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New Zealand Parliament

Black and white image of a steam train.

The Parliament Special on the way to Auckland, 8 August 1908. NZ Graphic, 19 August 1908.

5 August 2008
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The 1908 Parliament train

5 August 2008

One hundred years ago, in August 1908, the first train travelled over the full length of the North Island main trunk railway line. The ‘Parliament Special’ took about 200 passengers, including about 60 parliamentarians, to Auckland to greet the American 'Great White Fleet' of battleships.

The completion of the North Island Main Trunk was a milestone in New Zealand’s history.

It opened the way for the development and settlement of the central North Island and revolutionised the flow of freight and passengers.

The Minister of Public Works wagered £1,000 with the engineer during a very wet winter that the line would not be finished in time. It was – but only just – as the Public Works Department had to take many shortcuts on the last 30 miles in the central North Island to complete the link. The train completed the journey in a little over 20 hours, proceeding at no more than walking pace over the hastily finished last section of line.

OnTrack has organised a re-enactment of the Parliament Special trip. The train leaves Wellington on 6 August for Auckland, taking three days and involving local communities and Maori groups at various stops along the way. Throughout August, there is a Parliament Special display in the Galleria, Parliament House. Details on visiting Parliament are here.

Further detail on the Parliament Special is available from the OnTrack website.