Railway Stations West -1
I admit to fond memories of Springfield railway station. It was a watering stop for steam locomotives when I was a wide-eyed kid off on an adventure.
Refreshment rooms were modelled around the, then, steam locomotive’s need for watering about every 45 miles.
Albeit less important, train passengers might also need refreshments, hence the network of refreshment rooms throughout the railway system. On a frosty morning I would stamp my juvenile feet on the Springfield station platform to encourage circulation and warmth. One hand would clutch a mug of wonderful railway coffee. The other would clutch a hunk of tasty block cake or ham sandwich. (I later discovered recipes for coffee and block cake were closely guarded secrets).
The view ahead was likely the gloriously snow covered Torlesse range. In the mid-distance the Ja-class loco was at the water tank.
In railcar days, Springfield refreshment rooms became a teaming mass of humanity on both sides of the counter. Staff were frantic making coffee and slicing up block cake. Train passengers jostled in an attempt not to spill coffee over another passenger.
Refreshment stops were limited to 10 minutes. Hence the frenzy. But I never heard of anyone being left behind.
It was all a slice of Kiwi culture until refreshment rooms were closed down by a bureaucracy having no sense of value in history.
Springfield station subsequently re-opened as a café. Then closed.
My media colleague, Simon Williams, had the nouse to set up a Friends of Springfield station community hub. The station café reopened. He and his wife, Lynn, relocated from Christchurch to Springfield and are loving it.
Simon, left, with Gayle and Barry
Simon had worked for TVNZ news. I was a reporter on the Christchurch Press. We both covered the inaugural run of the TranzAlpine tourist train on November 22, 1987. The rail bosses of the day said our efforts contributed to the success of the new venture. The following year TranzAlpine Express won a coveted New Zealand Tourism Award.
Calling on Simon and Lynn, we are soon off to the rail station. We meet Gale and Barry, the latter the competent barista. Along with coffee we enjoy equally excellent asparagus rolls.
The station is almost as it once was. Hence part of it is a museum. Dorothy is an organic plants guru. She also sells seeds complete with instructions on their plantings in Springfield conditions.
I recall when Springfield was a smoky depot for six husky Kb class locomotives built especially for the Springfield to Arthur’s Pass section. They have long gone. An occasional preserved steam locomotive still passes through Springfield. It will typically head a train load of rail enthusiasts. Diesel-hauled freight trains pass through day and night.
Preserved Ka 942 leaving Springfield
And the famed TranzAlpine pauses twice daily during its return trip from Christchurch to Greymouth. The station café has a contract to provide cheese boards for the train. They have a supply of cheese from Barry’s Bay on Banks Peninsula.
TranzAlpine Springfield puddle reflection
I recall days when retired railwayman, Keith Williams, would bring his border collie, Rosie, to meet the TranzAlpine. Rosie would be treated to a meat pie by one of the train staff. Over time, Rosie consumed over 5000 pies. Needless to say, Rosie lost her ability to chase sheep. And I recall someone once calculated the cost of Rosie’s pies.
Simon tells me he is modelling Springfield on notable railway station preservations in Britain. He wants Springfield railway station to become a destination. A regular market will be added. Good on him for keeping something from our past alive and exciting.
Spring at Springfield