Thursday, 9 February 2017

A Lifelong Hobby

Today would have been Dad's 95th birthday. This is of course the first time we have had not had him with us to celebrate. One requisite of his birthday was to find a birthday card with a steam locomotive on it. Preferably one that he did not already have because if he was uncertain whether he already had it he would get out his albums of cards and search to see! This proved to be quite a challenge to search out new ones each year (and on Father's Day as well of course).
Dad had a lifelong interest in steam locomotives and it was a hobby that incorporated the whole family. He had his own model railway in the garden and ran his trains at home and on other model tracks. The whole family were encouraged to participate.

Holidays were spent searching out the ever diminishing steam railways or visiting preserved lines.

It somehow  became embedded in us so that wherever we went we too would look out for any railways and report back with suitable photographs. I can see that this will be a habit that may continue and was something I certainly found myself doing in New Zealand, a country that he did not wish to visit due to its lack of steam!
There were signs in the small town of Kawakawa in the Far North for Gabriel the Steam Engine which travels down the main street. Alas there was no sign of it when we stopped there and it seems we were too late for a cuppa in th station cafe too! We were still novice travellers at that stage. We soon discovered that most cafes closed around 3.30! Don't they know that the proper time for a cup of tea is 4 O Clock?!

Our second attempt was on South Island as we passed through a small town called Kingston, south of Queenstown. Signs to the Kingston Flyer Steam train had us deviating from our route again. This time we found a very derelict station and it was the very chatty toilet attendant in the local loos that told us that it had been closed for several years.
We had also encountered some interesting combinations of rail and road. We were a little perplexed when crossing a bridge in Hokitika to find that we shared it with the railway.

Followed by two roundabouts where the railway crossed over the centre. This required the farmer to drive round twice while I took a photo!

The part of our holiday I would however have been most keen to share with dad would have been our visit to Dunedin. It was pouring with rain as we pulled into the station car park to see the remarkably ornate railway station. Outside photos were therefore kept to a minimum.

This bluestone building was built between 1903 and 1906 and has a spectacular tiled entrance hall. The light was not good but I will try to give you a flavour of its style.

The individual detail was remarkable. In particular, the ticket office 

The mosaic floor.

Then the stained glass window.

Next door to the station was the Otago Settlers museum which was unfortunately closed for the day. We could see through the glass a steam engine of quite some note. A double ended engine. I have obtained this photo from the Internet due to the appalling wether conditions for photography.

I would certainly have had quite a bit to report back to him.


  1. Some amazing train finds in NZ - it's great that you could in some way take your Dad along with you. WOW to his garden rail.

  2. I think he was proud of the fact that he had instilled in us all an enthusiasm for steam and, as you say, even though we can no longer report back, it still brings him even more to mind wondering what he would have thought.

    As for the greetings cards, I still look out for new and different railway cards and as I mentioned to you I did shed a tear the other day when I came across a couple that I had picked out for him during the year.

  3. Great post to mark the special day.

  4. What a lovely post this is. Funny, thinking about your part of the world always makes me think about going on the miniature railway at Weston with my Dad. That has always been a special memory for me. We would have had fun visiting you and your dad back then :) Again, a perfect post.

  5. What a wonderful way to keep the memory of your dad alive!