Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 39, September 1995


By C W Malcolm

A Picture of Paeroa's Tramcar
A Picture of Paeroa's Tramcar
Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 39, September 1995
A Picture of Paeroa's Tramcar

In JOURNAL 37, page 6 [see Journal 37: Paeroa's Tram-car - E], there appears a small sketch I made to represent a structure I remember as a boy when it was situated facing the main street between the Paeroa Hotel and Montrose Boarding House which was later destroyed by fire.

It was a painted wooden structure with a row of windows - five in my sketch but now I believe there were only four. For some reason, maybe the row of windows, it always reminded me of a railway carriage or a tramcar.

In the same JOURNAL, Mr J A T Terry, that thorough researcher, states that two passenger cars for the Paeroa tramway had been purchased from the Grahamstown and Tararu Tramway. He also remarks that he had been unable to locate a plan or photo of the passenger cars and from enquiries of railway historians, doubted if any existed.

An alert reader of the JOURNALS has referred me to a book, THE END OF THE PENNY SECTION by Graham Stewart, in which I found a description of the Grahamstown-Tararu Tramway at Thames which closed down in November 1874. This would be the reason for its being able to sell the two passenger cars to Paeroa.

The book makes special mention of one passenger car, "a handsome mottled kauri carriage" attached to a quaint steam 'locomotive' that provided the haulage power.

My informant advised me to study the illustration of the Thames coat-of-arms in the book. In the centre of the design is what is described as "the coffee pot locomotive and the mottled kauri carriage which ran on the Grahamstown-Tararu tramway."

I have, with care, not to mention some difficulty, made a reproduction of the tram on a larger scale than the one shown in the coat-of-arms illustration because I am sure it supplies the missing "picture" we have been looking for.

How valuable readers of the JOURNAL can be, if they do not write themselves, by passing on to a contributor important facts from their own knowledge and wider reading.

This is the nearest thing I have ever seen to the object of my childhood fascination and which I attempted to draw in JOURNAL 37 after a lapse of some 80 years.

Was it a structure of "mottled kauri" that I remember? No, it was not, but Mr Terry provides more interesting facts about Paeroa's two tramcars. Quoting the GAZETTE of 21 August 1896, he tells that the two passenger cars had been "brought up from the Junction so that they could be painted." Alas! for the "mottled kauri!" Other alterations were possible. Lower wheels for instance.

I am convinced that the structure that caused my boyhood curiosity was one of Paeroa's tramcars placed flat on the ground without its wheels. When, in December 1897, "the whole of the tramway plant, sets of wheels axles, and one tram car" which had been lying at the Paeroa Railway Station (then opposite the Paeroa Hotel) was put up for auction, where was the other tram car? Had it been purchased earlier and moved conveniently across the street? And what happened to the tram car that was sold in December 1897?

The answer to one question raises others! For what purpose was "my" tramcar placed there just south of the Paeroa Hotel? Perhaps as cosy accommodation for one of the hotel staff? And what ultimately became of it? Though I passed it every day going to and from school, I have no recollection whatsoever of its disappearance, for a time came when it was no longer there.

The book from which I have drawn the particulars of "the mottled kauri tram carriage" is a heavy volume of 260 large well illustrated pages published as a revised enlarged edition in 1993. It deals with the history of tram cars of every description from those that were horse-drawn to the most modern throughout New Zealand. I could not find in it, or its index, any reference to Ohinemuri or Paeroa or to our historic tram line. Had our own Historical Society not been brought into existence with its JOURNAL, how much of our unique early history would have been lost to succeeding generations. It is difficult enough even now to piece it together.