Driving Creek Railway Celebration
Our one millionth passenger.
On 24th December 2011, the Driving creek Railway in Coromandel celebrated its one millionth passenger. She was Ms Yoon Lee from Auckland and received a life-time free pass on the railway together with an autographed copy of Barry Brickell’s newly published book “Rails Toward the Sky” * (David Bateman, 2011).
The celebration took place after the scheduled 2.00 p.m. train returned to the base station just after 3.00 p.m. A specially presented “railway” cake was cut and slices offered to the other passengers who were looking on. Set on top of the cake were candles symbolising one million. Ms Lee was also presented with two DCR pottery mugs.
Calculation for the millionth passenger was worked out by Tom Elliott of management staff. The figures began from October 1990 following the arrival of the long awaited letter of authorisation from the then Minister of Transport enabling fares to be charged to the public as passengers. This replaced the very paltry returns received under the previous donations system.
So, it has taken 21 years for the Driving Creek Railway to host its millionth passenger. But with increased seating capacity following introduction of the two new trains (actually self-propelled railcars), “Snake” in 1992 and “Linx” in 2004, we expect it should take rather less than 21 years to achieve the next millionth. A good reason for the railway’s builder and owner, Barry Brickell, to survive well into his nineties in order to witness it!
There is no proposal to build more passenger rolling stock in our own workshop but rather to continually improve the existing units. Between 1990 and 1992 we were limited in seating to 23 adult passengers using the diesel locomotive “Elephant” with a simple double-bogey passenger carriage attached. Some passengers crammed into the loco. cab as well.
Both of the new “trains” have a seating capacity of 34 adults each and during busy times are run as double-headers separately, one behind the other. Between 1994 and 2004 a small unit the “Possum” carrying 14 passengers was also used. Today, it is used during off-season times allowing the larger units to be maintained in the workshop. But before the “Linx” was introduced in 2004, it was necessary to run triple-headers, a procedure that was not looked upon favourably as there was no back-up service available in an emergency.
The Driving Creek Railway has exceeded all expectations as a major tourist attraction on the Coromandel Peninsula as well as a benefactor to Coromandel Town and the district. At a mainline length of a mere 2.6 kilometres, there are no plans to extend it beyond the high altitude terminus the Eyefull Tower, especially in view of the increasingly rugged terrain. After 32 years of heavy and challenging work, Barry now prefers to be more relegated to his studio.