Uncharted tram tracks uncovered on Quay Street

Publish Date : 20 Nov 2019
Uncharted tram tracks uncovered on Quay Street
Approximately 50m of old unchartered tram tracks were unearthed during construction of Quay Street.
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An old photo of a tram in use in downtown Auckland in 1916. Photo: Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections 822-Album-132-46.
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Inauguration of the Auckland Electric Tramway, 1902. Photo: Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections 755-Album-39.

As Auckland’s Downtown Programme team works to secure Quay Street’s waterfront for the next 100 years, the history of the past is not lost on us.

During excavations, as part of the Quay Street enhancement, tram tracks dating back to the early 1900s were uncovered.

Approximately 50m of tracks were unearthed, serving as a poignant reminder that Quay Street has always been a key transport connection between the harbour and the city.

Auckland was served by a network of horse-drawn trams from 1884 to 1902 until electricity supplanted horsepower with a fleet of electric trams from 1902 to 1956. This modern network covered 72 kilometres in its heyday from the mid-1930s, until closures began in 1949.   

After the trams were decommissioned and removed from Quay Street, the tracks were eventually covered by different road works.

Auckland Transport's Downtown Programme Director Eric van Essen says on the discovery of the tracks, his team consulted with Auckland Council’s Heritage Team.

“We have specific consent conditions around the uncovering of historic items discovered during construction,” Eric says.

“The tracks were cut out and carefully removed from their concrete foundations and relocated for further examination. They have been numbered and mapped so that they can be re-assembled later if required.” 

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Quay Street will become a revitalised waterfront place. Construction is due to be completed late 2020.

The Quay Street enhancement project is part of the Auckland Council and Auckland Transport’s Downtown Programme which will deliver a revitalised waterfront area, with wider footpaths and easier navigation, designed for a 30km/h speed, with street furniture, trees, and opportunities for business and events.

For more information on the Downtown Programme and to subscribe to the project newsletter, visit AT.govt.nz/downtown

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