Kaikorai Cable Cars – The start…

The Kaikorai line was the last of the three cable car services to be constructed for the hill suburbs of Dunedin. Construction of the line from the Octagon to the Nairn Street terminus at Kaikorai commenced in 1897 and took three years to complete. The first tram ran on 9th October 1900.

Looking at the picture (above left) you will see some “U” shaped devices either side of the tracks being constructed. These were made from sections of the steel tracks and were put into the ground with the open end upwards. You can see these in the centre of the tracks where the ‘tunnel’ for the cable car gripper was to travel.

Initially a steel wire rope was used but this later changed to a ‘conventional’ rope in 1940. The rope lasted a bit less than 2 years before having to be replaced.

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Cable Car Conductors and Gripmen

Henry John Bartlett Family Photograph

Henry John Bartlett
Family Photograph

Those of us who lived in the era when the cable cars were still running possibly had a relation, friend or acquaintance who was employed on one of the cable car lines.   In my small neck of the woods, my grandfather was employed as a conductor on the Roslyn cable cars. He was Henry John Bartlett who lived at 73 Nairn Street and further along the street from him were Alex MacKenzie and Robert Sharp who were both conductors.   Henry John Bartlett lived in Broughton Street in 1902 – Broughton Street was later renamed Brighton St, then changed again to Beresford Street.
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Jim Sharp – Kaikorai Cable Car Gripman

Jim Sharp - Gripman Jim at his residence 23 Nov 2006 Photograph by Alan Gilchrist

Jim Sharp – Gripman
Jim at his residence 23 Nov 2006
Photograph by Alan Gilchrist


Jim Sharp, aged 92 years in 2006, was frequently the gripman for No.4 cable car, in fact he was the gripman on that last cable car from the Octagon to the sheds at 11.10pm on Friday 31st July 1947.   He has provided some interesting information relating to the early cable cars. Jim is also an amateur radio operator with the call ZL4DN, and has been in that hobby since 1938. Continue reading

The Coal Yard & other stories (Part 6)


The Kaikorai tram with tram sheds behind.

The Kaikorai tram with tram sheds behind.

Up the road a little further was a zig zag track that took pedestrians up the north side to Helensburgh Road and Riding the cable cars always had atmosphere that can not be re lived on modern transport systems. If the weather was cold we tried to ride in the enclosed areas at the back or front of the cars. In fine weather however to sit on the outwards facing seats on either side was much more fun. By the time the cable car had started up a steep part of the track, there was always room for another passenger at the uphill end of the seat. During rush hour the crowds would pile on. Holding onto the straps that hung from over head bars was like a ride in the fun park. Continue reading

Temporary bus route after cable cars ceased

With the demise of the cable cars in 1947 and the ripping up of the rails, diesel buses were put into service as replacements.

At that stage of course the Stuart Street extension as we know it today did not exist.

During all the earthworks the buses had to detour from where Moana Pool is now, around Littlebourne Road, into Tweed Street, then up to Highgate via Fifield Street. With the construction of the Highgate bridge the route from Highgate to Taieri Road was via Wright Street, then Tyne Street. See map below.

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