Kids Go Free in July

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Kids Go Free in July

Tuesday, July 4th, 2017

The school holidays are here and we have some great deals for entertaining the kids. Kids travel for FREE on the Gondola and Tramway, whilst we have a discounted family rate for the jet boat in Hanmer.


Gondola Rides

Email - GondolaValid from Saturday 4 July to Sunday 19 July 2017 the Gondola is offering up to three children for free with each paying adult between 4-19 July inclusive. With awe-inspiring scenic views on the ride to the top of Mount Cavendish the Gondola is a great way to keep the kids entertained. Children must be 15 years or younger.


Christchurch Tramway

Email - TramDon’t forget up to three children can travel for free when accompanying a paying adult. It’s great value, and there is always something new to see in our rebuilding city centre.

Children must be 15 years or younger.

Jetboat Ride

photoshoped-jet-smallIf you would prefer the thrill of a high-speed jet boat ride, join us for an exciting adventure on the Waiau River on board our Hanmer Springs Jet during the school holidays! We’re offering a discounted family ticket rate of $249 for two adults and up to three children between 4-19 July inclusive. Bookings are essential, so check out our website for further information and and to book your tickets.




Pop into our attractions and visit us these school holidays!

Welcome Aboard China

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

China is set to become a significant source of visitors to Christchurch and New Zealand.

I recall early Chinese visitors on the trams. Initially they lacked a little of the sophistication of the Japanese visitors we had become acquainted with. I was therefore impressed by the speed at which visitors from China became a new wave of accomplished travellers.

Last weekend I spent an enjoyable half-day joining Tan Xiutian, Consul General of China in Christchurch, her husband Zhang (Jason) and family members on some Welcome Aboard attractions: Caterpillar Botanic Gardens Tour, Punting on the Avon, and the Christchurch Tram.

The Gardens Tour began following an exchange of gifts between the Chinese VIP visitors and Welcome Aboard Managing Director Michael Esposito. Consul General Tan Xiutian presented Michael with an impressive book of New Zealand photographs compiled by Jason. The text included an English translation. I quickly made friends with Jason, an accomplished photographer.

Also impressive were our staff assigned to escort the Chinese group: Jurgen Wagner (Gardens Tour), Adrian Ramsay (Punting) and Valerie Mayer (Tram).

Jurgen impressed with his in-depth knowledge of the Botanic Gardens and his style of commentary.

“There are 2000 trees in the Botanic Gardens and each one has a story,” he told us, before saying, “I know the stories of about 1,900 of them.” Interestingly, Jurgen has attracted commendable respect from Botanic Gardens gurus for his botanical knowledge and Caterpillar commentary.

It was a glorious morning for a punt trip from the Antigua Boat Sheds. Autumn colours are appearing along the river. Adrian was able to greet the VIPs with a little Mandarin.

This was followed by a ride from the Museum to New Regent Street on Tram No. 11, the immaculate Box Car, with Valerie in charge.

When I asked (over a Chinese lunch in Cathedral Junction) what stood out as a visitor attraction, the Consul General enthused, “All of it.”

She expressed a wish for China Southern Airlines to make Christchurch a regular destination.  The airline had recently visited, making the inaugural visit of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Jason said a problem with Chinese visitors is their rush to get through the South Island. It has been a long-time problem for Asian visitors.

He would recommend spending two days in Christchurch. Welcome Aboard attractions could easily provide a day’s great activities – something to work on perhaps.

When we parted, going our separate ways, I had made some new friends.


Red Rock Café Lifting Its Game

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

Emma Cunningham has taken over management of the Christchurch Gondola’s popular Red Rock Café.

I caught up with Emma on her third day on the job and found her upbeat about the café’s future.

“I was here before. I am now back in the driver’s seat,” enthuses Emma.

While confirming Red Rock Café has been operating well since the Gondola attraction re-opened a year ago – it was closed for two years following the February 2011 earthquakes – she thinks it is time to take the café to a new level.

“With the great team here we are certainly capable of a lot more,” she says.

Her aim is for visitors to Christchurch and locals to perceive Red Rock Café as a destination rather than somewhere to enjoy a coffee, snack or lunch while taking in the view.

“We are keen to showcase what New Zealand has to offer in cuisine and beverages. We will look at our beer and wine selections while offering free-range products along with selections of the best cheeses, salmon and pork.

“Improvements will evolve around food quality and service. Having well-trained baristas, our coffee is outstanding.”

Other projects being considered include wine tastings and opening some evenings for locals, perhaps for a Sunday roast?

“We want to see people stay at the café a little longer, enjoying a second coffee or beer. Annual Pass holders will be particularly welcomed.”

A children’s corner has been reinstated.

Emma brings a ton of hospitality experience to her appointment. She has operated catering organisations and owned two South Island Coffee Culture franchises. She is also studying to be a hospitality life coach qualified to teach adult students.

“Hospitality is a living, breathing, growing beast,” says Emma.   

