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.