Trains have a special place in my heart. There’s just something wonderful about sitting in one as it moves along on a railway track. I do love to listen to the chugging of the train, especially if it’s a steam or vintage railway. I feel that it evokes a sense of old times, of times past when rail travel was the norm and the only way to travel. It is definitely an experience that we can’t get much of nowadays so I’m always excited when I get to do a train ride.
I was definitely excited to discover the Kawakawa Vintage Railway on a day trip from Paihia. It was a relatively short drive away so I didn’t hesitate to make my way there to get a ride on the train. What made this railway special? Not only is it a heritage railway, it is the only working railway to run through the middle of the town! Right through the town’s traffic! Traffic had to stop on both sides of town to let the train go past. It was really fun!
Kawakawa Vintage Railway is actually the first railway to be opened on New Zealand’s North Island in the town of Kawakawa. It’s oldest steam train was built in 1927 but sadly is no longer working so the train that I took was run on diesel instead of steam. It wasn’t an extremely long train ride as it brought us out into the countryside and ended at the Taumarere Station. The railway tracks actually run all the way to Opua but work was currently being done on the remaining tracks to bring it up to date so the train usually stopped at this station instead. Those tracks closer to Opua are currently being used as a cycling track instead.
I definitely had a most enjoyable time but my most exciting experience was that I was allowed a seat up at the front with the driver! Since we were the only passengers for the last timeslot, the driver removed the other carriages and we travelled down the track with just the driver’s carriage. It was so unbelievable, can you just imagine seeing this running down the track?
Since I had the attention of the driver and the train conductor, I had the best service ever. They were also quite accommodating with my endless questions as they told me stories about the train’s history, the changing landscape, their problems in maintaining the trains and the railway tracks. The conductor even gave us a personalised tour of a really small museum at the Taumarere Station. Do you remember the sound of a train hoot? I got to do that too!! Toot! Toot!!
For this train ride, I didn’t have majestic views of the mountainous terrains or sweeping landscape as the train chugged past. Neither did I pay monstrous amount of money for a tourist ride. Rather, for the price of just NZ$20, it was one of my most memorable train experience ever. It was a simple train ride but my biggest pleasure to enjoy.
P/S: Please do give this your support if you are visiting. It may not be as exciting as other train rides in New Zealand but the railway has a lot of historical value and volunteers are also trying to keep it up and develop the rest of the railway tracks so it is definitely a worthy cause. Please visit their website for more information.