I wrapped up warm and joined hundreds of people on a Saturday night in early July at the Palmerville Station. We were there to catch one of the twilight steam trains.
Toots and laughter flowed out over the crisp night air as steam loudly puffed from the locomotives chugging along the Memorial Park railway lines. Toddlers to grandparents were all there, excitedly waiting to take their turn around the tracks.
The Tauranga Model Marine and Engineering Club – TMMEC have been busy celebrating their 40th year with a range of activities, including running the locomotives at night.
The first night rail event, held in May, proved to be highly successful. It was decided to have another night rail event in July, marking the official birthday celebrations.
At the station, TMMEC volunteers handed out glo-sticks, and a coffee cart provided coffee and hot chocolate to the queuing crowds.
“The public night run started at 5pm,” says club president Russell Prout, “but earlier in the day it was just a play day. We’ve had seven steam locomotives out on the track burning it up and a small electric tram from New Plymouth.”
“During the day run, whenever possible, our club members and visitors swapped rides to experience the extremes of steam and engineering. A great way for everyone to get in the mood for the night run.
Locomotives had come from Whangarei, Auckland, Hamilton, Rotorua, New Plymouth, Wellington and Nelson.
“Visitors came from as far away as Whangarei in the north and Christchurch in the south to help mark our 40th.”
Members of Steampunk Tauranga added to the atmosphere by turning out in elaborate costumes and going for rides on the steam trains.
“It’s wonderful and it’s a nice way for them to join in.”
The club’s first official 40th event was the celebratory dinner on the Friday night with guest speaker Ian Welsh, from Wellington. In the two days following, club members volunteered hundreds of hours to put on the rides for the public, including the Saturday twilight rail event.
“I think we’ve had about 200 through already by 6.30pm tonight, and we’ve got about 120 in the queue, and 700 plus responded on the Facebook page to say they’re coming down.”
The Saturday night rail event ran from 5pm – 8.30pm allowing time for cleaning up and putting the locomotives away afterwards, as well as getting everything ready for the Sunday event which ran from 10am – 3pm.
In November the club will hold its annual open weekend, another opportunity to see club members’ trains, traction engines and numerous static displays. Before then, though, they are considering whether to run another night rail event. They joined in with Whakatane’s River Edge Railway’s ‘brass monkey night’ on Saturday.
“They have a great location and we love to support them,” says Russell.