In the meantime she is researching other well-known cafes in tourist destinations such as Queenstown and Rotorua.

“We need to know how the Red Rock Café compares. One of our points of difference is baking and preparing everything on the premises. A lot of cafes are brings things in on frozen slabs.

“People going to cafes and restaurants are looking for something different. Many will research reviews such as those on TripAdvisor. Our future will rely on our reputation. Word of mouth counts for everything,” says Emma. 

My Red Rock Café visit is on an overcast day of drizzle. The view is playing peek-a-boo with a white veil. Nevertheless the café is buzzing. Emma is called away to help during our interview.

Riding the Gondola down and arriving at the base station I meet up with Ray Pyne driving the Welcome Aboard Grand Tour. On board I am greeted by 24 smiling passengers undeterred by the cloudy day. 


Great Deal for Christchurch Locals

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

Welcome Aboard’s Annual Pass for locals has got to be the greatest deal going for Christchurch says Tramway Operations Manager John Smith. Sales have been gathering momentum, particularly following the re-start of the city’s heritage trams.

So what is the deal?

Annual Pass cost: $55 for an individual adult and $119 for a family comprising two adults and up to three children aged 15 and under.

Annual Pass includes: unlimited rides on both the Christchurch Tram and Christchurch Gondola for one year from the date of purchase.

Annual Passholders are also offered 30% off other Welcome Aboard attractions (including Punting on the Avon, Caterpillar Botanic Gardens Tour and Thrillseekers Adventures Jet Boat rides in Hanmer Springs) as well as a 10% discount on retail goods at the Gondola’s well-stocked Shop at the Top. An Annual Pass does not need much use to pay for itself!

The Annual Pass was introduced when the Wood Scenic Line took over the Tramway and Port Hills Gondola attractions in early 2005. The company, now trading under the Welcome Aboard Christchurch brand, understood locals saw their attractions as existing purely for tourists.

 “The reality is we are involved in the community,” says Smith. “The Annual Pass enables the community to have some ownership in what we offer.”

 Presently about 7000 locals enjoy using an Annual Pass.

 Welcome Aboard perceives the trams as being part of the rebuild. They are providing an attraction at a time when Christchurch has less to offer, for children in particular. Flamboyant developer Anthony Gough is looking forward to the trams being part of his spectacular Oxford Terrace redevelopment.

Pre-earthquake pass holders with time left on their passes as of 22 February 2011 have been able to make use of that remaining time with the clock ticking from when the trams restarted last November. It was a generous offer returning positive feedback for the company.

 “Renewals are coming through with pass holders commenting on the great look of the spruced up trams and they look forward to the extension through City Mall opening.

“It is great to see so many children riding the trams with their parents. They absolutely love their tram rides. We also see their great excitement when they call in to the Cathedral Junction Tram Station ticket office,” Smith says.

 Up at the Gondola’s Red Rock Café a steady flow of Annual Pass holders flow through. The café is a popular morning coffee venue for mothers after dropping their children off at school. They are followed by those calling for a sociable lunch, and after school can also be a popular time.

 To purchase an Annual Pass call in and see the Welcome Aboard staff at either the Cathedral Junction Tram Station or Gondola Base Station. 

Sharing a Special Moment

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Among the pleasures of being a punter on the Avon is sharing in special anniversaries, says Adrian Ramsay.

Last Saturday – the third anniversary of Christchurch’s destructive earthquake that took 185 lives – two people had pre-booked a punt ride from Antigua Boatsheds departing at 12:30 pm. They wished for their river experience to coincide with the conclusion of the memorial service being held in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens. Adrian says it was indeed a memorable anniversary for the couple on two counts. They were married 23 years previously on February 22, and three years ago the woman, Liz, had been in her top floor office in the CTV building when the earthquake struck. She rode the building as it collapsed.  The CTV building claimed 115 lives that day.

Adrian’s punt Mary arrived at a crowded footbridge right on cue. The final act of the memorial service was to toss flowers into the river as a tribute to those who perished on February 22, 2011. The punt slid under the bridge, parting the brightly-coloured floating summer blooms.

“They were both celebrating the day; being alive and well and the emotions of punting through that large crowd of people throwing vast amounts of flowers into the river. It was a wonderful and emotional experience,” says Adrian.

 “As a long-time punter on the Avon I often have the privilege of sharing such special occasions. To be part of our clients’ special day is a particularly rewarding part of my job. It is the reason I love this work.”


Support for Christchurch

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

A tramway colleague told me his visitors from Britain had been advised to give Christchurch a miss, with there being nothing to do in the earthquake-wrecked city. Sadly, the story is not an isolated tale. Too many international tourist booking agencies still believe Christchurch is a disaster zone.

This is despite prestigious Lonely Planet guide recommending Christchurch as a city to visit in 2013, which prompted a request from Singapore Airlines for a story titled Christchurch Arising (published in Silverkris inflight magazine February 2013).

This year Christchurch was rated number two on the New York Times’ list of recommended cities to visit.

