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Inner Wheel Club of South Wairarapa

March 31, 2020 April 2020 No Comments

A Day in the life of a Train Manager

Much to the surprise of many club members we learnt that we had in our midst a train manager. Lyn Heafield, a member for a couple of years, had kept it under her hat. Most of us hop on a train thinking only of the time to catch it and our destination. But there is just so much more to it. For a start she starts work at 3.30am so that she and the train driver can prepare three commuter trains for the day.

Generators need to be started to warm or cool the carriages, depending on the season, followed by checking the brakes on each of 24 carriages. This takes until approximately 5am. She and the driver then put the first train on the platform and pilot the train out of the “cage” onto the platform in readiness for its trip to Wellington. The cage is a massive electric fenced area guarded by security personnel at night. 

The Wairarapa has the longest passenger tunnel in the southern hemisphere – 8.9 kms which means special care needs to be taken to prepare for an adverse event in that narrow space. Passengers are counted so that a response team knows numbers to be rescued. The train manager wears a gas monitor, a radio as well as their ticket wallet. 

Its top speed is 90 kms which drops to 40kms when overloaded. Commuters make the heaviest load of up to 600 passengers. Interestingly, Lyn commented that commuters actually have three families, those at home, those at work and those on the train.

I asked her about the “Gold card express” as she called it. Pensioners regularly travel on the train to Upper Hutt at 11.30am where they can alight and spend over 1.5 hours in town, rejoining the return trip at 1.15pm. There they can enjoy lovely coffee and cakes at a nearby café, paying only for their refreshments. One day the train broke down and a group of ten gold carders thought it was a “real hoot” when the train stopped and started, went forward and backwards haphazardly for a short while. 

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