On Christmas Eve 1903, New North Road in Auckland, was busy.
People were hurrying home, carrying presents, from the numerous sales in the darkening evening, anticipating a holiday.
The big trams rolling past were familiar, used by many and indeed, that evening they were packed, with quite a number of people standing.
About 8pm, one big double decker tram on the Kingsland line went to stop, to wait as another tram cleared the way. It was headed up Eden Road, but a brake failed and it began to roll backwards, gathering speed as it headed for another tram, coming toward it from Kingsland.
Within minutes it reached a speed of 60kmh, the ratchet brake, meant to hold it, had failed.
One of the overhead wires snapped, plunging the racing tram into darkness.
The driver of the second tram threw it into reverse to lessen the impact but as the two collided, they telescoped into each other.
Passengers were thrown around the car and had to smash out windows to climb out.
Mt Eden resident Ann Young Hogarth, only 23, a dressmaker, had been travelling on the top deck. When the pole to the overhead wire snapped it whipped around, smashing her in the head and killing her instantly.
Benjamin Morrison Lindsay (also listed as Morris Benjamin) and William Caley were crushed between the two cars.
One man sitting back in the tram said he could see fire and initially thought the engine had exploded.
Among those on the tram were a number of visitors to Auckland - visiting family for the holidays.
Over 60 people were injured, some very badly.
An inquest found that the ratchet brake had failed. The terrible tragedy cast a pall over Auckland’s holiday season. It led to a loss of faith in the tram system which ended up being phased out. Ann Young is buried at Purewa Cemetery, Benjamin Lindsay is buried at Waikumete Cemetery and William Caley is buried in the Symonds Street Cemetery.
This is our last Grave Story post of the year.
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