A Man, A Plan, A Tram: A Truth about Takapuna's Tramway
Image: Muir & Moodie. Postcard of Lake Takapuna (Pupuke), 1909. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa PS.002450.
By the early 1900s, the Coromandel goldfields were depleted, their vast wealth pocketed by Aotearoa’s nouveau riche, who bought massive tracts of land around the periphery of Auckland City. On the North Shore, a group of lawyers, newspapermen, realtors, and mine owners, most of whom had been business partners in the gold rush, focused their attention on the little-developed area directly north of the Borough of Devonport, from Old Lake Road to Crown Hill. From the mid-1890s, they purchased dozens of properties with plans to subdivide as soon as they could be guaranteed a profit.
|Image: Paul Hansen (second from right) and other men celebrating the inaugural trail run of the Auckland Electric Tramway, November 1902. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections 755-ALB39-06.
|Image: John Brown addressing the crowd at the sod-turning ceremony for the Takapuna Tramways & Ferry Company, held at Hall's Corner on 9 February 1909. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections NZG-19090217-0029-01.
|Image: Beresford Street in Bayswater Estate, 1912. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections T0002.
|Image: The Weekly Graphic. A party at Henry Brett's house, Te Kiteroa, published 6 December 1911. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections T0301.
|Image: Advertisement for the Shakespeare Estate by Paul Hansen & Company, 1910. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections Map 9800.
|Image: Herman John Schmidt. William Blomfield (centre) below a sketch of himself, surrounded by Auckland Star staff, ca 1921. National Library 1/1-001243-G.
|Image: The 'Waitemata' hauling a maintenance wagon on the Takapuna Tramway, 1912. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections T0475.
|Image: Walter Bowring. Group of Puriri trees in a bush near Lake Takapuna, published in the New Zealand Graphic on 24 March 1894. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections NZG-18940324-0279-01.
Mitchelson and Adams, alongside the final original company director, Captain James Smith, had partnered in numerous ventures in the years prior to 1907, especially in Thames. Near Lake Pupuke, they jointly owned the Puriri Estate on the west side of Taharoto Road, which they began subdividing in 1909. Smith and Adams also owned two small sections along Northcote Road, today’s Smith’s Bush Reserve, which is bisected by the Northern Motorway. The complicated history of Adams and his relationship to Blomfield, Smith, and Mitchelson is explored in detail in Philip Hart’s working paper: ‘Henry Hopper Days: A Te Aroha Miner Who Became A Mine Owner’ (University of Otago, 2016).
|Image: Frederick Hargreaves. Takapuna as viewed from the room of Te Kiteroa, immediately before the construction of the tramway, ca 1908. National Library 1/1-002816-G.
All this manoeuvring and scheming by the North Shore elite resulted in very little at first. Due to delays in the construction of the tramway and the dredging of the approach to Bayswater Wharf, the SS Pupuke operated as a for-hire excursion vessel from February 1910 to the end of the year. The first two trams finally began service between Bayswater and Milford on 22 December 1910, just in time for the Christmas holiday. But the company’s hope of electrifying the tramway system never happened, and a long-awaited second ferry was only purchased in 1921. Despite the seeming success of the venture, the company could not turn a profit. The ferry paid, but the trams did not. In 1912, the board of directors offered to sell the system to the County of Waitemata. This offer was repeated almost annually to the Takapuna Borough Council until the tramway finally ceased operations on Tuesday, 26 April 1927.
|Image: R. Hofmann. Camp for German Internees at Motuihe Island, 1917. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections WW1-P-001.