Construction companies frequently uncover more than clay and broken pipes as they dig up our streets.
Downer Construction, part of SCIRT, found an interesting reminder of times past recently at its North Avon Road work site in Richmond. Under the road are the remains of an old tram track to New Brighton.
In order to rebuild the road and replace the broken wastewater pipe, Downer is digging up the old railway sleepers and iron tracks, which date from 1910. They will then be recycled. Archaeologists are recording information on the remains of the tram tracks before they are removed. A report on the Richmond site and the discoveries along the way will be submitted to the Historic Places Trust and SCIRT/Downer when the project is completed.
In fact, there were two tram routes to New Brighton, built by rival companies as horse-drawn tramways in the late 19th century. Both were electrified with new rails laid by the Christchurch Tramway Board after 1905.
The New Brighton Tramway Company built the line via Pages Road in 1887, adding on to the City Council line to the Linwood cemetery and “night soil” (toilet waste) reserve. It was electrified in 1906 then closed in 1952, replaced by diesel buses.
The City and Suburban Tramway Company built its line in sections, starting in 1893. Fully formed it ran from Manchester Street, along Cashel, into Stanmore, North Avon Road, North Parade and New Brighton Road. After crossing open land it ran along Travis Road, crossed open land again and turned into Bowhill Road, North Beach, and then along the Esplanade (now Marine Parade) to the New Brighton pier. After the company’s failure in 1895 it was sold to its debenture holder, John Brightling, who operated the line until its sale to the Christchurch Tramway Board ten years later.
The line was electrified to Burwood in 1910, extended to North Beach and the New Brighton Pier in 1914. It was closed beyond Marshland Rd corner in 1931.
The North Beach line was replaced by trolley buses travelling via Fitzgerald Avenue, Hills Road and Shirley Road. Diesel buses took over in 1956.
The tram line as far as Marshland Rd, including North Avon Road, remained open until 1934. It was replaced with trolley buses until 1951 when diesel buses took over.
For more Christchurch tram details: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christchurch_tramway_system
North Avon Road and Richmond streets detailed works notice