Special train for rock fans
Taranaki Herald 22nd November
Special train for rock fans
When 250 David Bowie fans from the South Island arrive in Wellington for his concert on Thursday the train that brought them will wait in Picton to take them back
for this is no ordinary train. It is the Otago Excursion Train – the only train in New Zealand that can be hired. Though hiring a train may seem a costly exercise, it is becoming increasingly popular clubs or large groups of people, according to the Otago Excursion Train Trust.
It has carried Young Farmers to their annual conference, Scouts to their jamboree, and now – for the first time – rock fans will be its passengers. Seven years ago,it was impossible to hire a train in New Zealand. But train enthusiasts believed there was a market for private hire. So they got together to try e make their dream a reality.
It took three years of negotiation to get the unconventional idea of hiring a train “on the rails”, But it happened. Since then the enthu siastic members of the Otago Excursion Train Trust have been working to renovate old carriages. Most of these were built about 1920 – some are as old as 1912. Many had been written off as too decrepit .But after months of work, and around $2O,OOO a carriage,each one of them gradually got a new lease of life.
The trust has 11 carriages and buffet car, and can carry 480 people in all. The trust’s home is the railway yards of Dunedin Railway Station where it is hoped to build a cover workshop eventually. Now the trust is also building new carriages on old rail chassis. They are not as romantic as the old carriages, but a great deal more comfortable.
The latest venture is building a carriage for disabled passengers. This should be finished about Christmas and will be the first railway carriage for the disabled in the country. It has utilised an old for chassis, but is otherwise entirely designed and built by the trust. Outside, steel cladding is used for easy maintenance. Inside,it will look rather like a classy tour bus, with upholstered seats. There are large windows, lower than usual, for a wide view of the countryside.
But’there the resem blance to a tour coach ends. Some orthe seats can be removed to allow wheelchairs to be used. and anchored by a clamping device. If the disabled person person prefer to transfer from wheelchair to ordinary seat this is easy, too. The wheelchair can be taken away and stored for the journey.
A ramp gives easy access to a wide platform at the rear of the carriage. There are wide doorways into the carriage and there will be permanent paraplegic toilet fasilities. The carriage for the disabled is expected to cost $21,500. The idea for it come at the time of Telethon. Subsequently a Telethon. grant of $7500 was awarded to the trust towards the cost. The buffet carriage, assesntial for the long journeys that the rainundertakes,was designed and renovated by trust members from an ol guard van.
The first big charter was three years ago wheh the Otago Excursion Train brought Scouts from the south up to Napier and Hastings for their jamboree. “This Was what made us look more closely at the charter business,” said Phillip Rowan, the only salaried, full-time worker for the trust.