The fact is Christchurch has much to offer visitors. Our Welcome Aboard Christchurch company has made a huge contribution to visitor attractions by re-opening the Gondola on the Port Hills a year ago and more recently the buzzing city heritage tramway. A Welcome Aboard daily Grand Tour provides the ideal package for an active day in the city at a great price.

Add to that the many funky cafes and a colourful shipping container shopping mall along with brilliant street art appearing on blank city walls, festivals and stunning exhibitions (don’t miss the Oi You Rise street art exhibition at Canterbury Museum, which is on Rolleston Avenue across from a tram stop).

Singapore Airlines general manager for New Zealand Edwin Chiang, recently in Christchurch, advises Tourism New Zealand and airlines to keep reminding potential inbound tourists that Christchurch is on the road to recovery from the quakes.

Singapore Airlines added additional flights to Christchurch this summer (in addition to its daily direct service between Christchurch and Singapore) and plans to do the same for the next summer season. The airline is also refitting aircraft used on its service to and from Christchurch.

Chiang said the Christchurch recovery, in his view, was moving in the right direction and was being assisted by increasing accommodation options.

Welcome Aboard’s heritage tramway offers the ideal way to experience the city and hear about what happened as a result of earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 along with the exciting future already being created here in the city.

The Tram Station ticket office at the Cathedral Junction tram stop offers information and tickets for other Welcome Aboard attractions. Don’t miss the Caterpillar Botanic Gardens Tour or Punting on the Avon, the latter accessed from two tram stops.

love Chch 178 NR St Floral festival 2014

At Last Christchurch is Buzzing

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

After all the earthquake woes Christchurch is buzzing.

Our city was chosen by Lonely Planet as a city to visit in 2013.

This year the New York Times has come to the party, choosing us as their number two spot for cities to visit during 2014.

Resilience, clever reuse of rubble space, greening and new architecture such as the Transitional (cardboard) Anglican Cathedral have been amongst the point-scoring achievements.

The trams have been well patronised since their re-start in November. Businesses are returning to Cathedral Junction: especially pleasing to see was the re-opening of the delightful Seasons café this week. And the Tram Station ticket office attracts a steady stream of people keen to make the most of their visit to Christchurch.

Nearby New Regent Street is threatening to burst as its quaint shops fill with attractive boutique businesses.  The Wizard of New Zealand has found a congenial location in the street. He says he aims to have as much fun as he possibly can.

Attention-grabbing murals are appearing on once unappealing blank walls. A satisfying challenge is to combine street art as a backdrop to a tram photo. Particularly impressive is the work by Melbourne street artist Rone in Worcester Street near Cathedral Junction. The blank brick wall appeared following demolition of the long-standing Press building.

Several street artists have been busy in the central city with their paint spray cans, participating in New Zealand’s first Street Art Festival. And a brilliant street art exhibition ‘Oi You Rise’ is displayed over three levels of the CanterburyMuseum.

The works of well-known local and international urban artists include a stylised pre-quake Christchurch street and graffiti-covered versions of famous artworks such as the Rita Angus work depicting Cass.

Not to be missed, and offering choice subjects for the camera, the exhibition continues until March 23. The museum is conveniently close to a tram stop.

With so much happening in our buzzing city, tram drivers report not having time to talk about them all.

No wonder prestigious publications are giving our city the thumbs up.

Come and check us out.








Thoughts From Week One

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

The death of Nelson Mandela is a great loss to humanity. He sought no revenge for his many years of unjust imprisonment after merely making a stand for what he believed. As president of South Africa he worked to unite a country divided by race and economics. We can be assured his passing after a long life has ensured the world is a better and fairer place.

I spent a day in the city last week following the trams with my camera. Pleasingly, the two trams (No.11 and the Birney No.15) were well patronized throughout the day. I got to chat with Paulus & Lou, the coffee makers in Cathedral Square. They were providing excellent coffee and snacks from their booth. They gained their expertise from many years of servicing coffee machines. I expect they learned a lot, as their street-side coffee is well up there with the best café fare.

I also chatted with George from the Swiss Café in Cathedral Junction. He was putting in the final touches in preparation for re-opening next week. His outdoor tables and colourful flower boxes look enticing.

I also heard of visitors arriving in Christchurch only to be seen wandering aimlessly amongst the noise and rubble of our recovering city. It got me thinking that visitors to Christchurch need to arrive with a plan: good advice for visiting any city I reckon.

There is no need to wander aimlessly here. A Welcome Aboard Grand Tour trip solves everything while in the company of one of their exceptional coach driver-guides. Visitors get to experience many Christchurch attractions along with finding out what happened here during the drastic seismic events three years ago and why the locals have been voted amongst the world’s most resilient. Rather than focusing on the negatives of the quakes, the tour instead highlights the positives and gives customers a chance to experience Christchurch attractions that are up and running again. It fills the day pleasantly and explores spots otherwise likely to be missed by many tourists. Feedback from satisfied tour-goers have definitely given the experience the thumbs-up.

