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Railcar society opens the doors

Pahiatua Railcar Society is holding an open day to show their historic treasures to the public.

This Saturday’s open day will mark the 50th anniversary of Silver Fern railcars, which entered service on the North Island’s Main Trunk Line in 1972.

The Pahiatua Railcar Society bought all three Silver Fern railcars from Kiwirail in 2020.

The society runs out of the Pahiatua railway station precinct, two km west of the township.

The event will include railcar rides, station and workshop tours, and souvenirs.

The Pahiatua Railcar Society was formed in 1992 after discussions between Don Selby and Warrick Greaves the year before.

Selby said one of the society’s first acts was signing a long-term lease for an RM5 “Mahuhu”, the last surviving Wairarapa Railcar, which had operated on the Rimutaka Incline before the tunnel opened in 1955.

Restorer Paul Glessons transported the derelict RM5 over the hill from Silverstream to Pahiatua on an extended truck trailer in what Selby described as “an epic journey”.

The restoration started at Pahiatua but was hampered by the lack of a suitable building, so the society raised money and built a large two-track shed. Now, 30 years after their first acquisition, the society has seven historic railcars in varied conditions: some in storage, some under restoration and some restored and mainline certified.

Selby said Kiwirail approached Pahiatua Railcar Society in 2020, offering to sell their recently withdrawn Silver Fern railcars, named for their corrugated stainless steel exterior.

From 1972, the three Silver Fern railcars serviced several lines across New Zealand, including the Main Trunk Line between Wellington and Auckland.

Selby said that over the years, members had gained a lot of experience overhauling, rebuilding and operating historic railcars.

He said it was one of a select few New Zealand railway museums with its own station and mainline access.

The society successfully obtained a mainline operating license in 2011 and has since operated in Helensville [West Auckland], Auckland, Hamilton, Morrinsville, New Plymouth, Wanganui, Napier, and Wellington.

Selby said being approached by Kiwirail to buy the three Silver Fern railcars was “a considerable honour for Pahiatua and the Tararua district”.

The society has issued an open invitation to everyone to attend the open day on Saturday.

The event will go from 9am to 3pm, with a gold coin entry.

Two railcars will be operating, one on the main line and one Silver Fern in the yard.

The main line railcar will make trips from Pahitua to Mangatainoka, Konini, and back to Pahiatua at 9:30am, 11:30am, 1:15pm, and 2:15pm.

Attendees can buy train tickets on the day.

Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age who regularly writes about education. He is originally from Wellington and is interested in environmental issues and public transport.

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