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The Directors of The Upland Estate Company set up The Kelburn & Karori Tramway Company to provide transport facilities in the form of a Cable tram between their proposed residential subdivision at Kelburn and the City.
Work on the tram line begins. Three shifts worked round the clock to construct the system, including digging 3 tunnels.
Work is completed and the Cable Car starts operation on 22 February 1902 and proves an instant success with over 425,000 passenger trips on the cable car in the first year.
The company purchases 3 old palace horse trams and converted them into  trailer carriages to increase passenger capacity. A Tea kiosk is built at Kelburn on the site that is now occupied by the Cable Top Eatery.
The converted palace trams are added to the grip cars on the uphill side.  This increases capacity to 62 seated passengers. 
Kelburn Park and the Dominion Observatory are completed.
Electric lights installed in cars.
Annual patronage increases to over 1 million passenger trips.
Electricity replaced steam in powering the winding gear. The smokestack which had been a Kelburn landmark from the start, is removed.
The slipper brakes are removed from both trailers – a move which would prove to have serious ramifications 40 years later.
Company accuses the council of running buses in direct competition and asks the council to purchase the company or stop competing. Council refuses to purchase claiming ageing stock and limited potential earnings.
Still claiming unfair competition the Company takes its case to the Supreme Court. The Council agrees to purchase Company. Kelburn and Karori Tramway Company was voluntarily dissolved in February 1947.
Lambton Terminal upgraded.
Wellington's Coat of Arms added to the cars.
A serious accident involving a construction worker working on the new inner city motorway who accidentally stepped in front of a cable car. Incident leads to a Ministry of Works investigation.
There were several upgrades to the system and the trailers carriages are removed.  However, despite these modifications the Ministry of Works advised the cars only have a maximum lifespan of a further 10 years. The council decides to invest in a new fully automated system.
Tenders close for new cable car system and contract is awarded to Habeggar AG of Switzerland.
On 22 September 1978 the old cars made their final run.
The original Grip Cars 1 and 2 are removed. Renovations begin in preparation for a new line. Rebuild of the system included relocating the winding system, track re-gauging, new cars, and control.

 The new cable car system opened on 20th October.
The control system was replaced after several years of the system being unreliable and passenger numbers dropping as a consequence.
Following deregulation of the bus industry, the cable car ownership and that of the overhead power network for the trolleybuses passed to the Wellington Cable Car  Limited – a council controlled organisation. Harbour City Cable Car Limited won the tender to operate the cable car. Stagecoach won the tender for the maintenance contract.
The Wellington Cable Car  Limited takes the maintenance contract in house.
The data communication system was upgraded.
The operation of the cable car is taken in house by the Wellington Cable Car  Limited.
The Kelburn terminal is rebuilt to include an internal viewing deck. It was officially reopened on 14 February 2014.
During June to August, the Cable Car closed temporarily to undertake a major equipment upgrade to replace the electric drive and control system. The project included:
  • replacing the obsolete systems and equipment
  • fully integrating all systems so that they work seamlessly together
  • updating electrical controls and associated systems (including communications, drive brake, hydraulics, and the supervision/isolation of the haul rope) to ensure that it meet the latest funicular code requirements (European CEN-ropeway codes)
Since the 1979 upgrade, each car has completed more than one million trips. The Cable Car also took the opportunity to cosmetically upgrade the existing cars and make changes to the staff facilities.

Whilst the Cable Car was out of action, the Wellington City Council began construction work in the Cable Car Lane and Lambton Quay Terminal. This included: 
  • replacing the old leaky canopy with an elegant new glass one that will let the sunshine in (Phase 1)
  • building a new ticket booth and moving the entry gates to make queuing and buying tickets easier (Phase 1)
  • new paving, signs and colour scheme for the heritage-listed Stonehams building (Phase 2-final phase of work on the lane in 2017)
It was expected to be back in action on 1 August, but additional work was required. Normal service resumed on 18 August.


Find out more about the conception of the Cable Car and the people who were instrumental to its success, here.
Old Car-135
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+64 4 472 2199
Cable Car Lane
280 Lambton Quay