Small trains, small cost, big attraction
JULIET PALMER HALASZ
What, you might wonder, is it about running a miniature railway that brings a group of people out of their warm homes on a wet, chilly, Sunday morning.
“I don’t know,” general manager of the Havelock North Live Steamers and Associates, Ben Corney says.
“It’s a hobby that just gets into your blood … it’s something we like doing.”
The Keirunga Park Railway is the Havelock North Live Steamers and Associates’ club track. The society was formed in 1985 by enthusiasts who realised a ground-level multi-gauge track would be an asset to people involved in model engineering.
After investigating several possible sites, permission was granted for the club to use the parkland adjacent to Keirunga Gardens.
“I arrived on the scene in 1987 when the railway was being built,” Ben says.
“The Keirunga Park Railway site is considered by many to be among the top five in the world. Since visitors are often enthusiasts who come from live steam societies from all over the world, this is high praise. It’s not the biggest, but the scenery, location and facilities put us in the world-class bracket.”
Many of the engines the club uses were built by club members. As an example, Ben says former general manager and founding member, John Romanos, has built a shunter modelled on a Price Locomotive, a big Santa Fe diesel locomotive and a Pennyslvanian [Pennsylvanian]electric locomotive.
“Another member, Pat Herbison, built an American-type diesel electric locomotive. Most of the trains we run here were built for a 7¼ inch guage [gauge], though Jan Rauden owns a 5 inch guage steam engine. The tracks cater for these and 3½ inch guages [gauges],” Ben says.
Then there’s Jarrod, a 14 year old, who has built his own jigger.
“The motor Jarrod used is an old, troublesome one we had, but he stripped it down, rebuilt it and got it going… he and Luke Frogley (aged 15) are the faces of the future.”
The small engines and carriages the club uses are matched with miniature facilities … an 847-metre track, a small, but perfect signals office, a little station, railway sheds and tunnels (adults, duck your heads), small bridges and viaducts, tiny shovels for tiny pieces of coal and a Lilliputian water tank and stand.
Like “real” railways, there is a station master, a signals officer, registered train drivers, a ticket seller, small groups of enthusiasts mending, building and puzzling over engines, and a queue of excited travellers. Open to visitors on the first and third Sundays of each month from 11am to 4pm, the railway is a popular place for a family outing, and for the modest price of $1 per ticket (or $10 for a 12-ride ticket) it’s affordable.
“We love what we do here… it’s a good club to belong to with a great feeling about it. New members are always welcome, just ring me and come along to a meeting,” Ben says.
Photo captions –
MANY of the engines at the Keirunga Park Railway were built by members.
KEIRUNGA Park Railway is considered one of the best of its type in the world.