Hawkes Bay

Steaming to Otane

Four o’clock last Saturday afternoon, the temperature was thirty plus, and on the platform at Napier Station we and everyone else  sizzled from the heat and the anticipation. This was no ordinary train service. There isn’t one any more for passengers on the Napier line. We were there for the Art Deco, Pea Pie and Pud run to Otane.

Once we were on our way, at every intersection cars were pulled over, cameras were out, children chased the train, and spectators waved.   

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White gloves lend themselves to the elegant return wave. I got the wave right but not the elegant, slightly disinterested, perhaps even disdainful expression of the privileged. All over my face was the cheshire grin of the novice. Except for when it came to walking across the gantry while the train was actually lurching around corners. And standing on the outside viewing platform with nothing but a metal bar between myself and potential oblivion took a bit of getting used to.   I do have a photo but it’s a bit of white knuckle affair. You can see I’ve got my teeth gritted behind the determined smile so I’m not putting it up!  (It’s amazing what I’ll do to cool off!) But in spite of all this, those moments on the viewing platform were the highlight of highlights.

Steam Inc have faithfully restored their engines and carriages. The red leather seats and  the rimu panelling evoke the elegance of times past.

Ah, nostalgia. I did find myself longing for the way it all was, in the golden olden days. When things were made to last and when our names were displayed above our seats.  No time for that level of detail these days. And heaven forbid –  a fellow traveller knowing your name! (I know, I know, I’m showing my age.)

But I do like train trips. Once I travelled by Amtrak, and not that long ago either, from Minneapolis to New York (it took two days) just so I could make my arrival in the Big Apple at Penn Station.

I suspect that restoring trains and recreating the past gets into the blood, becomes an obsession for some. The crew even managed to make the safety instructions interesting. Don’t put your arms or heads or anything else out the window they reminded us from time to time. And I, of course, took careful note.

This is why!

.A tight corner

It was two hours to Otane. At first our pace was slow. Partly due to the tender having a full load of coal and partly due to the speed restriction imposed by the extreme heat. Steaming along the sea front we were overtaken by a family on push bikes. To be fair they did have a tail wind and no doubt had risen to the challenge of outstripping the train.

The views were a reminder for us office workers of the real Hawkes Bay.

At Otane the whole of the town turned out. Some to welcome, some to entertain. For others we were the entertainment. They’d set up chairs along the footpath to watch us promenade. I’d have done the same. All right, all right. I have done the same. Yes, at every other Art Deco weekend.

Dinner was served in the Town Hall by a group of friendly and hard-working women. Simple fare, but it was truly delicious. That was a very decent meat pie, from the pastry to the filling, and perfectly laced with worcestershire sauce.

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The café was open,  there were a few market stalls, a coconut shy, and dancing and partying outside and inside the Otane Hotel. Cabin Fevre were there again!

It’s possible our days as Art Deco Grinches are over. This was a lot of fun! I’d do it all again. Especially the train trip.

Engine 1271

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