Wellington Cable Car Ride to Botanic Gardens
Tour Participation Requirements
Though today it provides a scenic, tranquil ascent from one of Wellington's busiest neighborhoods to the serene elegance of the Kelburn suburb, the Wellington Cable Car wasn't always a smooth ride.
Shortly after its opening in February of 1902, the cable car was given the nickname "Red Rattler." One trip was all it took to understand why. The steam-powered car with open sides clattered mercilessly from the heart of the city to Kelburn, at the time a rural collection of farms and meadows.
Adding to the chaos, riders were free to move about the car at will. Passengers would hang on railings, jump on and off whenever they wanted, and reach out to touch and kick the passing tunnel walls. The relatively chaotic trips didn't dissuade riders – by 1933, the tram was carrying a million passengers a year and still hadn't experienced any major safety mishaps.
That changed in May of 1973, when a construction worker was seriously injured after being accidentally struck by a tram. Government officials were already growing concerned about the age of the tram and its equipment; this incident was the last straw. In the ensuing years, the city's Ministry of Works ordered a complete upgrade.
Political infighting, multiple shutdowns, and spotty service plagued the tram throughout the process. Finally, after shutting down for an entire year, the new electric cable car reopened in 1979.
Today, the city's cable car provides a relaxing ride over the city – an easy and immensely enjoyable route to some of the region's most popular attractions. But most passengers don't realize that the car's history is just as impressive as its stunning views of Wellington and the mountains beyond.
Back on the train gang
The relaxing nature of the ride and picturesque scenery belies the origins of Wellington's cable car. The track was laid by inmates from the nearby Terrace Goal. Many of the bricks in the train tunnels were also created and put in place by some of New Zealand's roughest prisoners.
Non-refundable if canceled within 24 hours of requested services.