Wellington must be New Zealand’s ‘cablecar city’ with the variety of cableways or cablecars of various shapes and sizes that rise up our hills. Oriental Bay and its neighbourhood is very much a part of this — in Oriental Bay itself and in Roseneath and along Evans Bay.
With our hilly sections, it’s not difficult to see the reason for cableways. They can replace the zig-zag path by which many of us reach our homes or they can be installed instead of the multiple steps which are equally familiar to us. Very often, they mean that disabled people or older citizens can stay in the homes they love.
Most of the cableways or cablecars are two-person, either an open platform with waist-high walls around it or an enclosed ‘sentrybox’ style. Others are square-shaped and may be extra solid to support a gondola. The systems for disabled use can be equipped with door ramps and larger floor areas to facilitate easy wheelchair access. To further aid independent use of the cableway, automatic landing gates can be installed.
Some have street frontages, others start from a front path or driveway a little distance from the road. A popular option is to rise out the back or side of a garage. The average length of the cableways is about 30 metres, with one of the longest in our neighbourhood being the one that rises 65 metres to a house in Palliser Road. Some are built on the boundary of two sections and used by both homes, while a very few serve several households with stops and platforms for each.
Private cablecars in Wellington started off as builders’ hoists when the steep hills of the city were first being developed. Timber and builders’ equipment would be transported to the building site. Then they were adapted or installed for the convenience of the householders themselves, especially for disabled people. Next step was their adaptation for general household access — first simply a platform, then maybe a semi-enclosed unit on a monorail or a more elaborate structure on dual rails.
The monorail involves less construction work than the dual rail, with the rail often being only 200 mm wide. The cablecar either sits on the single rail or is cantilevered off one side. They are usually run by an electric industrial motor fitted onto a gearbox with an electro-magnetic brake. Dual rails can be manufactured at various widths. The dual rail option has more visual impact on the environment but are especially suitable when the terrain demands a change in direction or for shared use.
Building consent is required for a new ‘line’. They must be checked and their warrants of fitness renewed regularly. There are believed to be about 300 private ones in Wellington.
Of course, the Grand Old Lady of cablecars is the Kelburn Cablecar — the funicular railway that joins Lambton Quay and Kelburn. It rises 120 metres over a length of 612 metres. It is a 1000 mm gauge single track with pine sleepers. It opened to the public on 22 February 1902 and has been going strong ever since, with a few facelifts along the way.
— Judith Doyle, Bay View newsletter 69, May 2017