Bouncing back from disaster: Christchurch.

Christchurch tourist tram 11, a 1903 Brill product built in Philadelphia for the Dunedin, N.Z. system, is seen in heritage service on Aug. 11, 2007. The car was trapped in the depot and damaged when the Feb. 22, 2011 earthquake struck. It was later taken to the Tramway Historical Society’s tram barn, according to http://aucklandtram.wordpress.com/2012/05/26/christchurch-tramway-update/ .
Photo by Flickr member Nick Bramhall and used by Creative Commons license. Click image for his photostream.

While we here in America are still working to recover from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy days ago, one heritage tram operation overseas is eyeing a 2013 restoration of service in the wake of a much different natural disaster two years ago.

According to this news report, members of the city council planning committee in Christchurch, New Zealand voted this week to support reinstatement of the central area tramway loop “as soon as practicable,” which appears to be the middle of next year. The line’s infrastructure suffered heavy damage in the Christchurch earthquake of Feb. 22, 2011, which left 185 people dead and caused massive devastation across the city.

The tramway opened in 1995, a commercial tourist operation using vintage vehicles leased from The Tramway Historical Society. Its fleet of cars from New Zealand and Australia –including trams from the original Christchurch system, closed in 1954 — had become symbols of Christchurch in their own right. While not classed as a public transport venture nevertheless carried an estimated 280,000 people per year, according to the news report. More information can be found in another news report from this week.

Efforts to get the line back in working order working order “is reasonably straightforward and most of the relatively small cost of up to (NZ) $1.6 million will be covered by insurance,” according to an editorial by The Press,  adding that it “will restore to the central city a service that, having been fiercely contentious when it was first set up, had become a familiar part of the city.”

Even as the line’s restoration as a heritage service moves forward, there are those who believe the rebirth of Christchurch should see expanded use of tramways in a transportation role.

Some really lovely photos of the line as it looked before the earthquake can be found here, on the Timespanner blog.

Christchurch tram 178 in an Oct. 24, 2010 view by Flickr member chengang1029, used by Creative Commons license. Click for original photostream. Car 178 was built by Boon & Co. in 1921, but referred to as “the Brill.” It was rebuilt for one-man operation in the 1930s.

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