The North Pole Express

What better time to break the blog hiatus than the lead-up to Christmas? Last weekend we traveled on the North Pole Express, a steam train ride from Paraparaumu to the North Pole (Otaki standing in) and back. We were joined by Kelly, Drew and Clara and all met up at the Paraparaumu train station. We had been advised to arrive 30 minutes before departure time of 7pm and got to out muster point for the Elf carriage at about 6:35pm to find we were the last people to turn up, obviously we weren’t as organised as everyone else. Still, we were early enough.

As indicated by the carriage name we stood with an Elf holding a big green flag and we got our tickets from a cheerful Christmas chef. Our Elf was constantly moving and we were soon on the move to the station platform to await the arrive of the titular Polar Express. Soon enough we could see a puff of smoke in the distance and then the train was pulling in to the platform, a wonderfully restored steam engine pulling equally grand restored carriages and all decorated for the Christmas theme.

Here comes the Polar Express

Here comes the Polar Express

Our carriage chef

Our carriage chef

Decorations

Decorations

Off we go

Off we go

We found our allocated seats and settled in for the journey. There was appropriately themed music for the whole trip and our Elf, Chef and a cast of other characters kept us entertained as we steamed north. There were people watching from their houses or pulled over beside the road to watch the train go past, obviously we were quite the sight! As we got closer to the North Pole our Elf was getting very excited and as we pulled into the station we saw Santa and his assistants waiting on the platform and welcoming us with a wave (Santa) and acrobatics (the assistants).

The conductor pays a visit

The conductor pays a visit

Our elf gets excited

Our elf gets excited

Disembarking we arrived into a winter wonderland with stalls dispensing iced chocolate (it’s been a warm summer so far) and cookies and there was a foam machine pumping out a fare substitute for real snow. Alayna was certainly impressed and this is was the closest she’s ever been to real snow.

Alayna in the snow

Alayna in the snow

The snowing platform

The snowing platform

We had plenty of time to wander about, watch people getting photos with Santa and the other dressed up characters from the other carriages, and then see the steam engine move to the other end for the return journey (returning backwards as there was apparently no turntable available). Then we were called back to our seats and headed back to Paraparaumu. During the return Santa visited everyone at their seats and gifted bells to all. There was more singing, more dancing and general good cheer and even a nice sunset to watch.

Receiving a bell from Santa

Receiving a bell from Santa

Peek-a-boo

Peek-a-boo

Singing and dancing

Singing and dancing

We disembarked, had a chance for one final chat with Santa and then were walking back to the cars. It had been a fun trip and was now quite late which meant Alayna fell asleep on the way home, all excited out.

The train empties at dusk

The train empties at dusk

Merry Christmas everyone and a Happy New Year!

A long time between drinks

This blog hasn’t been forgotten, no matter that it’s been a few months between entries. Much of the delay can be attributed to Keryn and I buying a house and the rigmarole surrounding moving. Thankfully we’re mostly done with the moving lark, there are still a few boxes to empty and we’ve got one set of curtains still to arrive but otherwise we have a home and we’re happy (and warm, it’s nice to have proper insulation).

Moving hasn’t stopped us from getting out and about on a few occasions. Rather than bore with detail you can just look at some photos instead.

IMG 4832Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Watching a steam train firing up at the Paekakariki based Steam Incorporated open day.

IMG 4845Photo by Brendon & Keryn

And in action.

MG 6144Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Spoonbills observed at the Waikanae Estuary Scientific Reserve while of a walk with Kapiti Bird Tours organised through Adventure Wellington.

IMG 4849Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Still on the tour and checking out some friendly eels.

Small waterfall on Tane's TrackPhoto by Brendon & Keryn

A pretty little waterfall seem on Tanes Track at Tunnel Gully north of Upper Hutt.

ApproachingPhoto by Brendon & Keryn

The tunnel at Tunnel Gully

IMG 4910Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Sunset from Titahi Bay

IMG 4931Photo by Brendon & Keryn

And another sunset photographed while standing on the roof at home

IMG 4941Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Gandalf the Grey, one of the new line of statues produced by Weta for the forthcoming Hobbit movies. Seen at the Weta Cave.

MG 6239Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Visiting Kaitoke on a wet day.

IMG 4956Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Starting a photowalk with the Wellington Photography Meetup group, having just viewed the 2012 World Press Photography exhibition.

IMG 4970Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Take-off seen while out on the walk.

IMG 4977Photo by Brendon & Keryn

On the waterfront.

IMG 5031Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Back to Tunnel Gully, this time with Keryn, and we were solving a fern-themed Geocache.

IMG 5052Photo by Brendon & Keryn

walking through the tunnel.

Geocaching is a fairly new hobby we’ve taken up, fuelled by the enthusiasm demonstrated by Sophie and Travis. It also helped that we had vouchers to spend at FCO and they had a nice range of handheld GPS devices to choose from. Any excuse to get outside is a good one I reckon.

Plimmerton Station re-opening

We’ve been getting monthly newsletters in the mail from the Plimmerton residents association (which reminds me, we should really pay our sub, I suspect out landlady paid previously) and one of the news items each month has been about the refurbishment of Plimmerton Station. Largely performed through volunteer work the day came for the grand opening so I walked down the hill to have a look.

MG 6009Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Flags up for the day.

Refurbished to echo its 1940 construction the station building is looking very smart. One surprise was the opening of a shop in the station which sells a lot of model trains and other train related memorabilia (including Thomas the Tank Engine track pieces Bridget). More information on the station can be found here: http://www.plimmerton.org.nz/railway-station/.

The newsletter had encouraged locals to dress in 1940’s costume and there were a smattering of people looking very dapper in their impressive clothes styled on the era. To add to the festival atmosphere a steam train arrived to take passengers on a special journey commemorating the event.

MG 6049Photo by Brendon & Keryn

The steam train arrives.

MG 6071Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Dressed for the occasion.

The steam train was only the platform for a quarter hour or so before it had to move away to allow the regular scheduled services through and it reversed back along the line before heading into the siding that houses the workshop for the Wellington branch of Mainline Steam. While getting a refill of water and some running repairs we were able to get up close with the magnificent engine and also look around the workshop, including being able to walk through a lovely refurbished old carriage.

MG 6090Photo by Brendon & Keryn

In for refuelling.

MG 6097Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Steam collects under the roof.

MG 6170Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Greasing the joints.

The Hutt Valley built steam locomotive, designation KA 942, entered service in November 1940 and is still going strong. One everything was done the locomotive was reversed onto the turntable and once turned around went back and forth to attach first a water carriage and then a passenger carriage. Then it was out on to the track and presumably back to the station for loading up with passengers, but we left before this happened.

MG 6212Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Just who’s driving?

MG 6242Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Gearing up to leave the siding.