Some people collect stamps. Others collect comics, take up photography or astronomy. Markus’ (Hung’s Boyfriend) hobby is to chase steam trains.
New Zealand isn’t known as a big place for steam train enthusiasts (as far as I’m aware), but there are a few notable pockets where you can still see a steam train in action. After leaving Queenstown, I found myself in the back seat of my own car as Markus chased the Kingston Flyer.
The Kingston Flyer was originally put into service in 1890 as a passenger train. The train had a good run (until 1957), before ending the passenger service completely. After that, as a tourist run it started back up again in 1970, and ran until 2009 when it closed due to financial trouble. The train only started running again in late 2011, just in time for us to see it run. Naturally, I had a look about the train when I got the chance. From an engineering standpoint, these things are very interesting to explore!
After checking out the train, we hopped in the car and headed up the road a short bit. Then it was waiting for the first run of the day. A few toots of the horn, and the train came chugging up the inclined track.
A steam train during acceleration is a cool sight to see, and hear. It gives the very distinctive chugging sound one comes to expect from movies and such. After the train passed us, it was time to chase it. We all jumped back into the car and Markus sped us off towards our next photo stop. Train chasing entails driving ahead of the train a couple of times, allowing you to get pictures of the train in various states – accelerating, full speed, and decelerating into the station. We caught up and passed the train once it had hit full speed.
The scenery was very enjoyable, as was the weather. After an 18km run or so, the Kingston Flyer had reached the destination station of Fairlight. There, the train turned around, ready to head back to Kingston, and we headed back along the track for more pictures and chasing.
We chased the train well into the afternoon (the Kingston Flyer makes 2 return journeys per day), with Markus stopping for different perspectives and locations. His final stop saw him hike at least 30 minutes to get a shot he wanted. In other words, train chasers take their hobby seriously! I enjoyed the scenery alongside the sounds of the train as it steamed on by.
The evening found us at our destination for the next few nights – Te Anau. After setting up plans for the next day, I headed out to my campsite and enjoyed a spectacular sunset amongst the mountains. The next day would be a long one – Milford Sound awaited.