Getting up steam again – 100 years on
By Bob Davis
Posted 16 July 2013
As Honorary Secretary of The Passchendaele Society Inc., I took the opportunity, while visiting the Kapiti Coast recently, to pay a social call to one of our members, Steam Incorporated, the Steam Preservation Society at Paekakariki.
I was particularly interested to see their splendid locomotive, Ab608, which bears the name ‘Passchendaele’ - in commemoration of New Zealand’s darkest day, when 846 Kiwi soldiers were killed at the Battle of Passchendaele in Flanders on 12 October 1917.
The story of the locomotive is told in detail here - Ab608 Restoration. It carries two impressive nameplates bearing the words ‘PASSCHENDAELE - In memory of those members of New Zealand Railways who fell in the Great War 1914-1918’.
Like so many of the old steam locomotives, Ab608 is a magnificent specimen, which I was told should be completely restored by about Easter 2014, at an eventual cost in the region of $350,000.
There are tentative plans at this stage for the locomotive and several coaches to tour the country in 2015 and again in 2017, with exhibits to mark the respective centenaries of Gallipoli and Passchendaele. By chance, the locomotive’s own centenary will also be in 2015.
I am most grateful to Alastair Maciver and Wayne Mason for giving me a personal tour of the restoration works, and a close-up encounter with Ab608 Passchendaele. It will be splendid to see this remarkable project come to fruition, and for the locomotive to be back in the rails in all its former glory, for the nation to admire once again.