Reader taken for a lively ride

Jim Sullivan reviews Denis Dwyer's New Zealand Adventures By Rail. Published by New Holland.

Palmerston North man Denis Dwyer has already produced a book about his favourite walks but this time railways get the treatment. It is part history, part travelogue and part personal reflection.

At times the travel-brochure speak gets in the way of the author's much stronger writing as he links the past with the present and shares his thoughts on today's passengers, rail staff and rolling stock.

Be warned. The seats on the Palmerston North-Wellington commuter train, the Capital Connection, are pretty well stuffed. Or, more accurately, are not stuffed at all and leave spring marks on the buttocks.

All the existing rail journeys are given positive and lively coverage, none more so than the Otago Excursion Train Trust's The Seasider from Dunedin to Oamaru, on which there are great views that can be seen only by rail.

The Taieri Gorge Railway gets briefer treatment, but then, there have already been whole books about it.

Oddly, though, the superb Weka Pass Railway in North Canterbury rates just a short mention but other northern railways are given plenty of mileage and they sound inviting.

First-time travellers on, say, the Northern Explorer, will pick up just enough local history and contemporary anecdotes to make that long trip more rewarding.

The author has used his "notebook and pencil'' technique to great effect, picking up scraps of conversation and even a naughty limerick to enliven the story.

The notebook appears to suggest that Mt Somers bluestone was used in building Dunedin Railway Station (the story of which is succinctly told), but anyone living near Waipiata/Kokonga, from where stone for the building was railed to Dunedin, may be confused.

Denis Dwyer has obviously enjoyed his railway journeys, just as the reader will enjoy his reports about them.

Jim Sullivan is a Patearoa writer.

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