 Bookings can be made at the Welcome Aboard office in Cathedral Junction (a stop on the heritage tram route) or customers can book online at

Visitors with more time in the city can take the TranzAlpine train, which departs Christchurch daily for the town of Greymouth along one of the world’s best scenic rail journeys. The train can also be an excellent first leg for a tour of the South Island’s West Coast, venturing through glacier country and the adventure centres of Central Otago. Find out more at

It is time for Christchurch to sound a trumpet and announce the great things on offer here for visitors. Our city really is a fantastic place to visit.






Tramway Opens

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

November 27, 2013

It was a great day for Christchurch with the official opening of the Christchurch Tramway this morning. A delightful event was held in Cathedral Junction in which Mayor Lianne Dalziel cut the yellow ribbon. The Wizard of New Zealand cast, hopefully, kindly spells and set off some fireworks. Then the trams were loaded with VIP guests to take them on a trip through the city.  It could not have been a better event.

The mayor was photographed at the controls of the Birney No. 15 and the Boxcar No.11. She looked the natural trammie. No doubt her motor-biking skills were rubbing off.

Despite a grey, drizzly day the trams continued to be popular. Already they are boosting Christchurch’s economy, promising brighter days ahead for struggling Christchurch.






I Was Thinking…

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

  … if  I was a visitor to Christchurch what would I want to do?

My wish list quickly assembles:

• Hear about the effects of the earthquakes.

• Visit the Botanic Gardens one hears so much about. The venue attracts 1,000,000 visitors annually.

• Have some sort of boating experience on the river.

• View Christchurch, the plains and mountains from the Port Hills.  Locals just don’t stop talking about it.

• Take a ride on one of the immaculately-presented heritage trams.

• Check out the so-called transitional cardboard cathedral.

A big ask?

I could accomplish all this by joining a daily Welcome Aboard Grand Tour. In a sense, the tour would join me when it picked me up from my accommodation.

For the $119 ticket price  I would experience many principal city attractions including a punt ride on the river with a chatty punter looking very English in boater hat and attire. Suits me not to paddle my own boat – I would get lost or capsize for sure.

Next would be a guided Botanic Gardens tour in a curious electric vehicle called a ‘Caterpillar’. From the brochure that’s exactly what it looks like.

Then our friendly driver would take me to the Gondola to climb into one of their cable cars and soar to a magnificent viewpoint on the Port Hills. Great café there I hear.

After a detour through the attractive Sumner seaside village, the tour driver would finally hand me a day pass (hop-on hop-off) to ride the heritage trams. Here I would eye-ball what earthquakes have wrought in the city, hear about personal experiences, learn about amazingly resilient people and feel their excitement for the city’s brighter future starting to happen.

And I would discover the cardboard cathedral was a short walk from one of the tram stops, as is the funky Re-start mall created from brightly painted shipping containers.

The tour is aboard a comfortable air-conditioned coach with welcoming, knowledgeable driver. But it is apparent  I would not become too comfortable. The day involves a lot of participation with an element of fun. Just the package to tick all the wish list boxes. The one thing to do in Christchurch. 







Trams Boost Morale and Business – Says New Regent Street Ambassador

Monday, November 25th, 2013

What a great time we are all having again in our beautiful New Regent street.

 Over the weekend the Street was so very busy with many familiar faces of returning local visitors.

 Tourists from everywhere and the bus depot travellers as well all contributed to a very successful weekend. Everyone just loved the Trams being back !!

 Tom’s fitness event also did well on Saturday bringing extra people in.

 The hustle and the bustle was wonderful to be amongst, and many stores saw more people than usual inside their lovely shops buying up goodies – just like older times.

 It shows us all how valuable our trams are to increasing tourists attractions here in Christchurch, and how fortunate we are to have this wonderful attraction in our Street.

 I found taking a ride through to the Square proved very successful being able to greet those who were visiting and to promote our area here in New Regent Street. I just loved it all.

 Thank you so much Tram Drivers and your Directors etc for making it all happen!!


Very kind regards

Betty Hazeldine


New Regent street



Day One

Sunday, November 24th, 2013

Word had got out and they were eagerly waiting in Cathedral Junction to see the trams towed out ready to resume public services, the first since the devastating earthquake forced the tramway closure on February 22, 2011.

November 21, 2013 turned out to be a significant day for our Christchurch Tramway.  The newly-restored Birney No 15 was the first tram off the rank. It headed off soon after 9 am with a full load of passengers. I was delighted to see the cameras pointed out the windows, anticipating Christchurch views worthy of recording.

The Birney was joined by the Box Car No 11 and occasionally the Brill, No 178. One tram was intermittingly used for driver training. The abbreviated route as far as the Arts Centre  and the need to return the same way, passing opposing trams  in Cathedral Square,  proved to be problem free. Trams were well patronised throughout the day. New Regent Street businesses, especially cafes, reported a boon in patronage. Luckily the day was warm, helping to bring folk out.

