As most of you here would know Auckland used to have a pretty kick-ass light rail network and you’ve probably seen the old tram maps before.

Auckland Isthmus tramlines

Inspired by something similar he had seen done for San Francisco, Cornelius Blank has created a map of the network as it once was but in a contemporary, ‘metro’ style schematic. A format that we are familiar with and know how to read and intuitively understand.

The aim was to make it as accurate as possible. Something you might be able to have used at the time. No maps where made at the time and timetables don’t seem to exist. There have been a few basic maps created since, but required further digging in the library archives to get more details around the tram routes and extent of services. In the end I actually found the old blind-roll destination signs to be quite helpful (from the book ‘Alway a tram in sight’). These destinations are reflected in the route names and markers.
I have chosen to show the full extent of the network as it existed from 1887-1956. So some routes like the North Shore lines would not have all existed at the same time as depicted. I have also taken some liberties around stops and ‘interchanges’ as not much information exists here.

Showing the network in this way really changes the way you perceive and understand the whole system, it moves from lines on a map to an actual usable network.

Old Tram Network scematic

And here’s a close up of the city centre

Old Tram Network scematic City Centre

Of course if Auckland Transport have their way some of this network may appear once again with their plans for to install modern light rail on the four central isthmus routes.

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    1. True. Had the Morningside deviation been built and the lines electrified as planned that relocation would have looked a fraction less stupid. Arguably it would have changed the way Auckland’s moved about their city and may well have prompted the construction of other connecting metropolitan lines. The relocated railway station was predicated on the continued development of a regional/inter-city rail network. Sadly the (financial) interests of a few prevailed over the communal good to our enduring loss.

      1. The Railway Magazine of 1927 has an interesting article which clearly the states the intention of building the underground link to complete the rail network through to Morningside and as you mentioned that congestion was why it was moved.

        Though I did hear that one reason for moving the station was that it was due to a personality clash between 2 ministers. With one wanting to move the station to spite the other.

    2. Perhaps with the benefit of hindsight, but what you need to remember is that the old Queen Street station was severely congested by the early part of the 20th Century, and there was limited space for expansion – that was the reason for the move.

      1. Moving it was not the right answer, the Morningside deviation was. Essentially splitting the freight and intra-city tasks and creating a viable city rail network. But of course the argument was that the trams could do that, which was fine till they were pulled out. Without the tram network the new station was completely hopeless for passengers.

  1. The old Onehunga rail link (1873-1973) would presumably have connected to the terminus of the Onehunga tram line, reinforcing the connectivity of the two networks.

    1. Yes Corneilius appears to have left off the onehunga branch railway, which ran at the same time as the trams and was in fact Aucklands (possibly New Zealand’s?) first passenger railway.

    1. Not With that attitude !
      What happened to our can do attitude? Innovation? (Have you seen how HK’s MTR runs? its so awesome)

        1. Not at all sarcastic – it’ clear that Auckland was built from day one with cars in mind – the ultimate form of individual expression and success. To suggest changing that it into some sort of Marxist wet dream where I can’t drive where, when and over what I please offends me greatly.

        2. David that’s simply untrue. Much of Auckland was built round this tram network, then expensively butchered to force cars through it. Newer parts, post late 1950s, were built exclusively on a car-centric model. More options can be returned to the former added to the later types of Auckland and in fact that is, in part, the task for this century. The other key fix for those disconnected and placeless late 20thC suburbs is the retro-fitting of more local quality to them, and interestingly extending the alternative transport networks to them helps build up the local place quality too.

          Funny, I read your comment as sarcasm too, as that’s the only way it makes sense.

        3. But:

          In Auckland, all those harbours and natural obstacles makes it unsuitable for public transport, and much more suitable for car-based transport.

          At least that’s what I read somewhere else on the internet.

        4. The fact that I’ve, and obviously others have read both davidjroos comments as sarcastic is a great sign of how far we have come! Wasn’t long ago that the majority of Aucklander’s actually held these views, and these comments were taken as the status quo.

  2. Hopefully AT are allowed to do Dominion road and hopefully it is so popular that they do a lot more. Maybe I’m more of a quantity than quality man, but I’d prefer that tram network over any other proposed PT network.

    1. Yes Hans – The Meadowbank tram went through Newmarket and down through Parnell to Customs Street turning left into Queen Street, then up Queen Street , turning right into Karangahape Road and all the way out via the Great North Road to Avondale. The return journey to Meadowbank was the exact reverse.
      The Victoria Avenue tram went up to the Remuera shops, thence to Newmarket, up Khyber Pass to (upper) Symonds Street, left into K Road, right into Queen Street, right into Customs Street and Beach Road, up Parnell Rise and Parnell and back to Newmarket, left along Remuera Road and back down Victoria Avenue.

