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Moving Houses: Train geeks in their element as 1960s railway carriage trucked to Hastings

REVIEW: There are two things that really stand out about this episode of Moving Houses featuring the transportation and refurbishment of a 1960s railway carriage.

One is the appalling puns that presenter Clarke Gayford just cannot resist (“gone off the rails, right on track, at this junction, end of the line” – you get the picture).

The second thing is the existing graffiti on the carriage sitting in the Taumarunui Railway Yards. It’s absolutely brilliant artwork, but retirees Colin and Trish Beswick don’t want a bar of it. How sad is that?

Moving Houses presenter Clarke Gayford is in his element alongside a train on a truck and two cranes.

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Moving Houses presenter Clarke Gayford is in his element alongside a train on a truck and two cranes.

The couple, who live on a 3ha plum orchard outside Hastings want the carriage to be quirky guest accommodation – it would have been more quirky with the graffiti.

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This was another “sight unseen” purchase – they saw the listing on Trade Me, put in a bid and within a matter of minutes the 56-seater 1960s commuter train carriage was theirs, for $10,000.

Colin and Trish have great plans for their railway carriage guest house.

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Colin and Trish have great plans for their railway carriage guest house.

Colin has even built his own authentic tracks for the carriage – “the shortest railroad in the country”. We wonder what else he has planned?

The couple rock up to the Taumarunui Railway Yards to finally see the carriage in person, and it’s huge – it started life in Brisbane and was then used on Auckland’s commuter lines. There are six carriages altogether being sold by the Glenbrook Vintage Railway – the others are going elsewhere.

“We’ve lost the plot… buying a train,” says Trish. But she is really into it, which is great.

She and Colin have different ideas of how to do it up inside, however – she wants it to be a house, and he still wants “train geek chic”, retaining four of the seats as dining chairs. But they don’t change their minds about the superior graffiti on the carriage.

The carriage weighs 26 tonnes and truck driver Carl says he can feel the weight in his seat.

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The carriage weighs 26 tonnes and truck driver Carl says he can feel the weight in his seat.

The carriage is trucked nearly 300km from Tamaurunui to the orchard just outside Hastings.

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The carriage is trucked nearly 300km from Tamaurunui to the orchard just outside Hastings.

Colin has been buying up some train old accessories – old lights and “stuff” to cart home. He’s planning something.

We meet a ‘foamer’ (aka railway kid)

There’s a great scene where we get to meet Sean from Glenbrook. These train geeks are such enthusiasts. He tells us they get called “foamers” – because they are so excited when a train goes past they foam at the mouth. (He denies that happens.)

The long truck, driven by Carl from Hastings House Removals, arrives to cart the carriage nearly 300km to Hastings via Turangi and State Highway 5. And it’s a lot more problematic securing a carriage with wheels on a truck, rather than a house that’s not going to roll anywhere. The carriage is 3 tonnes heavier than expected.

And there is fog – there needs to be at least 500m of visibility or the truck can’t drive.

Colin and Trish have scraped off all the graffiti and built a small train station, complete with platform for their new guest "carriage".

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Colin and Trish have scraped off all the graffiti and built a small train station, complete with platform for their new guest “carriage”.

“The entire enterprise could still end up a train wreck,” Gayford says (eye roll).

Colin and Trish follow the truck home. It’s a long way. And the extra weight is a challenge for Carl in the truck cab. “I can feel it in my seat,” says Carl.

Well, that sounds scary. As Colin points out, the train is going the fastest it has ever been in its life. But they can only crawl around all the corners on the lake road because, at 17m, the truck is so long. And the pilot vehicles need to stop cars so the truck can squeeze past.

The carriage has been gutted, but many original features remain, including the poles, ceiling panels and signs.

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The carriage has been gutted, but many original features remain, including the poles, ceiling panels and signs.

They head over the ranges, with some long, slow climbs. And there’s yet another funny scene (Gayford gives us lots of these) where Colin “entertains” Trish by telling her train stuff. She nods off.

Eventually, they arrive in the paddock and leave the carriage on the truck overnight. Rain arrives, and the ground is very soggy the next morning.

Two cranes arrive, one at each end – a literal balancing act, says Gayford as the train is lifted down onto Colin’s tracks.

It’s a bit nerve-wracking watching the movers yank at a train wheel with a crowbar, but it finally drops into place with no damage – Colin’s tracks are a perfect fit after all.

There's even a perfectly adequate kitchen opposite the dining table, which features original train seats, although Trish wants these reupholstered.

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There’s even a perfectly adequate kitchen opposite the dining table, which features original train seats, although Trish wants these reupholstered.

The carriage sits up high with a view across the countryside, and looks incredibly big. And then 24 later, Colin and Trish are out there scraping off that marvellous graffiti.

Train geeks will love this

A few months later Gayford arrives back for the big reveal, and it’s like he’s arriving at a wee train station in the country. Colin has gone crazy – there are train signs, stairs up to a deck, sorry platform, a little station and even “train crossing” lights.

But, actually, the train is going nowhere. It has been stripped of all the graffiti and looks like ‘60s new.

It’s fun, though, and it will appeal to guests. Even Gayford can see himself sleeping in the bedroom at one end (honeymoon suite perhaps Clarke?)

There’s a lot of train stuff left inside – signs, poles, ceiling panels and even the upholstery on the four seats that have become dining chairs.

Gayford admired the bed and said he would like to sleep here and wake up to the rural view.

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Gayford admired the bed and said he would like to sleep here and wake up to the rural view.

But Colin and Trish have taken out everything else and put in a sitting room, a kitchenette beneath a window, a toilet and shower, and two bedrooms (one yet to be finished).

It’s pretty cool, and the rural views are lovely.

And the budget? The couple say they were expecting to spend around $100k, which includes the $10k for carriage and $10k for the move, but they say they have spent an extra $30k.

Gayford gives them a present – a colourful drawing of the carriage WITH its cool graffiti. Perfect.

And the final words from Gayford? He has no doubt the train will be a “runaway success”. Groan. But we will keep watching this show, because it’s great.

Moving Houses screens on TVNZ 1 Tuesdays, 7.30pm and TVNZ OnDemand

The shower and toilet are on either side of the central aisle.

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The shower and toilet are on either side of the central aisle.



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