70 years of clean green trains on the J'ville line

Last updated 11:34 28/05/2008

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The Wellingtonian

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Tucked away in a scrap book, along with old newspaper clippings of famous cricket men, Jim Galloway keeps the ticket which marks his trip on Wellington's first electrified train ride.

"It was 2 July 1938 and I was17, my dad was the president of the Khandallah Residents Association so we were invited to take the first electric train ride from Wellington to Johnsonville," he says.

"I remember I was at Wellington College and where I lived [near Simla Crescent] to get to college it meant we had to catch the train from Khandallah or Ngaio, when the electric train started other stations began to open.

"These included Simla Crescent and Awarua Street stations, which both opened in January 1938 in anticipation of the electric system. Crofton Downs, Box Hill and Raroa later followed. Another advantage of electrified rail meant the line now stretched to Wellington station rather than stopping at Thorndon."

Mr Galloway, apart from his war service, has lived in the northern suburbs all his life and says he doesn't know why he kept his ticket, the 15th issued, or a number of other articles in his scrap book following the development of the Johnsonville line. He says he certainly didn't imagine looking back at it 70 years later.

"In 1992 they [the government] wanted to shut it down."

This was because of train subsides being cut and the belief of the then Wellington Regional Council that the northern suburbs might be better off with a bus service. Luckily local residents, including Ohariu MP Peter Dunne, campaigned vigorously to maintain their vital link into Wellington city.

Toll NZ spokesperson Nigel Parry says the Johnsonville line itself dates back to 1855 and was the main line north from the capital until 1937, when it ran all the way to Foxton.

He says since the introduction of the electric train line Wellington has been spared around 46,000 tonnes of CO2 and has taken 10,000 cars a day off Wellington roads.

"The electrification of the Johnsonville line was a trailblazing moment for commuter rail in New Zealand," Mr Parry says.

"[It's] had a big part to play in the clean and green nature of Wellington."

The line celebrated 70 years of service on July 2, with a commemorative $1 ticket for travel anywhere between Wellington and Johnsonville.                               

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As for the future of the Johnsonville line, upgrades are already underway to allow for new rolling stock to use to the line in 2010.

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