      I could go on but that is enough for now!

        1. Yes Patrick – Memory fading? By looking at the map I must have got the Avondale end of the of the Meadowbank tram route wrong. It must have reached Avondale per the New North Road but then I was much more conversant with the Meadowbank end.
          Sorry. Guess I was just trying to acknowledge that some of the routes went from one suburb through the CBD and out to a suburb on the other side of town.

  3. That is so cool, but sad that they ripped out all the tracks. Would be great to have some isthmus routes converted soon to increase capacity and remove fuel costs and emissions via electrification and free up those big buses for use elsewhere like the 04x and other crowded services.

    Question, for example if trams terminated at Three Kings would Waikowhai services run between Three Kings and Waikowhai and require a transfer at Three Kings onto a tram or would some other method will be used…?

  4. Do not forget to map the historic rail freight network that ran along Quay Street, through the Viaduct all the way to the cement silos.
    It was used to carry freight to and from the wharves but if needed could have carried passengers even today as the basis of a waterfront tram network.

    1. The rails for that freight network still existed until very recently didn’t they? Or are they just buried under a few layers of tarmac? I’m pretty sure they were still there at the end of the 90s? or in the 00s? Seem to recall running into the tracks a few times on my bike…

      1. They are buried under the tar seal in some parts at least. A year or two ago a hole opened in the road near the Quay St/Tinley St intersection exposing the rail.

        1. The Wharf rails are NZR narrow gauge of 3′ 6″. Auckland’s trams were standard gauge of 4ft 8 1/2″ and so is the current Waterfront experiment.

  5. A Milford to Devonport via Takapuna tram would be incredibly popular if built today. The catchment from Takapuna south is all walkable, and you’re heading straight toward the city from the moment you hop onboard (instead of driving north in congestion before going south in more congestion).

      1. Yes, only around 14k people living south on Takapuna on the Devonport peninsula (and zero intensification planned), much better to go the other way and serve the 50k or so who live in the Beach Haven-Birkenhead-Northcote side (and all the intensification planned). Also like you say Patrick that gives the option of running through to somewhere else on the other side of the harbour, unlike a route that stops at the ferry wharf.

        Devo will do just fine with three good ferries and connecting buses, plus one main Takapuna-Devo frequent bus. If congestion is a problem then step 1 is bus lanes, then eventually consider tram lanes as a replacement.

  6. Wasn’t there a northcote point line. There seems to be evidence of a tram line with the middle of the roads being concrete there

    1. I always used to believe this, having been told so by a Northcote resident many years ago. However, I mentioned this here some months ago and was told that, unfortunately, it isn’t true.

  7. Light rail must reach all parts of Auckland. Having it like a wheel spoke with a central middle hub means people going to work east to west and vice versa have to use their cars to get there on time.

  8. Its just sad that Auckland’s answer to congested roads is to build more roads and huge concrete flyovers . An efficient light rail service would reduce congestion immensely. Its a pity Auckland didn’t have the fore site to be like Melbourne and keep the trams . it would have made Auckland wonderful and iconic instead of a spaghetti junction of roads.

    1. Wellington for some crazy reason aspires to build more roads and huge concrete flyovers even when there is HARDLY ANY traffic congestion (at least, as compared to Auckland).

  9. Great diagram – and it would be good to give credit to John Yonge for the original map, from the Quail Map Co’s NZ Railway & Tramway Atlas.

  10. Having grown up with the old Auckland trams in the late 1940s to its closure on 31st Dec 1956 I heartily endorse the proposed comeback of Trams for Auckland as they move far more people than buses and are more environmentally friendly for Auckland. This would also include trams for AUCKLAND to Takapuna, Milford and down to Bayswater and Devonport connecting to ferries. Now the longer Auckland City Council and Auckland Transport dither on finance the higher the costs will be. Trams work well in overseas cities in UK, Hong Kong, Europe, Australia especially Victoria. So go for it and ignore the sarcastic comments of a few.

