Scenic railway is ready to roll
The Esplanade Scenic Railway is unique in the world. It always runs on time.
The miniature railway, which is about to launch its daily holiday service, runs consistently on time because it doesn’t have a timetable.
Whenever there’s a queue of people, the railway will pick them up and take them on a delightful scenic journey through the native bush and alongside the many attractions at the Esplanade.
From December 26 to January 31, one of three diesel engines connected to four or five open carriages leaves between 11-5pm, seven days a week, weather permitting. The main station is at the Lido end of the Esplanade and it makes one stop at the children’s playground during the 20-minute journey and then returns to the main station.
The $2.50 fare per person is flexible. Children and parents can get off at the playground, enjoy the attractions and then catch the train back for the same price.
Vice president Grant Taylor looks forward to the holiday train service.
‘‘The Esplanade is a wonderful asset to the city. It has bush walks, rose gardens, the upgraded children’s playground, a paddling pool, cafe and the scenic railway,’’ he says. ‘‘We’re part of the attraction and we offer the service both to Manawatu people and those visiting the city.’’
The 2.2 kilometre train ride takes people through some of the most distinctive bush in the region where passengers can see bird and animal life such as tuis, wood pigeons and rabbits.
To run such an attraction requires a dedicated team. The Scenic Railway has about 60 volunteers, several of whom have given more than 40 years’ service. In paying tribute to them, Grant says the railway could always do with more.
‘‘Here’s your chance to drive a train. We’d welcome people to join the roster and help with the running and maintenance of the engines and carriages,’’ he says.
The railway has three engines, each in their own distinctive livery. They have an original locomotive built in 1969 when the service began and adorned in NZ Railways colours. Of the other two, one is a grey, red and yellow KiwiRail loco and the other is a pale blue 1997 Trans Rail loco.
The cost of the Scenic Railway relies on donations. Funding has come from the Mainland Foundation, pub charities, local businesses, the Central Energy Trust, Lions Foundation and private donations.
In the last Christmas holiday season about 10,000 people enjoyed the rides. This year Grant’s hoping even more people will come. ‘‘Come along, have a ride and take advantage of the Esplanade.’’