The first train to travel the length of the North Island main trunk line, the ‘Parliament Special’ left Wellington on the evening of 7 August. On board were Prime Minister Sir Joseph Ward and other members of Parliament, who were heading to Auckland to greet the American navy’s ‘Great White Fleet’.
The train travelled over a temporary, unballasted track in the central section of the still-unfinished main trunk line. It was hauled in turn by locomotives from the Wellington & Manawatu Railway Company, New Zealand Railways, the Public Works Department and New Zealand Railways again. It completed the trip in 20½ hours.
The main trunk was not formally opened until 6 November, when Ward drove home a final polished silver spike at Manganuioteao, near Erua. Regular services began soon after, and an express train introduced in February 1909 made the trip in 18 hours.
Image: the ‘Parliament Special’ – follow link to see this image and hear the railway guard describe the journey.