That the tramway re-opening was greeted with enthusiasm and as another indication of returning normality, there was no doubt.

Tram staff enjoyed the busy day. Four drivers and two ticket-selling hosts were on duty. I was intrigued to see Masa back in Cathedral Square with his money bag, enticing passers-by to take a tram ride. Interestingly I heard the same questions asked  as were in previous times. Suddenly the woes of the last three years seemed to have never existed. 





Red Letter Day For A Red Tram

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

Thursday November 14, 2013

Spanking No. 11 ventures into New Regent Street for the first time in almost three years – or 1000 days as our MD Michael Esposito says. The occasion is recording an item for that evening’s  TV-3 Campbell Live. Motorman Ken Henderson is already on first- name terms with camerman JB and  television reporter, John Selwood. They had previously recorded an item in the Ferrymead Tram barn relating to preparing the trams for their return to city streets.

JB captures some remarkable images, some with a small Procam mounted on the tram. The opening sequence of No. 11 departing Cathedral Junction is memorable. Then  Michael Esposito is wired up for an interview as No.11 rolls between the recently refurbished Spanish Mission facades.

Michael, on camera, points to an empty street and struggling businesses. Before long the tram is drawing people from the woodwork till quite a crowd assembles.

Delighted shop owners express their enthusiasm for the return of the trams.

Other views, taken at the Ferrymead tram barn, feature tram restorer, Graeme Richardson, tram driver Carl Eijkman and engineer Steve Lea. All speak well ensuring an excellent image for our company. Heritage trams have that rare knack of drawing the best from those working with them.

My pick is the description Ken gives to the reporter when asked about driving  the trams. So good it is, the item concludes with Selwood telling  Ken, “I think you are a Tramway poet.’’

 I can assure you that moniker will deservedly stick.

If you missed the item, view it on TV3 website.   




Rebirth of a Birney Tramcar

Monday, October 28th, 2013

If you have $400.000 to spend on your next vehicle and are able to provide around 24,000 hours of paid and voluntary labour, then you, too, could be the proud owner of a magnificently restored heritage tramcar.

Those stats are basics for the Birney No.15 Tramcar soon to be let loose, splendidly, on the re-opened city tramway.

Other stats apply, including time.  The restoration project began on December 9, 2009.  Those were confident, heady, days when a tramway extension was being constructed, requiring a larger city tram fleet.

No-one considered the possibility of violent movements in the earth’s crust beneath Christchurch, causing two years of disabling seismic events.

Yet, the Birney rebuild project went on, mostly in the ramshackle tram barn at FerrymeadHeritagePark, reaching a happy conclusion about a week ago.  It was the first joint-venture project of Christchurch Tramway Limited and Ferrymead-based Heritage Tramways Trust.  Looking at the finished tramcar decked out in the livery of former Invercargill Tramways, one can only marvel at the outcome.

The Birney Tramcar has its origins in 1915 when American guys Charles Birney and Joseph Bossenbury came up with the concept of a smaller tramcar to combat the increasing use of the omnibus and private motor car.  Most Birney Tramcars, including No.15, were manufactured in America by J. G. Brill.

No.15 ran on Invercargill’s Tramways from December 20,1921 to May 31, 1952.  During its final run many components were souvenired rendering the tramcar inoperable.  As with many other redundant tramcars, No.15 became a sleep out for many years prior to being discovered by Ferrymead’s Tramway Historical Society.

I documented much of the restoration project, beginning when the derelict body was lifted from Ferrymead and transported to Andy Rowe’s workshop in Hazeldean Road for dismantling.  By some small miracle the body stayed intact during lifting.  Much of the metal bodywork could subsequently be easily crushed to rust fragments.

Graeme Richardson ably led most of the restoration project, frequently utilising techniques, such as hot riveting, familiar to early twentieth-century trades people.

Along with previous Ferrymead tramcar restorations, the quality of heritage construction and attention to detail has been world class.  Even final lettering, has been done with genuine gold leaf in 1920s style.

I have to wonder if the finished project is a restoration or replica?  Some timber has been re-used but little else.  It does, however look exactly as it would have when first rolled onto Invercargill’s tramway in 1921.

The tramcar was on display at Ferrymead for the Labour Day weekend New Zealand Railways 150th anniversary commemorations.  It will be relocated to its new home in the city within the next week or so.

B irney departs Ferrymead Birney 15 TO (2) Birney-15 (1280x821)

Aussie Natural Disaster

Monday, October 21st, 2013

News of devastating bush fires in Australia is an annual event.  This year, fires sweeping Blue Mountains rural regions west of Sydney have claimed one life and 200 or so homes.  Part of the tragedy is that it is another four months to high summer when such natural disasters are typically anticipated.

Us Christchurch people are no strangers to natural disasters in the wake of seismic events destroying much of our city and thousands of homes.  But there are more reasons to feel for the Australians:

I have just heard the mayor of Katoomba on National Radio saying New Zealanders are not only “Our neighbours, they are also our mates.”

