Some days don't start too well but end up just about perfect if you know what I mean. I'm sure that you must have experienced it, allowing plenty of time plus a bit to get somewhere, only to get snarled up in the traffic jam from hell, there's no use in diving in and out of back streets to find the magic way, nope, everyone else is doing that so just sit tight and hope that the bus is still there! It wasn't, the bus was even more jammed than the rest of us when we were stuck in our tin top cars. However the sun shone on us waiting outside of the ADH when a very generous security guard gained the authority from on high to allow the MOTAT Society members, by now hopping from one leg to the other, to seek temporary refuge in that magnificent display hall.
Good things come to those who (im)patiently wait and eventually the bus arrived with its headlights drooping in apologetic disgrace - and so with a full load of now anxious members we turned once more onto Meola Road to face the horrors of Auckland's peak hour or two of dense traffic.
Where was it? By now fortunately the commuters were safely behind their desks trembling in anticipation of the snarl-ups on the homeward journey, but not us, we were on a high. cruising toward Whangarei looking forward to the displays of the Whangarei Steam and Model Railway Club and the incomparable Packard Museum. AND we were not disappointed.
John T. Society Chair and Jodie our very able administrator between them have made an impossible to surpass day of learning, entertainment and interest at these two museums. From the moment of arrival at The Steam Museum we were greeted by the volunteer team who had fired up their Peckett engine (the very last steam engine ever to be built and delivered from England to New Zealand in 1955) and who after loading us all into the period carriage took us for a steamy ride through the bush to their engine shed where we stopped for a brief nose around followed by the delightful ride back along a kilometre of track and from thence on to a 1919 tram. The Lisbon Tram 526 has been converted to the rail gauge and is ingeniously supplied with 250 to 550 D.C. voltage by towing its own diesel/generator trolley situated between the two tram carriages thus allowing it to travel anywhere on rail, very clever indeed.
The grounds of this museum are vast and variable between bush and rolling grassland the latter of which is where the kilometre or so of scale model rail track is laid. The model rail is a scale model of the big diesel units which roamed New Zealand far and wide in the sixties through to the nineties. Pulling three sit on units behind it the scale engine effortlessly hauled a full load of septuagenarians around the very charming gardens and grassland even climbing inclines without slowing from a good 10kph canter!
The generosity of welcome cannot be overstated, the writer really hopes that we can reciprocate in a similar manner when perhaps a return visit can be arranged. But on to the inner man, sorry person, Lunch. Most important a fabulous and fun lunch, where once again, the efficiency of our administrator had forewarned the Jolt Cafe of the septuagenarian takeover and so prandial disappointment was denied us. In other words we all liked it and ate lots and found a fabulous new beer called Spitfire which we highly recommend.
And so replete we leapt nimbly back onto the bus and off to the world famous Packard Museum where the oohs and ahs of the overwhelmed Society members could be heard all over town, several kilometres away. The welcome from owners, Geraldine and Fenton Craw, was brief and to the point the succinct message giving a little of the long and at times amusing history of the start-up of the Packard collection. In brief it involved in buying thirteen sheep in the early fifties from a saleyard in Morrinsville and having no way of transporting them home until it was pointed out that that there was a large American car for sale up the road. More haggling ensued and thus duly purchased, the car was filled to the gunwales with the thirteen hoggets which were brought back to Whangarei in style, their fate being unknown but predictable.
The car survived, was restored and now has pride of place in the Packard museum where anyone with the slightest interest in New Zealand transport history should spend a day or two ogling not just Packards, but an enormous host of vehicles varying from enormous bulldozers awaiting restoration to perfectly restored motorcycles (my personal favourites).
It cannot be emphasised enough the vastness of the collection in the Packard Museum and the variety of interesting and illuminating artefacts that exist here. Apart from the requirement to respect the vehicles for what they are, there were no restrictions on where we could go in any of the five or so large sheds and so as the time to go came around the reluctant to leave Society visitors were herded into the bus for the long ride home...
…which turned out to have a bit more fun than imagined. John T. had arranged a small quiz based on what we had seen during the day. The winners of the quiz were rewarded with a small, slightly melted, chocolate Easter egg...the losers had the rest. A lot of laughs as we tried to recall where an artefact came from or what the c.c. rating of a motorcycle was. What else can I eulogise on other than to say a whopping thank you to Jodie and John T. for their organising skills and to ask that maybe we do it again next year?
-By Henry Swan
More pics can be viewed at www.pinterest.nz/TheMOTATSociety/.