Those were the days, my friend

Long-time Welling­ton train user Dun­can Graham isn’t ex­actly em­brac­ing the new Matangi trains, and ex­plains why.

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION -

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.

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