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Oral History: Trams

Transport: Travelling by Tram

Throughout the period from 1890 to 1940 the tram system was at the heart of Dunedin's transport infastructure. Tramlines stretched right across the southern Dunedin suburbs. Fares were cheap enough to be affordable to almost everybody. Trams ran frequently throughout the day and into the night. Trams democratised transport - people from all social classes travelled together. Young and old, rich and poor met and mixed every day as they made their journeys to and from home.

horse-tramway systemThis undated photograph shows the horse-tramway system which was established in Caversham, St Clair and St Kilda in 1880. The lines converged at Cargill's Corner (then called Ogg's Corner). This system was electrified in 1905. Electric trams became the dominant transport technology of southern Dunedin for the next thirty years. Trams appeared every few minutes along the busiest routes. By 1912 Dunedin people served by trams were averaging over 300 trips per year per person. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

tram staff Mr Williams and Margaret SinclairBy 1909 Dunedin's Tramways Department employed 187 people to keep the trams running. This included motormen (who 'drove' the trams), conductors (who took fares, issued tickets and maintained order on the tram), inspectors (who made sure that the trams were run safely and to schedule and periodically got on board each tram to check that all passengers had valid tickets) and track repairers. Almost all of these workers were men. This was true of all forms of transport, which were almost always built, sold, operated and maintained by men. Females were first employed on the trams as conductresses in 1942 in response to wartime labour shortages. Shown here are tram staff Mr Williams and Margaret Sinclair in 1950. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

cable carAfter 1902, when free secondary school places were made available to youngsters, hundreds of southern Dunedin children 'trammed' in to the central city secondary schools. Many of them went home at noon for their main family meal of the day. This undated photograph shows them riding the cable car down the hill to the Exchange to link up there with the trams out to the southern suburbs. The system could be relied upon to get them back to school in time for afternoon lessons. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

Dunedin Electric TramA Dunedin Electric Tram Service tramcar, decorated to celebrate 50 years of electrified service, makes its way towards Cargill's Corner in 1953. Within five years the trams would be gone from Dunedin streets, replaced by trolley buses, as cars, buses and trucks completed their domination of the roads. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

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