The undoubted success of the Christchurch heritage trams is found beyond their eye-catching exteriors. It is the people – the Motormen and Conductors and their often quirky characters.
Take for example Mr. Pete, alias Peter Michie. He says he is a professional Tram Driver. “I am the only one with a title – Mr.” To accompany his title he wears a striking red rose in his hat. “That makes grumpy people getting the tram break out in a smile.” When asked if the red flower makes Mr. Pete smile he smugly replies, “I don’t see it.”
Mr. Pete is the longest serving in our ranks, making him senior driver in a real sense.
He drove the first fare-paying passengers on the City Loop on February 4, 1995. The Event was almost a disaster.
On the Worcester Bridge a crowd climbed aboard No 11. The Tram was chocker. Mr. Pete was standing beside the tram when he noticed the tram moving on the slope.
“I had the handbrake on but not tight enough. I jumped aboard and screwed it on a bit harder.”
He says he has probably been around the City Loop as many times as the Brill No. 178 – that is more than 100,000.
His Grandfather, an electrician, worked on the Tramway in Dunedin. Pete’s father was a Dunedin Tram Driver.
Mr. Pete became a Christchurch Bus Driver. After his shifts he frequently went to Ferrymead to service the restored Trams. He also helped to restore No 11 – his favourite Tram because of the magnetic braking. He eventually trained as a Motorman.
“My first Sunday on my own was on No. 152. The Conductor hadn’t turned up and it was a howling southerly. Every time I went past the church the pole de-wired. I was soon saturated. I thought this was my father telling me, “Son this is what a Trammie’s life is all about.” “
One day Dave Hinman spoke of council plans to build a new City Tram Loop. Mr. Pete was determined to become involved, and he did.
He speaks of driving celebrities including John Travolta on the Tramway Restaurant and conducting on No. 152 in 1995 when Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh took their first-ever Tram ride.
Looking back he says he can never get bored. “Every trip is different.”
And he says he is not an exciting person… with a twinkle in his eye, “If I was, people wouldn’t leave me alone.”
Take a ride on the Trams. You may well spot Mr. Pete.