Scouts honoured by rare rail trip
It was all aboard for 500 Scouts as they rumbled home from their 10-day jamboree.
Even a hiccup in the nearly 100-year-old steam train mechanics couldn't halt the cross-country rail trip.
Hundreds of Scouts and Scout leaders climbed aboard the Feilding and Districts Steam Rail Society Wab 794 train yesterday.
The locomotive lugged 16 carriages - 12 packed with passengers, two with lunches and two with luggage - to Taihape before a KiwiRail engine took over for the remainder of the trip to Auckland.
Scouts and train enthusiasts alike lined Feilding's railway platform to catch a glimpse of the 80-tonne train on the tracks before departure.
Harry Sizer, 10, from the Kerikeri Klownz Scouts group, said it was the biggest train he had ever seen, and although the trip to Feilding had been bumpier than he thought, he still enjoyed it.
Joshua Dickey, 13, a land Scout from Glen Eden in Auckland, said seeing the countryside on his first trip on a train was the highlight.
The train had some engine trouble on its way to Manawatu after a wheel bearing overheated, society general manager Russell Wiseman said.
Society members spent the week ensuring the train was in top shape for the return trip.
Mr Wiseman said for some Scouts taking a ride behind the 87-year-old steam engine was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
The tank engine is the last of its kind still running in New Zealand and the train's makeup - its weight is in the centre of the engine, where the water tanks and the coal are - means the train's traction is smoother than expected.
The train was taken off the tracks last summer because of fears, amid the drought, an engine spark could have started a grass fire. It has also had a $100,000 maintenance makeover.
Mr Wiseman said the Wab's return to running on the main trunk line more regularly this summer was a welcome sight for the society.