What a great way to spend a few hours on Sunday - taking a vintage railcar trip from Palmerston North to Pahiatua through the Manawatu Gorge. This fun trip (one of many ran over the weekend) was full of our Probus Club members and we pooled cars and drove up to Palmerston North Railway Station. And there it is, all ready and waiting for us.
Waiting at Palmerston North Station
We soon boarded RM31, and sat down to enjoy the journey in the nice comfy seats. Robin went up the front to check out the controls. Before too long the carriage was full and we were on our way.
The refurbished interior
Robin was wearing his “Savannahlander” cap and tee shirt and a couple of volunteers came to talk about this Aussie iconic railcar trip. The railcar took us past farmland dotted with stock. Horses, sheep, cattle, even some alpacas looked up from their grazing to watch the railcar whizz by.
The rain was lashing down as we traveled through the Manawatu Gorge, looking over to the road which has been closed since April. The Manawatu Gorge road is likely to be remain closed for some time due to fresh fears about another major slip. The Transport Agency said a large area above the Kerry's Wall rock face was highly unstable, and it had since removed all contractors from working there.
The slip in the Manawatu Gorge. Photo: NZTA
We arrived at Pahiatua and were given a tour through the workshops. The Pahiatua Railcar Society (PRS) is dedicated to the restoration of railcars and other locomotives and rolling stock formerly operated by the New Zealand Railways Department. It has the sole remaining examples of the RM class 88 seater and Wairarapa railcars. We were told of the innumerable hours of work the volunteers undertake to restore these vintage treasures and the efforts to obtain funding.
Then we were taken into another workshop and it was explained that the two units being worked on are two halves of a railcar. We could appreciate how these restoration jobs take so many years as they are painstakingly rebuilt piece by piece. Such dedication from the members, and excursions like those held over the weekend put some extra funds into the coffers.
There's our railcar waiting to take us back again. We appreciated the request for passengers to swap sides, as we would get a much better view of the gorge on the return journey – there were too many heads in the way to get good pictures previously.
The railway tracks are on one side of the gorge, and we looked over at the road propped up on pillars. The road is eerily quiet with no traffic at all for the foreseeable future.
Views of the Manawatu Gorge road
For whatever reason, the return journey always seems much quicker – I’m sure there is an explanation for that. We thanked the organizer, hopped into the car and drove back to Levin. We had a great time – what can be better than riding the rails on a Sunday afternoon!