Kings­land 1903 tram tragedy still per­ti­nent


An Auck­land tram tragedy that hap­pened 113 years ago is still pro­vid­ing valu­able les­sons for to­day’s Mo­tat tram driv­ers.

Tramway en­thu­si­ast and Mo­tat mo­tor­man ex­am­iner James Dun­can said the mu­seum has al­ways made par­tic­u­lar note of the Kings­land tram disas­ter of Christ­mas Eve 1903.

The ac­ci­dent oc­curred on New North Road when a brake failed on a dou­ble decker tram head­ing to­wards Eden Ter­race.

It rolled back­wards and col­lided with an­other tram, killing three and in­jur­ing up to 60.

An in­quest found the cause of the col­li­sion was through a ‘‘ratchet brake’’ fail­ing.

On Novem­ber 30 the Cen­tral Leader pub­lished a story on the tragedy and how two Auck­land women have been call­ing for rel­a­tives of the disas­ter to come for­ward.

They said the tragedy was never prop­erly recog­nised and are plan­ning a for­mal com­mem­o­ra­tion cer­e­mony with the un­veil­ing of a new plaque at site of the crash. Dun­can saw the story in the Cen­tral Leader and came for­ward to say that Mo­tat, who op­er­ate 23 his­tor­i­cal trams, still ap­ply les­sons learned from the fate­ful tragedy.

‘‘We’ve al­ways placed a strong em­pha­sis on our driv­ers al­ways know­ing how to stop if their brake fails,’’ Dun­can said.

Driv­ers in 1903 were not trained to prop­erly con­trol the tram if the pri­mary brake failed, he said. ‘‘The peo­ple that trained me were bring­ing in all that knowl­edge from the way they trained the tram driv­ers in Auck­land with the Kings­land crash al­ways lin­ger­ing in the back­ground.’’ In 2013 Dun­can put to­gether a de­tailed ac­count of the ac­ci­dent for two tramway pub­li­ca­tions.

‘‘I think per­son­ally be­cause it had such a big im­pact on the tramway world in New Zealand and on Auck­land, it’s some­thing we re­ally shouldn’t for­get.

A com­mem­o­ra­tion cer­e­mony for the Kings­land tragedy will take place on De­cem­ber 23 and a plaque will be un­veiled at the cor­ner of New North Road and New Bond Street. The crash killed Ann Young Hog­a­rth, Ben­jamin Mor­ri­son Lind­say and Wil­liam Ca­ley.

If you be­lieve you are con­nected to one of these names con­tact the Kings­land Busi­ness So­ci­ety on (09) 379 5553 or busi­ness@kings­

For a full list of those in­jured visit kings­


Mo­tat tram mo­tor­man James Dun­can has done ex­ten­sive re­search on the Kings­land tragedy.

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