I love train rides, even suburban trips. Today’s trip into Wellington was on one of the new “Matangi” trains. And thanks to my Super Gold Card, I got to travel “free”. These new trains have air conditioning, information displays, and public address systems. I can vouch for that, as a disembodied voice kept reminding us that “the next stop is….”. The low floor is designed for mobility impaired passengers, wheel chairs, and pushchairs. The Greater Wellington Regional Council has placed orders for 48 two-car Matangi units, and the first arrivals are currently running on the Hutt Valley Line.
As it was the last day of the school holidays, the train soon filled up with eager kids having a day out in the big city. Once through suburbia, the Wellington Harbour came into view as we sped towards the city.
Big-city railway stations, such as Wellington, were powerful symbols of civic pride and prosperity. Although road competition had already begun to erode rail passenger traffic by the time Wellington station opened in 1937 (by the Governor General of New Zealand, Viscount Galway), it has remained a bustling passenger hub. Wellington's passenger rail network is made up of five lines: Johnsonville, Kapiti, Melling, Upper Hutt and Wairarapa, and passengers make 12 million train trips annually. I have a bit of a soft spot for this lovely old station, and in our earlier working lives both Robin and myself spent many years travelling to and from work on the trains, gently rocked in the carriages as they sped along the tracks.
The thousands of daily passengers who pour in and out of the station each day probably don’t even notice these two awards hanging discretely inside the building. This one declares the building an “International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark”.
As the station was built on reclaimed land, test piles were first driven to test the quality of soil, and it was decided to use Vibro cast piles to support the structure. The building was the first major New Zealand structure to incorporate a significant measure of earthquake resistance.
No trip into Wellington is complete without a visit to John’s Cafe in Lambton Quay to purchase a couple of these tasty pastries. Lovely flaky Greek Baklava – that’s sure to put a smile on Robin’s face, and take his mind off that nasty gout attack!