Vin­tage train car­riage re­lo­cates


A Plim­mer­ton pas­sen­ger train car­riage built dur­ing the fad­ing light of the Bri­tish Em­pire has been re­stored to its orig­i­nal state by a hus­band and wife team from ru­ral Carter­ton.

After restor­ing a cable car for the Cable Car Mu­seum in Welling­ton, wheel­wright Greg Lang said the cou­ple were sought out by Main­line Steam Trust to work on train car­riages for their Plim­mer­ton op­er­a­tion.

The re­cently com­pleted train car­riage was ‘‘a hell of a task’’.

It tested the cou­ple’s skills in the scale and breadth of the job as they had to com­pletely re­build the car­riage and up­date the safety spec­i­fi­ca­tions.

In the past they have built and re­stored horse-drawn car­riages that have fea­tured in sev­eral movies, in­clud­ing The Lord of the Rings tril­ogy and The Last Samu­rai, as well as in the New Zealand tele­vi­sion se­ries Xena: War­rior Princess.

‘‘It’s a big job, but you look at it as a big pic­ture and then break it down into smaller ones and work on each piece un­til it comes back to­gether as a big pic­ture again,’’ Lang said.

‘‘The car­riages cre­ate a lot of in­ter­est for peo­ple. They’re beau- ti­ful things.’’

Along with wife Ali, the Langs have been in the wheel­wright and car­riage mak­ing busi­ness for more than 20 years.

They got into the in­dus­try after an in­ter­est was turned into a pro­fes­sion through a chance meet­ing with an English­man who was mar­ried to a Ro­mani Gypsy.

Ali said they had found a book about build­ing gypsy car­a­vans in New Zealand.

When they went on a trip to Eng­land for their OE, they de­cided to find out more about the process.

Even­tu­ally they met wheel­wright Ted Atkin­son in Som­er­set and he taught them all he could about the craft of wheel­wright­ing and car­riage build­ing.

Re­turn­ing home they opened The Wheel­wright Shop in 1994 and moved into their premises at Glad­stone in Wairarapa in 1997.

This par­tic­u­lar pro­ject took five years be­cause they were work­ing part time on it and mak­ing du­pli­cate parts for the next car­riage.

The amount of work put in to the rail car­riages, meant they be­come like a part of the fam­ily, Greg Lang said.

The cou­ple have two more car­riages to com­plete for Main­line Steam Trust.

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