Whistle stop visit for old steamer
Sunday February 25 and a steam train sneaked into the Tararua on an excursion from Plimmerton to Pahiatua and return.
There was nothing too secretive about it really, loud bellows on the whistle and clouds of white and black smoke with ringing alarm bells as it crossed State Highway 2 by Woodville before heading south to Pahiatua – the destination actually being the Tui Mangatainoka Brewery.
This was yet another excursion organised by Mainline Steam Heritage Trust an organisation started in 1988 after the Ferrymead 125 events in Christchurch. It is a New Zealand organisation devoted to the restoration and operation of historic New Zealand Railways mainline steam locomotives. Regular day excursions and multi-day tours are operated over rail lines throughout New Zealand
Based around the collection of steam locomotives that were privately owned by Mr Ian Welch, the first excursion began operating on the main line from Christchurch.
Depots have sprung up in Parnell, Middleton and later Plimmerton from which Jb1236 – Joanne - came on Sunday.
Joanne was purchased by the Railway Enthusiasts Society 1971, before later being sold privately and moved to MOTAT where it was placed on static display until 1988 it was purchased by Ian Welch, and moved to Parnell. Restored to mainline standard and converted to oil firing in 2001, gaining the 'JB' classification in the process. JB 1236 moved from Christchurch to Plimmerton in 2011. It returned to service in March 2017.
Joanne did not do all the work of hauling the six carriages, a veteran black diesel engine being hooked up in tandem for the journey.
The 200 passengers thoroughly enjoyed the excursion up the main line through the Manawatu Gorge on a beautiful day getting full view of the slips which have caused the road closure. They travelled in a fleet of five immaculately restored AO carriages with large viewing windows, air conditioning, heating and modern comfortable seating and a dining car.
They enjoyed their visit to Tui Brewery at Mangatainoka where they were hosted for the classic Kiwiana BBQ lunch and a tour of the brewery while the engine swapped ends at Pahiatua, then reversed back to Woodville to turn around, ready for the return journey to Plimmerton.
Nick Rogers Tui Experience Entrepreneur for Tui Brewery said this was the second such train visit and Mainline Steam, encouraged by selling out both trips, is planning three more this year.
Joanne and her passengers leave Woodville bound for Plimmerton.