The Weka Pass A428 at Half-Eleven

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The Weka Pass A428 in NZ.

Easter Sunday saw Ms Stress, Dorty, Hubby and the boys, plus me making our way to Waipara, some 60km North of Christchurch (New Zealand, that is) for a train ride.

There we boarded and tried to keep the boys (a little over 1 and a lot over 2) tolerably quiet while waiting for the 11:30. Come the time and we're off, boys fully engaged watching anything passing-by and us watching the scenery pass by – and very pretty most of it was, too.

About 15 or 20 minutes later we stopped for a photo break, which we had assumed was for a particularly special panorama but no, it was in fact for the engine. The train backed away round a bend, then reappeared, puffing its way toward us, allowing for several shots.

Onward to Waikari after a total of 45 minutes, then a 45 minute break for comfort and coffee – but the hotel was closed to us, for someone else's function. We just made it back in time for the 35 minute return journey.

Back to our house – treasure-hunt for Easter-eggs for the boys and tea-with-sticky-cakes for us.

You may have assumed that it is a steam engine. Well done, you're correct.

The organisation is an enthusiast's affair, the line having been purchased by them in 1983 and the engines lovingly overhauled and restored. They earn their keep by running this service a couple of Sundays a month plus special days – this year it's (I'd like to tell you 42 but...) 31 Sundays. The return trip costs $25 per adult, $10 per child or $60 for a family.

Yes, I said engines, plural. They have three – this one and two British-made Dg class locos built by English Electric, in England, in 1956.
This one was built in New Zealand, at a place called Thames on the North Island, in 1909 and is (obviously!) an A Class, (numbered A428), which was the pride of the North Island passenger express service in its day.

This one is one of only two still in existence – and the only one still in 'working steam condition'.

The rolling stock on this train was (I don't know their full complement) Guard's van, two carriages plus two open ones that look like converted goods trucks (bench seats), one with a roof, t'other without. The carriages are quite old (1950s at a guess – or maybe earlier) cleaned up and with newer sheepskin (another guess) seat covers.

The engine has a built-in tender behind and runs on coal (from the West Coast).

Dorty commented that the smoke smell took her back to her (maternal) grandparent's farmhouse open coal fire, in Northumberland, in the seventies.

A very pleasant day was had by all. Indeed, we may start an annual tradition but perhaps not at Easter – the train was packed as full as it could be (I can't comment on normal Sundays).

There's more at this website.


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