Cable Car Museum, Kelburn, Wellington 6012, New Zealand
Located in the original winding house for the cable car system and set over two floors, the museum houses the winding mechanism operational from 1902 until 1978. It’s also home to two of the original grip cars that operated on the line.
The award-winning Cable Car Museum brings the story of Wellington’s iconic cable cars to life. Located within the original Winding House, the Museum is home to two of the original grip cars and the historic winding machinery once used to haul the cars through a series of tunnels up the steep incline.
Wellington in the 1890s was the fastest growing city in New Zealand. Its expanding workforce wanted to live close to the busy shops and offices of Lambton Quay, but such residences were scarce. At the same time, the hills directly above the city centre remained sparsely settled with farms, or covered in scrub.
In 1898, the Upland Estate Company was formed and its shareholders were instrumental in forming The Kelburn & Karori Tramway Company Ltd. – an ambitious new enterprise that aimed to provide a cable car service between Lambton Quay and Kelburn.
Wellington residents flocked to try out the cable car service when it opened for business on 22 February 1902. Interest and enthusiasm for the new facility proved so great that an estimated 4,000 people were carried up and down the line over the opening weekend.
Once at the upper terminus, many people took the opportunity to ride on one of the connecting horse-drawn buses to Karori. Others walked down to the city again through the Botanic Gardens. As Kelburn and Wellington grew, so did the number of people riding the cable car.
Annual passengers rose from 425,000 in 1902 to over a million in 1912. During 1926 these ‘relentless red rattlers’ transported over two million people between Wellington’s harbour and hills – more than the population of New Zealand at the time.
Epic New Zealand Culture & Adventure Route © Monika Newbound