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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 14, Issue 3 (June 1, 1939)

A Circus Special — Symbol of Service

page 43

A Circus Special
Symbol of Service

Rehearsal in the Railway Yard.

Rehearsal in the Railway Yard.

Ganger Tobin collected Train Advice 612, signed its envelope, and used the back of the sheet and a stubby pencil to figure just how far they might ride the jigger against this fast-moving special. They needed about twenty minutes to get into the clear up at the job—milepost 70—and W-15 was due here in Masterton yard at 7.25; within fifteen minutes. How were they to ride safely and still get to work on time?

The first flat mile out of town ought to take three minutes, one and a-half minutes over the river bridge and the viaduct beyond, then a drag up the Waipoua cutting. At least seven minutes before they could get near a pull-off bay. Stay safely at Masterton and that finely adjusted track lifting (always done at the double and between trains) programme would be hopeless from the outset. Mr. Tobin felt impelled to say the very hardest things about this circus special, but too many thrilled and eager children were there.

They made it. When W-15's driver whistled the answer to the flag, displayed to confirm their safety, everyone was standing to tools ready to make the first break of the day.

If duty had allowed that engine crew an odd thought, they, too, might have contemplated the inconvenience of a southbound Woodville-Masterton express goods special so early in the morning. The advice previously referred to assigned them a pretty smart return trip northward. Several trains, too, had to be crossed. If any of them were late they just couldn't get that old A514 back home, for there was a sheep special to Palmerston that afternoon. The southern district was rushed; every able-boilered locomotive was expected to do its duty.

But the kiddies were waiting to tender the circus train a royal reception; this day of all days—Circus Day! Easily worth braving a chilly autumn dawn to welcome a train bringing elephants and clowns.

Railwaymen of every rank inconvenienced themselves far in excess of mere prescribed duty. Shunters located the long visitor on the third road, in their own way, when they could have kicked it into the back loop, just because they were keeping this portable camp handy to town.

A circus train is unique. Old Manawatu Railway Company cars serve as bunkhouses, H-wagons as the show's regular stable accommodation, and a few private “houses” linked by couplers complete the train whose occupants are united by the spirit of honest showmanship. The life of the great open road—the railroad—is one that these travelling housewives declare themselves unwilling to swop even for State houses at Miramar.

(W.W.Stewart Collection) The Wellington-Auckland “Limited” express arriving at Auckland.

(W.W.Stewart Collection)
The Wellington-Auckland “Limited” express arriving at Auckland.

The showmen animate those old spare cars and freight wagons with new life. Rail enthusiasts rush along with their cameras. Members of the service reach a new height in cheerful co-operation. Yes, everyone is proud to greet this picturesque shipment for which no highway carrier is likely to outbid the New Zealand Railways. It is a symbol of the true old railway spirit.

An Appreciation

In the following letter to Mr. G. H. Mackley, General Manager of Railways, Mr. D. T. Moffat, Greymouth, makes appreciative comment upon the Railways’ Household Removal facilities:—

“I should like to express my appreciation of your service, House to House removals. In my recent experience of moving from Dunedin to Greymouth, my wife simply walked out at Dunedin and walked in at Greymouth, with the table cover on the table. It is a pity this service is not more widely advertised. However, I shall, in future, do my share in advertising this particular branch of New Zealand Railways.”

page 44