Motat Nights, Christmas Lights, visit December 2013

‘Motat Nights, Christmas Lights’, visit December 2013

On Sunday I went to MOTAT (Museum of Transport and Technology) located in Western Springs. It is in close proximity to other attractions such as Auckland Zoo, Western Springs Lakeside Park, Western Springs Speedway and TAPAC Performing Arts Centre.

MOTAT is a 10 minute drive from downtown Auckland via the North Western Motorway or a two stage fare on the bus from the city. The Auckland Hop On, Hop Off Explorer bus also stops at MOTAT (blue circle bus route).

The museum is open 10am to 5pm, 7 days. Last entry is at 4:30pm. Adults are $16, Child/student $8, Family Pass $40.00. I used a voucher from the Auckland A-Z Guide, which gave me 25% off.

Tram approaching MOTAT, Great North Road, Western Springs

Tram approaching MOTAT, Great North Road, Western Springs

After purchasing my ticket I turned left and walked down what is called The Boulevard. At the end is display hall 2. At the back on the hall visitors can climb inside a mock up an EMU, the new electric trains, which started on the Onehunga line last week. There are also several vehicles and engines on display including a selection of British vehicles.


Guests can explore a mock up of an EMU including driver's cab

Guests can explore a mock up of an EMU including driver’s cab

Next to the display hall is the Western Springs Pumphouse. The pumphouse opened in 1877 and for 33 years the beam engine and pump supplied Auckland with water. The beam engine has been carefully restored. As the pumphouse is on the land that became MOTAT it is the museum’s first display piece.

Western Springs Pump Station

Western Springs Pumping Station

’90° South – Sir Edmund Hillary and the NZ Antarctic Expedition 1956 – 8’ was my next stop. This exhibition details the Antarctic Expedition led by Sir Edmund Hillary. The centre piece for this exhibition is a modified Ferguson tractor, one of three used by the expedition party.


Ferguson Tractor, one of three used during Sir Ed’s 1956 -8 Antarctic Expedition

Also in this building are displays on telecommunications, the fire station, which includes several fire engines, and a print shop. The Print Shop Workshop is open every Sunday from 10am to 4pm.

The Wainui Schoolhouse was built in 1878 out of native Kauri timber and was donated to MOTAT in 1969 and stands next to MOTAT’s historical village. Inside the schoolhouse visitors can learn not only about the rules that applied to students but the strict guidelines that teachers had to adhere to.

Wainui Schoolhouse, built 1878

Wainui Schoolhouse, built 1878

The historic village includes a chapel, an operating blacksmith’s forge and several historic houses, including a two unit fencible cottage, which were provided to retired soldiers who enlisted as military reserve. The right hand side unit has been converted into a gallery and currently holds an exhibition ‘A Teaspoon Per Cup & One For The Pot”, which looks at New Zealand’s history with drinking tea.

This church, originally St. Saviours Church was built in 1898 and paid for by the church community of Blockhouse Bay

This church, originally St. Saviours Church  of Blockhouse Bay was built in 1898

Opposite the historic village is a strip of early 1900s retail stores, which visitors can explore.

Example of early 1900s retail shops

Example of early 1900s retail stores

Next I visited ‘Stars and Cars’ an exhibition, which celebrated vehicles, which had famous drivers. Vehicles on display included race car driver Bruce McLaren’s 1961 Cooper Climax, former Prime Minister Helen Clark’s red 1971 Honda 50 Scooter, the yellow Mini used for the stunt sequences in the classic comedy road trip film Goodbye Pork Pie and the Tool Guy’s van from the popular television series Outrageous Fortune.

Bruce McLaren's 1961 Cooper Climax

Bruce McLaren’s 1961 Cooper Climax

Foreground: 1978 British Leyland Mini 1000 used for stunt sequences in 'Goodbye Pork Pie'. Background: 1987 Mazda Bongo 'Tool Guys' van from 'Outrageous Fortune'

Foreground: 1978 British Leyland Mini 1000, used for stunt sequences in ‘Goodbye Pork Pie’. Background: 1987 Mazda Bongo, ‘Tool Guys’ van from ‘Outrageous Fortune’

Another exhibition in the same building was Motor Notion, which explored New Zealand’s love affairs with cars.

Also in this building were the Oxford News Theatre (currently playing highlights from Goodbye Pork Pie), a mirror maze, a tactile dome where guests explored tunnels in complete darkness, and ‘Tinkering Tots’ a gallery designed for under 5’s.

After lunch I visited ‘I Am The Last Tram’, which celebrates the 1950s. The centre piece of this exhibition is a reproduction of tram 242 as how it would have looked when it made its final trip down Queen Street on 29th December 1956. Also in this exhibition is a recreation of Queen Street; included are replica’s of the Civic Theatre and Smith and Caughey’s department store. Upstairs the exhibition explored social issues and events in the 1950s including Plunket babies, Queen Elizabeth II’s 1953 Royal visit and youth culture.

Tram 89 repainted and decorated to look like tram 242, last to tram to travel down Queen Street, 1956

Tram 89 repainted and decorated to look like tram 242 on its last trip down Queen Street, 29 December 1956

The next two exhibitions I visited looked at New Zealand’s war history. ‘Winning the Peace’, which is located in the same building as ‘I Am The Last Tram, examines the changes that took place following the Second World War. The second exhibition ‘While You Were Away’ explored what life was like in New Zealand, while the world was at war.

At the back of MOTAT’s grounds there are the tram barns and workshop, which hold a collection of MOTAT’s trams. MOTAT has trams from Auckland, Wellington, Wanganui, Dunedin, Melbourne and Sydney. Also nearby is Station Road, which includes the Mt Albert Signal Box that was built in 1914 and was in operation until 1966, and the old Waitakere train station buildings.

Old Mt Albert Signal Box built 1914 and in operation until 1966. Behind old Waitakere Station buildings

Old Mt Albert Signal Box built 1914 and in operation until 1966. Behind the old Waitakere Station buildings

The highlight for many children is taking a ride on the tram. The tram services runs approximately every 30 minutes from MOTAT’s Great North Road site to MOTAT 2 on Meola Road via Western Springs Lakeside Park and Auckland Zoo. Tram rides are included in MOTAT’s general admission but tickets can be purchased onboard for tram rides only, which is great for families that may wish to include a tram ride with their visit to the zoo or park.

At MOTAT 2 is the Sir Keith Park Memorial Aviation Collection. The aviation display hall was where I finished my visit. This aviation hangar has displays on the Fleet Air Arm, the RAF Bomber Command, Jean Batten, the Walsh Brothers and includes a large collection of military and civil aircraft, with a few suspended from the ceiling.


Sir Keith Park Memorial Aviation Collection, MOTAT 2

Sir Keith Park Memorial Aviation Collection, MOTAT 2

This year MOTAT celebrates it’s 50th anniversary!

Essential Details:

MOTAT (Museum of Technology and Transport)

805 Great North Road, Western Springs

Open 10am – 5pm, 7 days

Adults are $16, Child/student $8, Family Pass $40.00.



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