  11. I witnessed the last Tram in Queen st as a 15 yr old office/delivery boy for Kempthorne and Prosser, Dental and Medical dept.The beauty of Aucklands Trams was most runs converged on Queen st, meaning Trams were frequent in rush hours, they were highly visible and plainly route posted, ie Onehunga, Avondale and the magic for small boys>ZOO.
    My Mom and friends would Tram into Town and meet at Downtown, walk or Tram to the Town Hall and Tram to K rd and then home. From the Ferry building to Town Hall had about 4 stops. Although slow in real time Trams were quick as tickets were sold by Conductors as the Tram was moving and had no lights to stop them.[from memory]. In rush hour were so frequent you could see the next one coming.Retailers take note that Queen st was so busy the footpath had a white line, it was keep left and enforced by the Police. I witnessed a foolish mate given a warning by Cops.
    Different times but Transport was so easy to navigate, at 8 and 9 years old my brother and I would Bus,Ferry and Tram from Browns Bay to our Nans in Epsom for the weekend.
    As I recall it Trams were removed to make way for Cars and Trucks and Traffic lights.

    1. Trams were removed to make way for Trolley buses which they replaced on almost all routes ( Victoria Ave, Great South Rd, Remuera Rd were ones that didnt). Richmond Rd route avoided Krd and ran through Freemans bay up Franklin Rd then on Richmond Rd

  12. Interesting concept and view: my only grumble is that what’s labelled the ‘Central Post Office’ (now Britomart) was actually called the Chief Post Office. Only Wellington had a GPO, but in the days of the all-encompassing Post & Telegraph Dep’t, the country was divided into (from memory) 21 districts, with CPO’s as their main offices: the likes of Whangarei, Auckland, Thames, Hamilton, Gisborne, Napier, New Plymouth… and so on down the line. Rotorua was split off from Hamilton in maybe 1960 or ’61. Before that, Hamilton’s territory extended south to National Park and Chateau Tongariro, and southeast as far as Kawerau, Te Whaiti, and Ruatahuna. Tauranga in the 50’s was a Very Small Town! The P&T ran the telegraph/telephone/post office/main savings bank/collected radio licence fees (yes, we had to pay per receiver to own a ‘wireless’)/handled motor vehicle licensing… and as if that weren’t enough also provided the ‘motor pool’ for other government departments… i.e. provided cars for departmental/official business.

  13. very interesting conversation you guys brings back some memories too as an ex trammy motorman based mostly at Epsom time dulls the memories

  14. Brings back lots of memories. As a boy I used to pick up the list of all tram numbers from Epsom Depot and then go to places like Symonds Street to tick off seeing all trams on the network. Rode the last tram to the depot and collected souvenirs.

    Through routes included
    Avondale to Meadowbank
    Owairaka to Great South Road
    Mt. Roskill to Ponsonby
    Three Kings to Herne Bay (Changed to Pt. Chevalier after first trolley buses introduced to Herne Bay in August 1949)

  15. Great modernisation. The original Map should be credited to Dr. Bruce Gamble (c) and published in End of the Penny Section: When Trams Ruled the Streets of New Zealand ISBN 9781869340377 1994.

    1. To view some photographs of Auckland trams (including the “Last Trams”) and the buses that replaced them selected from the Bruce Gamble Collection (Walsh Memorial Library), follow this link to the Vernon eHive online database:

      There is also an Auckland Transport album of AT staff viewable here:

  16. Your map seems to be fairly accurate except for the omission of the loop around Woodbine and Wairakai, which serviced the Ellerslie race course, the trams backed up around the loop and cleared the whole racing population in about 20 mins. One fare
    one shilling special to any where in Auckland.

    Frank Rainsford

  17. Having arrived in Westmere in 1960, my only transit memories are of the trolley bus loops at Garnet/Oban Rd (no. 4) and just beyond the former Zoo entrance on Old Mill Rd (no. 4Z). My grandad, who lived in Westmere from the 1950s used to state that the trams did not run down Garnet Rd, the Zoo being the only terminus. Contrary to the above map, drawn decades later, he claimed only a connecting bus service ran down Garnet Rd. Do any photos appear in any publication to determine who is correct?

  18. I grew up in Onehunga, from 1941 to the mid1950’s, and lived some years in a home on lower Queen Street as it was then known. About 1/4 mile to the Onehunga wharf, and backing onto Jellico park. The tram was a superb way to get about in Auckland, the ride from Onehunga to Epsom, Newmarket, then on to Auckland city was very efficient. Coming home late at night on the last tram from Auckland was exciting: the last portion of lower Queen street in Onehunga was steep, and the conductor usually ‘let it rip’ at high speed if I was the last passenger in the tram. The tram swayed along and I got off at number 84 Queen street, bug eyed and glad to be safely off.

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