Success is getting what you want; happiness is liking what you get

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Honky Tonk Starlight Express

It was a case of heightened anticipation down at Levin Station last night.  Cars were stopping to see just what was happening – after all, it’s not often a steam train is spotted on the Main Trunk Line.  And there she was, in all her glory, huffing and puffing at the station with an admiring group gathered around.

P7048867 Honky Tonk Starlight Express

Steam Incorporated were running the Honky Tonk Starlight Express early evening trip from Levin to Palmerston North and return.  The locomotive AB608 Passchendaele was built at the Addington Railway Workshops in Christchurch in 1915, and was pulling three historic carriages and a brake van.
 P7040014 Down at the station

P7040003 Plaque added to the refurbished loco

And looks what’s coming – it’s the Northern Explorer Auckland to Wellington train coming into Levin, pulled by a diesel engine.  What a contrast, the old and the new.  The passengers aboard were thrilled to see “our” engine puffing away, and waved enthusiastically to all of us standing on the station as their train travelled southwards

P7040010 Northern Explorer and AB608.

We had arrived bright and early for our 6.00pm departure, so we had plenty of time to have a good look around.  We could see the fire box blazing brightly and the engine driver kindly allowed me to clamber up into the loco and snap a few photos.  How kind, I was most impressed, and I’m sure you wouldn’t get that sort of service on a commercial train trip.  There is certainly not much room to spare – the engine driver sits of the tiny seat on the right and has to peer out the window.

P7040019 The fire box was blazing

P7048871Steam’s up

Then it was “All Aboard” and we went to claim our seats.  Every one came well prepared with plenty of warm clothing, and we had been warned that the vintage carriages do not have heating, which, we were told, is part of their character.

P7040030  Ready for our adventure

The trip took us up the Main Trunk Line, stopping at Shannon, and Palmerston North.  During the one hour stopover at Palmy musician Wayne Mason belted out honky tonk music on an old piano which was bolted to the floor of the guards van.  Wayne is just one of the keen volunteer members aboard the evening train, while others were doing duty as Car Stewards.

P7040042 Wayne Mason playing honky tonk piano

While the passengers enjoyed the music, and queued up at the coffee cart to get their coffee fix, we waited while the loco was unhooked, turned around and hooked up to the other end of the train.  Then the hard working volunteers had work to do.  The water tank needed replenishing, and we watched as a little chemical was first poured into the very big hose (to counteract boiler scale to aid the boiler to last longer) before it was hooked up and the water tap turned on.  And all those wheels needed another touch of oil.

P7040055 Getting ready to replenish the water supply

P7040063Adding extra oil
 P7048874 Brrr – it’s cold on the station at Palmy

Then it was back on-board again for the return trip. We walked over a brass plate on the floor.  Robin knew exactly what it was – a pivot point for the wheels underneath.  I was most impressed, how did he know that, I wondered?

P7048875 Brass plate on the floor

There was a bit of drinking taking place over the other side of the carriage, quite a bit of singing, and general fun and laughter as we steamed through the night.  With a freight train heading towards us on the line, we were safely stopped for a while on a siding at Koputaroa, a few miles north of Levin.  We waited, and waited some more, till the extra long freight train finally rolled past and we continued on the homewards journey.  Plenty of time while we were waiting to take an on-board selfy photo.

P7040037The trip is nearly over

Arriving safely at Levin, we gathered up our belongings and disembarked.  What a great trip – we love trains, and vintage trains are certainly something quite special.

No comments: