19 July 2024

Glen Afton Line train rides – something different to do with family

Looking to do something different with family and is good value for money? Hidden in the heart of Waikato and around 30 minutes drive from Hamilton, the Glen Afton Line heritage train ride is perhaps a good option to explore.

Located 12 kms west of Huntly, there is a great place for children to get a lifetime chance to ride a phased out steam train bellowing thick smoke as it chugs along on an old railway line.  

The Glen Afton Line – now a heritage railway was originally built to transport coal from Glen Afton and Pukemiro mines to the Huntly main line.

The Bush Tramway Club (BTC) – a railway enthusiast group, provide these family-friendly, affordable train rides using old restored locomotives and carriages.

The 7.5 km return trip is on the first Sunday of every month- rain or shine. On other days, people can charter the entire train or reserve a carriage for a private function/group.

Rides commence from Pukemiro Junction railway station and train heads either towards Glen Afton township and/or towards a point close to Rotowaro township and return.

Some first time visitors can get confused about location as did Patricia, who drove from Cambridge with her two kids for a ride. “Signs are not clear, I ended up in Pukemiro village when the station is not located there,” she said. Railway station is actually on Rotowaro Rd.

Restored 100-years-old steam loco

The nostalgic ride takes visitors slowly through thick regenerative shrub, pastoral land, with occasional bursts of rural scenery as the train chugs slowly between these two destinations.

Age is no barrier to have this fun ride. From preschoolers to elderly Kiwis, all make a beeline on ‘open days’ for a ride and enjoy sizzling sausages, pies and beverages from cafe. There is a range of souvenirs to buy and significant collection of rare industrial railway items on display at the station.

For most visitors NewsViews spoke to, the rides were simply ‘just wow’ as it ‘takes you back in time’ and ‘kids found it it very exciting’. Adding to the joy factor was the ‘very reasonable, affordable price’.

Family- friendly rides – be it pets or grand kids

These train trips are currently running a shorter distance due to recent weather events.

Colin Jenner, General Manager of the Club says, “We normally operate our trains over 3.8 km of track.  At present, we can only operate over approx. 1.8 km because of damage to our track as a result of a 4.8 magnitude earthquake centred around Te Aroha. We ended up with 2 sections of our track twisted out of shape which meant we can’t run over the area until we can repair…Then there are still 6 areas that have suffered slips as a result of cyclone Gabrielle.”

To compensate, ticket price has been reduced – $10 adults, $5 children under 16, and under 5 are free. Ticket allows multiple rides. For an extra $2, visitors can ride on a rare 1930’s ‘bush jigger’ that once carried timber workers.

Colin Jenner, GM

Depend on the season, in wintertime the steam engine usually hauls the train, while during hot and dry summer time diesel engine is used to prevent bush fires.

Perhaps a little more awareness is still needed about train rides. A Hamilton resident, Manjit who took her three grandchildren for these rides earlier this month says, “We have lived in Hamilton for over 20 years, but learnt about this only when I saw the ‘open day’ event on Facebook.”

Their busiest day since 2017 was in June this year when train carried 436 passengers, plus a bunch of preschoolers.

“We have been at Pukemiro since about 1977 but have expanded the railway a lot since then and now,” says Jenner.

(L) Inside one of the carriages (R) Bush Jigger (Photo courtesy/BTC)

‘Open days’ don’t just happen – many may not realise the amount of work that goes into making this train run.

Tremendous amount of time, energy and money goes into getting the carriages/locos overhauled and kept in good order. Enthusiastic volunteers from all walks of life dedicate their valuable times to keep this line alive and work is never ending.

According to Jenner, last month volunteers had to “pull up 30 feet of track, one track set, dig out all the roots from the adjacent pine trees growing under the track, replaced 15 sleepers, laid new ballast, then had to lift, align the track, pack the ballast firmly under each sleeper…This had to be done so we could run the trains the next day.” Read More...

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