It is no surprise a contingent of Kiwi fire fighters is ready to go and help more than 2000 New South Wales counterparts who have been working around the clock over several days.

I have many a fond memory of the Blue Mountains and the train ride from Sydney.  It is a region of smaller, idyllic, towns, great walking trails and the principal centre at Katoomba, astride an impressive canyon.  A great place to go to when wanting to escape big, bustling, Sydney.  My most recent visit was when driving back to Sydney from Cowra.  I detoured for a coffee stop and to photograph the region’s well-known landmark, The Three Sisters, in afternoon light.  The towering rock features looked surreal.  The memory lingers….

Three Sisters

Worthy Beneficiary

Monday, October 21st, 2013

Down at the Tram Barn in FerrymeadHeritagePark last week I spotted a mammoth tramcar restoration project in its initial stages – the Hills car No.24.  The Tramcar was built in 1912, one of 13 trams eventually assigned to the new route up Hackthorne Road to the Sign of the Takahe terminus opened in May that year.  It was the No.2 Cashmere route.  In the reverse direction it was No.1 route to Papanui.

Christchurch Hills combination trams were distinguished by their additional braking.  I remember very well riding them, always thinking, “Will we make it up the hill?”  We always did.

No.24 experienced several changes over the years in body design and livery.  It is being restored to its 1950 appearance, a period many Christchurch people will remember.  It will be green with a yellow waist band.

The Ferrymead-based Tramway Historical Society is known for meticulous world class heritage restoration.  This effort is predicted to cost around $400,000.  Funds have come from various sources such as the Lotteries Commission.  Another important income stream will be re-instated when the Christchurch Heritage Trams returns to the streets later in October.

The city trams are leased from the Heritage Tramways Trust associated with the Tramway Historical Society.

Regrettably, media reports focus solely on how much the Christchurch City Council is forking out to re-start the city tram.  While accurate, such reports fail to mention that, while the infrastructure is built and maintained by the Christchurch City Council, it is leased by a private company, Christchurch Tramway Limited, to operate the system as a sort of franchise.

The Christchurch Tramway Limited pays its own employees and pays the Christchurch City Council to use the tram track and its overhead power supply, plus tram stops.

And, Christchurch Tramway Limited will assist the on-going heritage tramcar restoration at Ferrymead.  Funding for this work has been limited while the city tramway was shut down for almost three years.  We can therefore expect multi benefits from the return of the trams, not to mention the boost to Christchurch’s all important visitor attractions.


Trams Ready

Sunday, October 20th, 2013

The best part of three years have passed since the Christchurch Tramway was derailed by violent seismic events, principally those of February 22, 2011.  Along with the tramway much of the central city was wantonly trashed, including our much loved Anglican Cathedral that for a little over a century was the city’s proud centrepiece.

The Heritage Trams were mostly unscathed.  (Although had No.178 departed the Cathedral Square stop a few seconds before it did on the fateful February day, it would have been buried in heavyweight masonry from the collapsing Regent building.)  Four trams were relocated to FerrymeadHeritagePark.  Needing to be stored outdoors for some months, including one winter, they deteriorated.  Hence a thorough makeover in recent months, and the addition of another pristine restoration, the former Invercargill Birney No.15.

Makeover work has been painstaking.  Signwriting has in some cases been done in gold leaf, replicating the craftsmanship of the era each tramcar was created in by master craftsmen.

The trams are scheduled to be back on city centre streets by the end of October, albeit initially running a reduced route from New Regent Street to Canterbury Museum/Botanic Gardens and return.  Early next year the route will be extended along Oxford Terrace (the former Strip) to the re-start Mall and on to High Street.  The full 2.5 km original loop will hopefully be reinstated by this time next year.

I dropped by the Ferrymead Tram Barn last Friday.  No.178 and the newly restored Birney No.15 were outside being equipped with VDU screens and associated GPS technology for the new-style tramway attraction, much of it the creation of local companies, Whitebait TV Productions and HitLab. Whitebait had already done projects for our Port Hills Gondola attraction, re-opened earlier this year.

VDU screens are appropriately sized for the task without being overwhelming.  The idea is to display views of how things looked before the earthquakes along with visions of the future.  Promos for other Welcome Aboard attractions will be included.  The traditional live motorman’s commentary, a key component of the tramway experience, will also be delivered.

Needless to say, the trams ready to return to the city are resplendent.  The lovely Boon No.152 is in the tram barn being worked on.

The spruced up Heritage Trams will indeed be treats on the streets.  Hopefully they will be welcomed as another significant step towards normality in Christchurch.


