The Channings family from Whanganui couldn't resist the temptation to stand on the footplate of a piece of New Zealand railway history yesterday when a special excursion train parked up at the Aramoho rail siding.

Whanganui is a two-night stop for the Steam Incorporated train, which is taking 86 South Island travellers on a trip throughout the lower North Island.

Starting last week in Wellington, the party has been through Masterton and Napier before heading through the Manawatu Gorge and linking with the North Island Main Trunk and heading north to National Park.

Yesterday the DA locomotive with its two 1940s restored passenger carriages headed down the Main Trunk to Marton and on to Whanganui, arriving about mid-afternoon. The tourists will take a day-trip on the PS Waimarie and spend another night in the city before travelling on to New Plymouth for a couple of nights. Then they head back to Wellington to fly home.

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Two buses are shadowing the journey, transporting the travellers to and from their accommodation at each stop.

John Bovis, a volunteer with Steam Incorporated, said the trip had gone smoothly. "Some of the people with us are rail enthusiasts, but the majority of them aren't. They're just people who want to enjoy touring by rail," he said.