Archive | August, 2012

Riding the Rails

26 Aug

It’s impossible to keep keen trammies away from the rails and over the past few days Ken Henderson and myself have had a feast, beginning with a Mainline Steam excursion to Arthur’s Pass with the magnificent giant Ka 942. The day was extremely well run with us rail buffs being treated to four photo stops when our train backed up before performing a spirited run past with driver Mark Scotson brilliantly showing off the big Ka 942 for our cameras. What a crescendo of railway sounds bouncing around mountain tops. We were both invited to ride a few ks on the footplate, a thrilling, albeit rollicking experience. A great day was reminisced over a bottle of red and a cheeseboard  from the café carriage during the return journey.

Three days later we were kindly invited by KiwiRail to join a promotional run of the TranzAlpine comprising New Zealand-built AK carriages that will soon be an everyday TranzAlpine event, bringing New Zealand scenic rail journeys in line with the best anywhere. In fact, we are arguably better than the best. KiwiRail scenic staff are superior to most  encountered on my world travels. It’s that dinkum  friendly Kiwi attitude to the fore I suspect. Ken and I were able to compare experiences with Tom Evers-Swindell, manager of Kiwi Rail’s Passenger Group. Tom, an affable guy, discussed the difficulties of boxing on during an international economic downturn and New Zealand been additionally hit owing to almost two years of Canterbury seismic woes. Interestingly, New Zealand is the only country operating long-distance rail journeys without direct Government subsidies. And potential rail travellers need to accept the reality of paying more for a superior experience compared with, say, bus travel which is remarkably inexpensive in New Zealand.

Tom, also a discerning rail traveller, was enthusiast about New Zealand’s variety of landscapes, especially on the TranzAlpine route.  Amongst other travellers were reps from a variety of tourist-related organisations.  All appeared suitably impressed. Ken and I spent a good part of the journey on the open AKV observation carriage ever hopeful of capturing that memorable moment as the train wraps around a tight curve, hopefully with snow and mountains as a backdrop. As you may have guessed, we finished the journey reminiscing over a Café carriage purchased bottle of red and cheeseboard. The superior riding, quietness, and comfort of the new AK carriages certainly enhanced the experience.

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Historic re-enactment

10 Aug

Almost 110 years ago Sir John Logan Campbell drove the first electric tram up Queen Street to inaugurate the largest municipal tramway project in New Zealand.  To celebrate this important occasion in Auckland’s history a re-enactment will be held on the first day of the Auckland Heritage Festival on Saturday September 29 at the Wynyard Quarter tramway.

MOTAT Tram No 44 is almost identical to that first tram driven by Sir John Logan Campbell on November 17, 1902. No.44 will be part of this re-enactment including Auckland’s two present Dockline tramcars. Mayor Len Brown will officiate at this event together with “The Father of Auckland – Sir John Logan Campbell”, who will take Tram 44 on its celebration journey around the Wynyard Quarter tram circuit after the formal speeches commencing at 1.30 pm in Jellicoe Street, outside Jack Tar cafe bar.

Constructing the Auckland Tramway system was a huge project undertaken by the British Electric Traction Company from 1899. Within just three years 27.5 km of tracks had been constructed and 43 tramcars were operating. Eventually the fleet comprised 269 trams covering 72 kilometres.