Being Prepared

Sunday, August 11th, 2013

Like proficient Boy Scouts, a team of devotees is ensuring the tramcars will be smart and ready for the Christchurch City Tramway re-opening presently expected during this October.  As well as the Invercargill Birney No.15 making its debut on city tracks, the existing fleet is getting a makeover.  Some work involves a thorough tidy-up.  Other tramcars, including Boxcar No.11, are having a more comprehensive repair and repaint.  I enjoy frequent visits to the Tram Barn at FerrymeadHeritagePark to keep pace with progress.  Last week I met Jeff Harvey of Ashburton’s Harvey Signs & Graphics.  He is a traditional sign-writer in a real sense, preferring to work with old-time methods utilising gold leaf or non-tarnishing aluminium rather than modern computer-generated graphics.  I found him working on No.11 which has extensive timber repairs and a total repaint.  Appreciating the fact the tramcar was preserved in 1974 by the Tramway Historical Society to represent how it was when it arrived from J.G. Brill of Philadelphia in 1903 to inaugurate the Dunedin Corporation electric tramway, Jeff is reproducing the sign-writing close to as it would have been that year.  He was utilising early twentieth century sign-writing methods.  I found him brandishing gold leaf work with an appropriate brush.  He cannot touch the tram body.  If he does, finger grease will attract the fine specks of airborne gold.  It will not look good when the bodywork is sealed with a clear lacquer.  The completed work I experienced looked superb.

Jeff has also been commissioned to sign-write the recently completed Birney No.15.  He is looking forward to working with his gold and aluminium materials on the Birney’s darker burgundy finish.

He told me, from a young age, he never wanted to do anything but sign-writing.  And he gets most pleasure from preserving a traditional sign-writing craft.  Somewhat appropriate to heritage tramcars.  It all had me thinking of the enhanced attraction of our Christchurch tramcar fleet.  Not only are they genuine vehicles having steel wheels running on steel rails, the uncompromised heritage nature of the tramcars is quite a rarity worldwide.  How good is that?

Jeff Harvey (1280x802)

No 11 details (678x1024)

Tram Barn 08 13 (1280x723)

Leafy nights switch on

Sunday, July 21st, 2013

Christchurch Botanic Gardens was transformed into a multi-coloured wonderland on the first of the leafy nights light up.  The event, TV 2 Kids Fest coincides with the Botanic Gardens 150th anniversary.  Flame throwing entertainers greeted those arriving after dark.  A series of innovative tree light-ups and lights forming the shape of a tree hut followed by a lit-up World Peace Bell and gnomes in trees.  Familiar features such as the popular rose statue took on a new look with cleverly-placed lighting.  The effects were stunning and undoubtedly the result of painstaking preparation.  A light show in motion on pavements had people guessing where to place their fee.  The event is one to exceed expectations.

The light up continues this evening and on Saturday and Sunday.

It will happen again next week from Thursday, July 25 to Sunday, July 28 from 5.30 pm to 7.30 pm.  Not to be missed.  Take a torch.

Tree lights (586x1024) Stick tree reflection (671x1024) Rose statue (610x1024) Gnome tree Light pavement show (678x1024)

150 years on…..

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

Caterpillar Garden tour guides will tell their riders that the founding of the Christchurch Botanic Gardens is anchored to the planting of the Albert Edward Oak, by Government gardener Enoch Barker, on July 9 1863.

The planting commemorated the wedding of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, to Princess Alexandra of Denmark.

One hundred and fifty years later, on July 9 2013 a small crowd gathered on the Armstrong lawn behind the William Moorhouse statue for another tree planting, this time by a local lad, Nfagie Yansaneh of Wharenui School.  Nfagie had been involved with a winning entry at this year’s Ellerslie Flower Show.  After throwing a shovel load of soil into the prepared plot, others including Mayor Bob Parker and Botanic Gardens curator John Clemens, took up shiny shovels to lend a hand.  The Mayor was also a guest speaker telling us of a great Christchurch legacy with the Gardens attracting one million visitors annually.  I recall a good number of them going there on our Christchurch Tramway.  Hopefully that will be the case again when the trams return by summer.

The mayor also talked about the great variety of trees from around the world making it an enviable collection and arguably the best in New   Zealand.

For pioneer tree planters it meant future city citizens would not need to travel widely to see many exotic specimens.

Science was accompanying botany in 1901 when British explorer Robert Falcon Scott had a magnetic observatory built to calibrate instruments prior to setting off for Antarctica.  The facility was used for many years.  One building remains.

The afternoon was dark grey and chilly.  But the rain mercifully held off.  Events continued in the nearby Dome facility in NorthHagleyPark.  Some amazing images were seen on video screens, entries from a photographic completion held in celebration of the anniversary.

Over 700 entries from amateur and professionals demonstrated the creative opportunities our Botanic Gardens offer to diligent camera wielders.

As a photographer I was envious of some images.  One magnificently captured a falling autumn leaf.  Another showed a smiling face, undoubtedly a hapless parent, peering from the huge heap of leaves he was buried in.  Others skilfully captured close-ups of plant anatomy.

Photo judging was by Mayoress Jo Nicholas Parker, herself an accomplished photographer, and Christchurch Press illustrations editor, Richard Cosgrove.

Our caterpillar vehicles driven by garden guides Suzie and Ian were put to good use transporting guests to the Dome venue.

