Wellington Tramway Museum volunteer calls for the preservation of heritage and community hub

  • Published Date 22 Jun 2021

Greater Wellington is proposing to grant the Wellington Tramway Museum a 30-year lease to support the volunteer's ongoing operations and preserve an important regional heritage site.

Public consultation is open until the 5 July 2021 and community feedback will influence whether the long-term lease is granted.

With more than half a century's experience volunteering for the museum, Henry Brittain encourages the community to back the museum and trams that have operated in Queen Elizabeth Park since 1965.

Henry has been an invaluable asset for the Wellington Tramway Museum over the years, contributing to this historic icon that is renowned for innovation and entertainment.

"Our hope as volunteers is for people to be able to continue to enjoy the museum and tram rides, to learn about trams, see historic photos of how Wellington used to be and spend time in the Park," says Henry.

Since the opening of the museum, he has volunteered alongside a membership of around 90 people and been a part of the museum's constant evolution.

"My love for trams began when I was a little boy. My grandfather was a tram inspector and I used to sit up the front when trams used to operate around Island Bay," says Henry.

"The museum is a place that is really connected to history. Visitors can see this in the photographs, displays and the building additions made by volunteers and supporting organisations - all of which that make it the historical-rich and fascinating place is it today," says Henry.

Over the years, Henry and the team have created new tracks to extend the route down to the coast, built additions to the museum, and refurbished 7 trams with more waiting to be completed.

"Perhaps, the exploration of different ways to power the trams has been the most exciting aspect of change for the museum," says Henry.

"Originally, we got hold of an old bus to generate power for the trams. Then we moved onto a diesel generator and finally, a mercury arc rectifier to convert high voltage power to a lower voltage for electricity which cleanly fuels our tram fleet."

The museum is a thoroughfare for whānau, tram enthusiasts and those a touch nostalgic for the older, sustainable ways of getting about Wellington.  

"We get a lot of grandparents and children coming into the museum, the older generation love reliving experiences of the past and sharing with their grandchildren how things were back in the day," says Henry.

"Trams were a huge part of the Wellington scene in the 1900s to 40s before it was common for people to own vehicles. In the early 1900s, Wellingtonian's were exploring these strands on electrical technology, with trams powered by an electrical grid.

"The museum is a way to generate conversation with the younger generation on the history of electrically powered transport,  so they can look to the future of sustainable public transport and travel," adds Henry.

Greater Wellington Kāpiti Coast councillor, Penny Gaylor says, "The Wellington Tramway Museum is a hub for entertainment, recreation and education that connects our communities with the environment of the Park and to past perspectives and experiences.

"We really encourage the public to have their say on Greater Wellington's proposal to grant a new 30 year lease.

"Get in quick and share your thoughts, feedback or concerns before the deadline closes on the 5 July 2021," adds Cr Gaylor.

Have your say, or learn more about Henry’s volunteering.

Updated March 30, 2022 at 12:55 PM

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