The little tram that did

By Sophie Bond

It was in operation for only a year or so, carrying coal a couple of kilometres across the countryside, but the humble, horse-drawn Drury tram is worth remembering. That's the view of rail buff Munroe Graham.

"It was the first railway opened in the North Island and it paved the way for much bigger projects," he says.

Today, nothing remains of the tramway opened on May 1, 1862, to carry coal from a mine in Hunua to the port of Drury.

We met Mr Graham at Remuera train station, a stop on the Auckland-Onehunga railway in 1873. Mr Graham says this railway's predecessor, from Auckland to Drury, would have rattled past very near here.

"Ultimately, the importance of the Drury tramway was that it acted as a trigger for the commencement of a conventional Auckland-Drury railway which represented the start of the North Island main trunk line."

Munroe plans something "enormously informal" to mark the 150th anniversary. He proposes a BYO picnic at Drury Domain on Sunday, May 6, for anyone interested in learning more about the North Island's first railway.

The Remuera resident has extensively researched the discovery of coal in the region and has a good idea where the 4.5km-long tramway began and finished.

He says the railway ran from a coalmine in the hills east of Drury to the port on Drury Creek, a site now obliterated by the Southern Motorway.

Munroe describes himself as a fan of anything with wheels but it was his interest in Drury's early days that led him to look into the tramway's history.

"In 1855, there was an offer of prize money for someone who could find coal close to Auckland," he says. "It was coming from Newcastle in Australia before that. The Reverend Purchas discovered the Drury coal seam in 1858 and his friend, Captain Ninnis, was called on to progress the mine."

The tramway possibly lasted less than a year in full production, interrupted by the New Zealand Wars and deemed uneconomic when better quality coal was discovered elsewhere in the North Island.

"The small-scale operation at Drury was never destined to last," concludes Munroe.

Anniversary picnic: Drury Domain, Sunday, May 6, midday. BYO picnic. Contact: Munroe Graham, ph 623 9514.

- The Aucklander

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