The 150 Year Anniversary of the Drury Tramway

CBT member Munroe Graham writes

150 years ago on 1 May 1862 the first of three tramways opened in Drury. This ran about 4.5 km from a coal mine (the first of significance to be discovered handy to Auckland) in the hills east of Drury to the port, then situated on an estuary leading out to the Manukau Harbour.

This was a horse drawn tramway, but unlike its southern counterpart, the Dun Mountain Railway in Nelson, (which had opened on 3 February 1862 and was thought for a time to be the first railway in New Zealand but actually preceded by the Coal Point railway at Clutha of 1861, itself preceeded by at least one timber logging tramway prior to 1860, for example the Gibbons tramway at Huia), the rails were timber (Rimu), rather than steel and built to standard 1435mm gauge, rather than 914mm, or the current NZ narrow gauge standard of 1027mm. Also, there was never any intention of carrying passengers, whereas in Nelson passenger services commenced on May 3 1862, so that Nelson will celebrate two separate 150 year anniversaries this year, the second being the country’s first dedicated passenger rail service. At Drury passengers were loaded on to a coal truck on opening day and trundled up from the port to the mine head – but that does not count.

Ultimately, the importance of this tramway was that it acted as a trigger for the commencement of a conventional Auckland-Drury railway a few years later and this, although later delayed, represented the commencement of the North Island main trunk line.

The site of the port has been obliterated by the southern motorway and at this stage the writer has not yet been able to determine the exact route of the tram line, or the location of the coal mine which it served. Research has been made somewhat tricky by the fact that Drury has been host to not one, but three separate tramways in its short history and there have been several coal mines in the area, along the Symonds Stream to the north east and in the foothills to the south east.

Munroe proposes an informal BYO picnic gathering of interested people from say midday on Sunday May 6th at Drury Domain, near the Library, where the story, much as set out in this article will be available to view and discuss.

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