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Stamp Issue Celebrates Main Trunk Line Centenary

New Zealand Post Stamp Issue Celebrates Main Trunk Line Centenary


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Issued: 2 September 2008

New Zealand Post Stamp Issue Celebrates Main Trunk Line Centenary

When the North Island Main Trunk Line opened 100 years ago, the train journey took more than 20 hours. But it was an unbeatable alternative to a long and uncomfortable sea voyage, or braving a challenging trip on limited roads.

A feat of incredible engineering and the culmination of 23 years of backbreaking work in some of New Zealand’s toughest terrain, the Main Trunk Line was a symbol of progress for a young nation. It ushered in a golden age of rail transport in the first half of the 20th century, and played a pivotal role in New Zealand’s economic and social development.

The first train to travel the 700 kilometre journey to Auckland left Wellington on 7 August 1908. This 'Parliament Special’ carried politicians north to meet the United States Navy’s visiting fleet.

Three months later on 6 November 1908, the North Island Main Trunk Line was officially completed and the following day trains begun running.

New Zealand Post is celebrating the centenary of the Main Trunk Line with a five-stamp series, and a unique first day cover and presentation pack that, in addition to the stamps, features a replica of a 1910 timetable and a ticket for the 1908 ‘Parliament Special’.


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There are also 2,000 individually-numbered Limited Edition packs comprising the stamp set, a numbered miniature sheet, colour separations, a special first day cover signed by ONTRACK Chairperson, Cam Moore, and a booklet with comprehensive commentary from Reid McNaught, from Railfan magazine.

Ivor Masters, General Manager of New Zealand Post’s Stamps Business, said the five stamps in the series portray the Main Trunk Line’s progress from 1908 until the modern era.

“We are delighted to pay tribute to a magnificent accomplishment that fuelled economic development, the creation of new towns and population growth in the North Island,” he said. “After the maiden journey a century ago, this line was the mode of choice for people travelling between Wellington and Auckland. It has played host to everyone from Royal visitors, politicians and Governor-Generals, to soldiers bound for war, business people, entertainers, sports teams, holidaymakers and overseas tourists.


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“As such, this stamp series reflects more than a railway track and trains. It is also about New Zealand’s history, and it is about people – the generations of New Zealanders for whom the Main Trunk Line holds special meaning in personal memories and individual stories.”

Between August 2008 and February 2009 there are a number of activities celebrating this centenary including; the re run of the Parliamentary Special, re-enactments of the Last Spike ceremony and other celebrations based at Fielding over Labour Weekend.

The 50 cent stamp in the series, ‘Manganui-o-te-Ao 1908’, shows the ceremony on 6 November 1908 when Prime Minister Sir Joseph Ward hammered the Line’s ‘last spike’ into a railway sleeper just north of the then recently completed Manganui-o-te-Ao Viaduct. The ceremony marked the joining of the two railheads and the creation of the Wellington-Auckland link. Following the ceremony, Sir Joseph was presented with a commemorative silver spike, which is now held by Te Papa Museum in Wellington.

The $1.00 stamp shows steam locomotive KA 947 at Taumarunui station in November 1958, when the town celebrated 50 years of its association with the line. A year previously, the town had become immortalised in Peter Cape’s song ‘Taumarunui on the Main Trunk Line’.


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The 79-metre high Makatote Viaduct, crossing the Makatote River some 10 kilometres south of National Park, features on the $1.50 stamp. It is the highest viaduct on the Main Trunk Line and the image is of a steam train powering across it in 1963.

The Raurimu Spiral, a masterpiece of engineering design conceived in 1898 and completed 10 years later, is featured on the $2.00 stamp with an image from 1964. Four kilometres of track run almost 200 metres in altitude, on a 1:50 grade, through the ingenious use of a full spiral, a horseshoe curve and two tunnels. It was a huge saving for the project, as the alternative route through Taranaki would have required nine viaducts and 20 kilometres of track.


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The $2.50 stamp shows a modern locomotive crossing the 414 metre long Hapuawhenua bridge in 2003. With the electrification of the Main Trunk Line in 1987, this bridge was built as part of a 10 kilometre deviation between Ohakune and Horopito, bypassing the original Hapuawhenua Viaduct built in 1907-08. The 286 metre long original viaduct, located just north of Ohakune and previously the longest on this section of the Line, is today part of the surrounding National Park.

ENDS

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