric service was extended through the city to the new Lambton railway station at the junction of Thorndon Quay and Featherston St.
In its heyday Wellington’s tramway network covered more than 52 km. The lines required constant maintenance and other users often complained about the state of the roads. The increasing number of private cars and buses eventually forced the closure of New Zealand’s last remaining tramway system in 1964.