French theme for Chateau rail excursion
Ooh-la-la! It’s Sunday 7.45am and the Feilding railway station platform is thronging with 300 or so people wearing striped tops; red, white and blue; berets, kepis and stick-on moustaches. Shades of Phileas Fogg and Passepartout, there are even ostrich feathers. Sacre bleu, what’s going on?
Then a train slides into the station sporting the tricoleur. Resplendent under a black kepi, ‘Loowee’ and other members of Feilding Steam Rail usher aboard some 250 passengers for a trip aboard their restored 1930s and 40s heritage carriages for the first of the year’s rail excursions. Destination – The Chateau – hence the French theme.
No steam power this time – Steam Rail’s venerable 1927 WAB gets its chance in a couple of weeks pulling an excursion to Taihape’s Gumboot Day, and in June to Masterton for mid-winter Christmas – this train is pulled by one of KiwiRail’s Class 30 EF electric locos.
Inside, the four cars are decked out with tricoleurs, and suitably attired carriage stewards ferry tea, coffee, food and wine from the galley kitchen set up in a converted guards van.
Three Feilding friends Heather MacDonald, Lois Cole and Zena McEwen make themselves comfortable for a trip that will take three and a half hours to get to National Park, crossing the spectacular viaducts and offering majestic views of the Rangitikei River – views you don’t get when travelling by car, and all the better when seen from the open balcony of the refreshment car.
What would Heather normally be doing on a Sunday morning?
‘‘I’d be sitting on my bum at home reading a book.’’
Heather is still on her derriere, but is with her friends and enjoying a day out with a difference.
‘‘You can really hibernate when you get older,’’ she says.
The excursion includes a meal at Chateau Tongariro. Carl and Alison Robinson of Tokomaru narrowly win the prize for best dress-up over Hawera’s Linda and Gavin Cotter. Then it’s ‘‘All aboard mesdames et messieurs’’ and the train cranks on the downhill pace through the scenic mag- nificence to arrive back in Feilding before 7pm. It’s been a cracker of a day. We’ve all had a ‘rail’ of a time.
– Richard Mays travelled as a guest of Feilding Steam Rail. More information about the rail restoration society, can be found at steammrail.nz
All dressed up and Chateau au go-go, Carl and Alison Robinson of Tokomaru as gendarme and can-can girl, won the best dressed prize during Feilding Steam Rail’s Return to the Chateau Tongariro excursion on Sunday.