Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 40, September 1996


By C W Malcolm


By Karen Burge

Two steam engines made history when they puffed up the North Island main trunk line side by side yesterday - and rail enthusiasts made sure they missed nothing.

As the "C" and "WW" engines pulled four carriages each up the track from Mercer to Papakura, hundreds of train lovers dangled cameras and video cameras out the train windows and lined the route to capture the event.

An Auckland Railway Enthusiasts Society committee member, Mr Paul Dillicar, one of the event organisers, said that for lovers of steam, train travel and a good day out, the event was something to "rave about." Even during the days of steam, two engines had never run side by side in the same direction.

The inspiration for the event had been to make history and to celebrate the restoration and overhaul of the C847, which had been off the rails for about 30 years.

THE NEW ZEALAND HERALD of 10 October 1994 reported an event which it claimed made history. Two vintage steam locomotives, each drawing four railway carriages, travelled side by side from Mercer to Papakura keenly watched by members of the Auckland Railway Enthusiasts Society many of them having paid a goodly fare as passengers on the historic trip.

The report stated: Even during the days of steam, two engines had never run side by side in the same direction.

This is not correct. From our home high up on Hill Street in Paeroa from which we had a fine view of the Railway Station in Moore Road, the extension of Taylor Avenue, we witnessed just such a spectacle. And spectacular it was!

From the station southward ran two parallel tracks, one always referred to as the Waihi Line, the other the main line from Thames to Te Aroha, Morrinsville, and Frankton. They passed under the Hill Street overbridge, over the Puke Road level crossing, across the Ohinemuri River Bridge after which they separated, the Waihi track veering away to the left.

In the evenings, around five o'clock, the train from Thames destined for Frankton arrived to find the Waihi Train on the other side of the platform.

Whether the departure time for both trains was exactly the same I do not know but we saw them depart simultaneously with what seemed a burst of acceleration, a thunder of sound, and the exhaust accompanied with black smoke pounding skyward from each locomotive's funnel. In fact it appeared as if they were engaging in a race for the bridge. (This bridge was a dual structure with a separate track for each line.) We felt the locomotive crews were enjoying the fun. We wondered if it should really have been allowed. Were they really racing or just getting up speed to ascend the bank that ran past the Paeroa Hotel towards the bridge?

I do not think this occurred very frequently but what did happen was that two steam locomotives did run side by side in the same direction. It would be in the 1930s, a long time before October 1994, which makes the HERALD's claim of that later date incorrect. No doubt it had never happened before it occurred at Paeroa. If it is regarded as "historic" then it must be "a first" for Paeroa.