Interview with Matt Turner

Rail: 150 Years of Rail in New Zealand is a rich, loving and lavish record of how New Zealanders have interacted with trains and railways since first European settlement to more recent times.

Hardback – 240 pages

RRP $80


Question One: Matt, what role do you think Auckland’s new Amclass Electric units will play in placating our largest cities traffic chaos?

Matt Turner: I’m afraid I’m no expert on modern transport solutions for Auckland, but here’s my opinion: Yes, the new electrified lines and new rolling stock will improve the situation. Will they lure Aucklanders away from their cars? Hard to say; once the full service is up across the city, with regular scheduled trains, it’ll provide a swift, clean and comfortable ride, but we Kiwis sure do love our cars. Still, I applaud the new electrification of Auckland’s suburban rail, not least because it displays the political will to attack the problem. The proposed City Rail Link (due to complete 2021) will undoubtedly take some traffic off the central Auckland streets, but I’d like to see rail, working alongside our excellent bus service, cover the outer suburbs and take the pressure off the main arterial roads. 

As an aside some interesting statistics show Auckland isn’t as bad as we make out. A recent study (Pereira & Schwanen: ‘Commute Time in Brazil 1992–2009’, 2013) looked at average one-way commute times in selected cities around the world, ranging from Shanghai (highest at >50 minutes) to Barcelona (lowest at <25 minutes); at an average of 25 minutes, Auckland would come second-bottom on this chart [source: That said, I’d rather take a train or bus any day than jump in the car!

Question Two: The Glenbrook Vintage Railway has entertained young and old since the 1970s what are some of the other steam railways that people love in New Zealand?

Matt Turner: There are a number of excellent working steam railways around New Zealand. This is by no means an exhaustive list, nor have I visited them all, but they include:

Bay of Islands Vintage Railway Trust: Runs steam excursions through the streets of Kawakawa and on to Taumarere, on the old Opua line. 

Mainline Steam: This is operated from Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington. It has a large fleet of steam trains and runs excursions. The Parnell HQ is a must-visit.

Bush Tramway Club: Situated west of Huntly, this offers short rides on the old Rotowaro–Glen Afton coal freight line.

Feilding & Districts Steam Rail Soc. Runs local steam excursions, including through the Manawatu Gorge. 

Silver Stream Railway: Runs diesel and steam excursions along the Hutt Valley section of the Wairarapa Line.

Steam Incorporated: Runs excursions from its Paekakariki depot. Recently completed the restoration of the loco Ab608 ‘Passchendaele’.

Ferrymead Historic Park, Chch: It’s a tribute to the operators that this historic line is running again after damage caused by the earthquakes. This is the home of the Canterbury Railway Society, of the forthcoming National Railway Museum, and of New Zealand’s rail itself, with a history dating back to 1863. Excursions run on the first Sunday in the month, plus extra ‘high days and holidays’ (check website for details).

Pleasant Point, Canterbury: Operates excursions on a section of the old Fairlie branch.

Weka Pass Railway, Canterbury: Operates diesel and steam excursions through the Weka Pass, near Waipara. Operates on selective Sundays and public holidays (check website for details).

Ocean Beach Railway, Dunedin: Historic little excursion line operating A67, currently the oldest operating steam loco in the country.


If you would like to win your very own copy of this lovely book, CLICK HERE . Competition closes 28/4/15 and is open to NZ residents only. Good Luck! 

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