A visit to the Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT) is to step back in time to the glory days of transport, when travel was glamorous and motorised transport in its early, pioneering days. Spread over a massive 19 hectares, MOTAT’S two sites are linked by a resplendent vintage tram, condemned to the scrap heap towards the end of New Zealand’s tram era in the 1950s but restored and given new life at MOTAT. And therein lies the beauty of MOTAT – the museum is crammed with vintage aircraft, railway locomotives and carriages, trams, buses and trolleybuses, all of which might otherwise have been lost to the world forever.
Located in the beautiful Western Springs area of Auckland, MOTAT boasts huge collections of a wide range of transport vehicles from over 100 years of engine-powered transport in New Zealand, ranging from an 1883 Dunedin Cable Car trailer to a 1978 Mercedes-Benz O305. Restoration and conservation of the exhibits is ongoing and largely managed by a passionate and dedicated band of volunteers, many of whom have been a vital part of the museum for decades.
MOTAT 1, one of two sites on which the museum lies, is home to the majority of the collections, including the always-popular Victorian Village. Built around a cottage standing on its original site, the village consists of nine major Victorian buildings, highlights of which are a chapel, schoolhouse, cellblock, and a blacksmith forge which still operates every Sunday. The buildings are brought to life by a vast collection of personal items, household appliances, furnishings and toys from the period.
The MOTAT 1 site is also home to the bus collection, which carries buses, tickets, timetables and signs dating back to the introduction of motor buses in the 1920s, a fascinating emergency services exhibition, a massive collection of horse-drawn vehicles, motorcycles, bicycles, and commercial vehicles, a tramway exhibition, and a collection of beautiful locomotives and carriages – try to time your visit for the third Sunday of the month, when you can ride a vintage steam or diesel locomotive.
MOTAT 2 houses a brand new aviation display hall, containing rare military and civil planes, as well as a section displaying exhibits from the Second World War, including trucks and tanks used by Allied Forces. Aviation gems include parts from Richard Pearse’s original 1903 aircraft, Fox and Tiger Moths from the 1930s, the only 1940s Solent Mark IV double-decked flying boat in the world, a newly restored De Haviland Mosquito wooden fighter bomber, and one of only a few WWII Avro Lancaster Bombers still in existence. Further romance is bestowed on the museum by part of the collection being displayed in a restored Blister Hangar used in the UK during the Second World War.
MOTAT offers a fantastic day out for the entire family and is easily reached from hotels in central Auckland by both private and public transport. Travel back in time to a simpler time when the wisps of steam could be seen heading skywards from trains and the familiar ding of trams were a constant sound in the city