Those were the days, my friend
Long-time Wellington train user Duncan Graham isn’t exactly embracing the new Matangi trains, and explains why.
Unless there are more delays, come autumn we’ll no longer be riding the rattler. Instead, we’ll be aboard gleaming new yellow-nose Matangi trains whizzing between Thorndon and Johnsonville.
A matter of joy for many, though not this commuter. The new trains will allegedly be faster, quieter and cooler, and more reliable and comfortable.
Commuting in Wellington will then be just a whisker closer to the Shanghai experience where trains are like Boeings and go almost as fast.
Who wouldn’t anticipate such a coming with anything less than rapture? This passenger.
Away from the crowds cheering as the first Korean carriages slither away on the serpentine track from Platform One will be a lone commuter blinking tears of regret, huddled near the TAB: a loser screwing up his free Super Gold ticket.
Regret for the loss of a loved one – the English Electric DM/D. Let’s take this moment to say a few words before he’s shunted into the final siding.
‘‘ He’’? Of course. Sleek, curvaceous, temperamental ships are certainly ‘‘she’’, but trains are rough and rugged, angular and hard, clearly masculine.
You couldn’t get more clunky than a good old DM/D. He and his mates came to the capital 73 years ago, but the guys we know best are really young fellas, still in their early 60s, unready for superannuation.
Which explains the fondness. They’re my generation. Like most old blokes, they creak and groan a bit. They’re a wee bit lined around the windows and seem to attract the dirt. Shaky, not so nimble on their pins. Grumpy now and again. But who isn’t when approaching the end of the line?
Reliable? Of course. They’d never go off the rails.
Breakdowns were always someone else’s fault – clumsy track crews, short-circuiting electricians, lumpen engineers coupling incompatibly.
It’s true, DM/Ds needed a bit of TLC. Who doesn’t? Ask the local DHB how much they’re spending to keep the greys going. The Johnsonville-City shuttle will never be the same once the Matangis start.
Doors will hiss open, synthetic voices will announce destinations. Spy cameras will eye us from above scanning for fare dodgers. There’ll be no windows to open or close with a bang, frightening the girls.
The greatest sadness is that the kids won’t be allowed up front to look ahead, quivering with excitement as the black maw gaped, ready to swallow us whole – not a tunnel but a giant weta’s cave.
Jumping out of carriages into the mud and staggering along the sleepers after a breakdown became a hardening and uniting character-building experience, like cold showers and rugby in the 1950s. It made us Wellingtonians. The Matangi will just make us soft. And modern.