I am expecting to see a derelict tramcar, the Brill No. 185, to arrive at Ferrymead Heritage Park but when Wilson’s heavy transporter rounds the corner, coming into view, a huge corrugated iron-clad farm shed is all can see. Closer inspection confirms tell-tale signs a tramcar is indeed concealed in the shed. I recognise the tram doors, and peering inside spot the distinctive shape of a Brill tramcar at either end of the interior which emits an unmistakable farmyard odour. No. 185 was one of three former Christchurch Tramways Brill tramcars purchased more than half a century ago for storage on neighbouring Newlands farms near Ashburton.
No. 185 was gifted by owners, David and Hilary Ward, to the Tramway Historical Society for eventual restoration. Wilson’s Bulk Transport Ltd kindly brought the tram in its shed to Ferrymead. It is jacked up by Ferrymead volunteers from the truck’s trailer in preparation for lowering onto bogies next day for towing to the tram barn at the far end of the park. A group of kids from Ladbrooks school turn up and are offered a tram ride conditional on their return in a couple decades. Tramcar devotee Graham Stewart of Wellington sends me some of his photographs on the Brill No. 185 taken in 1951 – three years before Christchurch’s trams finished. I particularly liked one of No. 185 dwarfed by the huge gas tank looming above the Moorhouse Avenue tram depot.
When the restoration happens, no-doubt immaculately, it will be the second Brill restored by the Tramway Historical Society. The first was No. 178, the workhorse for the Christchurch City Heritage Tramway. The Brill tramcars were built by Boon and Co. in Ferry Road during the 1920s and modernised a decade later with automatic doors and other 1930s mod cons. When separated from its packaging, will the shed be offered to alleviate Christchurch’s rental accommodation woes?