As spring approaches over coming weeks, it will be a good time to get along to the Botanic Gardens.  Take an informative Caterpillar tour and also check out the new visitor facility being constructed as an anniversary project.

Tree planting (1280x909)

Bob and co  (1280x941)

Onlookers (1280x711)

2- 150th


Blast from the past

Sunday, June 23rd, 2013

I discovered this photo gem while looking for something else (that was never found). A blast from the past, it recalls the early days of Punting on the Avon, instigated in 1986 by Geoff Ellis who developed the riverside Edmonds Band Rotunda Restaurant. This scene quickly became one to identify Christchurch. The trick was to get down by the river late afternoon during the latter part of autumn to capture the background colours. This shot became a popular tourist poster during the early 1990s. Ellis made a good start with punting that expanded along the river. Wesley Golledge founded a thriving punting operation from the Antigua Boatsheds in 1994. He recalls a long queue waiting when he arrived on day one. He eventually combined the business, on three city sites, into the Welcome Aboard Christchurch brand.

The Band Rotunda restaurant is no more, a casualty of the earthquakes, so the photograph cannot be repeated. But an excellent inside the cordon punt ride is operating from the Worcester Boulevard Bridge. It is a sobering experience passing the semi-derelict Christchurch Town Hall and seeing demolition machinery, appearing like so many giant dinosaurs, clawing steel and concrete beams.

For a Christchurch as it was experience, head to the Antigua boatsheds and glide along the river dividing Hagley Park and the Botanic Gardens. Don’t let winter deter a punting experience. Rugs and even hot water bottles are provided. Believe me, punting becomes a cosy experience. I tried it once after a big snow fall. It was very quiet and spectacular.

Blast from Past (1024x756)

Botanic Gardens light up

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

A light up leafy event promises to be spectacular in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens during the July school holidays. It will be part of the Botanic Gardens 150th celebrations this year. The event also coincides with TVNZ Two’s Kidsfest. It will be a rare treat to see our magnificent Botanic Gardens presented this way in the early evening.

I am looking forward to seeing the World Peace Bell being part of the lit up leafy route. The event is not one to miss. It promises to be ideal for photography. Those attending should also bring a torch.

Dates are July 18, 19, 20, 21 and 25, 26, 27 and 28 from 5.30 pm to 7 pm.

Special Visitor

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

Many Welcome Aboard people will remember a key staffer Annelies Vranken, responsible for functions and all manner of added value programmes.  She was also great with her computer skills.  Her position was taken over by the outgoing and very capable Sharon Sharpe (ne McKey) when Annelies departed to support her fiancé’s Ph.D. studies.  They spent time in Annelies’s native Belgium before venturing to Nigeria and have been living in Melbourne where Paul found university employment.  They visited Christchurch recently where Paul presented his thesis to the University of Canterbury.  He is now a Doctor in Ecology (majoring in Primatology).  His doctorate was about chimpanzee ecology in Ngel Nyaki, Nigeria.  While in Christchurch Annelies took a Gondola ride for a coffee with Tramway Operations Manager, John Smith, in Red Rock Café.  It was good to see her smiles once more and hear about her travels.  Her only regret is that Paul didn’t land a position in Christchurch.  She says she would rather live in New Zealand.

Annelies visit (1024x678)

Tram refurbishment

Friday, May 31st, 2013

Along at the Ferrymead Tram Barn a team is busy sprucing up a fleet of heritage trams in preparation for the opening of the city tramway, presently scheduled for October. No.11, the cute box car has been repainted following extensive wood repairs.  Nearby, its powered bogie truck is being rebuilt.  The Brill, No.178, is getting s lot of TLC with a clear lacquer covering existing pain work.  The Boon, No.152 is set for a spruce up and the newly-restored Birney, No. 15 is awaiting sign writing.  The former Invercargill No.15 will be a spanking new addition to the city tramcar fleet.

Ken 178 RC (1024x678)

John King No 11 truck (1024x678)

First snow at Gondola summit

Friday, May 31st, 2013

It is still autumn, just, but the first winter snow has transformed the Gondola summit.  It became a magical fairyland as the sun shone following a day of blizzards.  For me, there are no better views near Christchurch – the snow covered Alps with the quake-sculptured Castle Rock dominating the foreground.  The shattered Castle Rock landmark displays striking new colours.


High points encompassing LytteltonHarbour were graced generously in white while views north over the sweep of PegasusBay to the Kaikoura mountains were stunning.  Sheep wandered incongruously through snow and tussock grass.  While taking it all in I spotted a guy appearing over the brim.  With hat, smoking pipe and stout walking pole, he looked the archetypal Swiss alpine hiker.  He climbed the steps of the top station and enjoyed a coffee and scrumptious muffin in the Red Rock Café before setting off again, disappearing mysteriously from whence he first appeared.

Such days convince the value of the GondolaAnnualPass when one can make an impromptu decision to enjoy an ideal seasonal condition.  Taking in the views and stopping for a coffee is a half-day pleasantly spent.

First snow 2013 RC (1024x622)