Special parliamentary train to mark centenary

A celebration and re-enactment of the first train journey from Wellington to Auckland in 1908 will depart tomorrow.

The centennial of the famed Parliamentary Special will start at Wellington Railway Station where a heritage steam engine with five carriages will be on public display from 7.30am to 3.30pm on Platform 9.

The actual reenactment of the journey of exactly 100 years ago leaves Wellington tomorrow shortly after 8am.

Paekakariki will be the first town to host the train as part of the North Island Main Trunk Line Centenary Celebrations.

In 1908, the then Liberal government of Sir Joseph Ward organised the Parliamentary Special to take a group of 200 celebrities, including 44 members of Parliament, to Auckland to welcome the visiting American Great White Fleet.

The journey took more than 20 hours and included several locomotive changes to complete the trip.

In one section of the line, the train crawled over a temporary, un-ballasted track that the Public Works Department had rushed through in the nick of time.

It was not until November of that year that the North Island Main Trunk Line was actually completed.

The Great White Fleet was a political charm offensive conceived by US President Teddy Roosevelt to show his countrymen and the rest of the world that the United States Navy had teeth and was capable of operating globally, particularly in the Pacific where America's relationships with Japan were becoming very uneasy.

The fleet included 16 great battleships and a number of smaller escort vessels. It took 14 months to complete, visiting 32 ports in 26 countries.

Initially, the train will be powered by steam locomotive JA1271, a product of years of careful restoration by Steam Incorporated, Paekakariki.

Steam Incorporated is the first of only two Heritage Network Rail operators, and will provide the six Ontrack-trained Heritage train guards.

JA1271 will pull five historic wooden carriages.

One carriage -- As-103, the Premier car, based at Mainline Steam Trust in Plimmerton -- was actually used on the 1908 run; the other carriages all date from the same period.

During the course of the 650km trip, different steam locomotives will be used, including two that were involved in the construction of the North Island Main Trunk Line.

The train will carry about 150 special guests including national and local politicians and railway enthusiasts.

It is expected to arrive in Paekakariki about 9.25am.

The train will leave Paekakariki at 10.40am and there will be a number of short stops during the day before the train arrives in Taihape about 5.30 pm for its first overnight stop.

The train leaves Taihape at 9am on Thursday and the second day ends at Taumarunui.

The following day, it leaves Taumarunui at 7.30 am with an expected arrival at Britomart Transport Centre, Auckland, about 3.45pm.

Add a Comment