A different kind of commute

The Wairarapa line seen from the car on Featherston main road.

I was sad to read of the collusion between a car and the Wairarapa Line. I read it had happened out of Featherston and if you have taken that commute for a decade you immediately know where that will have been. And yes, it was Western Lake Road. It’s amazing that it hasn’t happened more often.

The car driver did not survive. I also feel bad for the impact it must have had on the train driver and the commuters. Western Lake Road is a quiet road but the few times I saw a car speeding towards the crossing, I always held my breath. As it is out of town the speed limit is probably 100k, although there would be warning signs about.

As the name says, the road runs along Lake Wairarapa. After the train has passed the crossing you get taken into rolling green hills, and can see the lake in the background. The tunnel is nearly nine kilometres long and first goes up a bit, and then down. As a commuter you get used to what the engine sounds mean. It takes about 7 minutes to go through and especially the first few times, I did find it a bit daunting.

In the background Lake Wairarapa, just before you enter the Rimutaka tunnel towards the right.

On the other side of the tunnel you get into Upper Hutt, the fist station being the suburb Maymorn, which I always referred to as Farmville. I wonder how big it has got to in the four years we have been away. More and more people joined the early morning train, but I don’t think more than 10 got in at one time…

The best bit for me was the track between Petone and Wellington City, along the sea. No matter what weather it was, I always calmed right down. Sometimes the waves would smash over the rocks along the track, sometimes the water would be calm as a lake, sometimes there would be snow on the ranges, others the clouds raced by as if they were motorised.

Between Petone and Wellington.

The great thing about the commute was that you made friends. Nearly every day you got in the same door as you stood on the same piece of platform with more or less the same group of people. You never knew where exactly the train was going to stop, which always led to a race of sorts. Towards the end of my stay it was getting very busy as more and more people were seeing the advantages of living in the Wairarapa, especially the lower house prices, but the trains just stayed the same.

The trains runto Wellington three times in the morning, about 6:30, 7:00 and 7:30. Then at 11 am, then late afternoon and that was it. Coming back, you had the choice of three after work — 4:30, 5:30 and 6:15 or something like that. I just checked the timetable and it does not seem to have changed… And when something went wrong, it went horribly wrong. But to me nothing can be as bad as a collision with a car and people die… Hopefully something gets done to prevent it happening again.

Featherston Station in the morning. I can almost hear the dawn chorus of tui sitting on the pohutakawa just out of the photo.

I don’t know when we will visit New Zealand again, but I know for sure I will take the train from Featherston a couple of times when we do!

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it’s nice to meet you. This is Wilma. She was called Willem for a day.

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