All aboard Pepi Toot

The country’s first on-road passenger train, driving holiday-makers around Mount Maunganui, has returned for the 2013/2014 cruise ship season and will be full steam ahead by next year.

After a successful trial in October, the 20-seater carriage and train, named Pepi Toot, currently operates on cruise days. But owners Charlie Davis and Lesley Smith – from Whitianga – say the train will be available every day from next year.

“At the moment, we come down every day there’s a cruise ship in,” says Charlie. “But we want to run it every day when we move [to the Mount].”

For Lesley it’s a trip back to her hometown, having lived in the Mount during her primary school years.

“It’s a bit like coming home. It’s not unfamiliar for me; Mount Maunganui and Tauranga.”

Lesley was holidaying in Noumea when she thought of bringing an on-road passenger train into the country.

“Because I’d first been on one, off a cruise ship in Noumea, I thought well that’s the logical thing – to bring it down to the Mount for the cruise ship season.”

The Pepi Toot Beach Express tour sets off from its base at Salisbury Avenue - next to the old Mount Maunganui Visitor Information Centre - and completes a 30-minute circuit around the Mount, travelling no further than Hewletts Rd.

Travelling at about a 30 km speed, experienced drivers share information about Mount Maunganui’s history.

The couple imported the train from China in 2008; and Charlie says it took about 18 months to get the train up and running before New Zealand Land Transport “gave us the okay”.

“It was the first tourist land train,” says Lesley.

It costs $10 per ride and is also available for hire.




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