This is a guest post from Wellington contributor Andy C who has previously written about the capital’s laneways and missing bus lanes

Friday 27 May sees the final scheduled running of Wellington’s Hungarian-built Ganz-Mavag trains. They entered service in 1982/83 but have been progressively replaced by the Matangi trains over the past few years.

According to the Greater Wellington Regional Council:

There will be a short ceremony and opportunity to see inside the driver’s cab before everyone boards the train which will be a scheduled passenger service. The train will leave Wellington at 2.17pm, arriving at Melling Station at 2.35pm. You can then catch the return service to Wellington at 2.39pm, arriving just before 3pm

Ganz Mavag Train
Ganz-Mavag in action – photo credit A Wickens

In the past couple of years the Ganz-Mavag have pretty much only been used for peak-hour services, but it’s still great to see Wellington move to having a single fleet of Matangi trains for the metropolitan network.

Matangi Train
New Matangi waiting for action

I understand that with 83 units in the fleet there will now be enough in place to add additional carriages to some peak-time services. Given reports in recent months, my guess is that these will be on the Kapiti line where people have been complaining about overcrowding all year. Having a single fleet will also make maintenance simpler and hopefully with all units only being a few years old (the first Matangi entered service in 2011) we should see fewer breakdowns.

The move to a single fleet is actually quite good timing for Transdev as they are taking over the running of the network from July 1 and are promising to improve service levels.

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  1. I am a little sentimental about these, but only because they are Hungarian; I married into a family of Magyars.

    My favourite saying: ‘It is not enough to be talented; one must also be Hungarian!’

  2. Another era of Wellington’s old electric trains goes into the history books. First with the English Electrics from the 30s retired around 5-6 years and now these. I wonder whether these are getting sold elsewhere?

    1. iirc the Ganz replaced the EEs from the ’30s, and the Matangis replaced the EE’s from the ’50s.

      1. The EEs remained in use on the Johnsonville line until they were replaced by the Matangis. The Ganz Mavag units didn’t fit in the tunnels, although I recall reading an article in a Rail magazine where they inched one through the tunnels after removing the “door open” warning lights that protruded slightly from the body (!)

        1. At least one Ganz did run through to Jonsonville, under test conditions and before the tunnels were enlarged for the Matangi units, and as I understand it the main reason for their not being used on the line was that their braking performance was inadequate for the steep gradients.

    2. The Ganzes are being sold to southern Africa, following the earlier batch, with the SuperGanz being preserved at Ferrymead

  3. One fleet. If only auckland could be so lucky.
    I wonder how much does it cost to run the pukekohe deasil fleet?

    1. There are still loco-hauled trains on the Wairarapa Line so not completely one fleet down here. Also both work on the Hutt Line so Auckland is probably closer to one fleet given the DMUs don’t run under the wires up there.

  4. I went to school on the Ganz-Mavags when they were brand new in 1983 and later commuted to university on them. They have a very particular smell.

    1. No but they’re almost identical, Wellington has 83 2-car units so 166 carriages. Auckland has 57 3-car units so 171 carriages. Aucklands carriages are also slightly longer plus have fewer driving cabs taking up space.

      1. Thanks for that. Considering Auckland’s carries millions more, it really should be much higher than Wellington’s, not just the equivalent of 5 or so carriages more.

        1. Yet, from my limited experience there is greater crowding on Wellington trains. I wonder there is more use off peak and against the tide on the Auckland network, with better connections & Northern busway etc?

        2. Yes I believe Wellington has a stronger peak but is weaker off peak and Auckland also has other destinations I think I saw the other day that Welly has about 15k arrive in the city in the morning peak, Auckland now has about 10.5k but also has substantial numbers at Newmarket and Grafton plus on Western line in particular there are a number of school destinations that draw patronage. I also believe that Auckland does better off and counter peak where as in Wellington it’s pretty much all to the centre or back. Overall a network with multiple uses is much better.

  5. The Ganz rode a lot more smoothly than the Matangi which tends to wallow a bit. The Ganz was a robust machine but its weak point was the traction control system. The notching relay, current sensor and camshaft arrangement had to be in good order to prevent traction motor flashover. Kiwirail finally got it right with 1373 (superGanz). It never flashed and that was all down to fitting a modern traction control system.

      1. The Matangi units are heavier than the Ganz Mavag:

        Matangi motor 42.5T
        Matangi trailer 35.3T
        Matangi total 77.8T

        Ganz Mavag motor 37.2T
        Ganz Mavag trailer 33.8T
        Ganz Mavag total 71.0T

        and just to complete the picture

        English Electric motor 43.5T
        English Electric trailer 27.4T
        English Electric total 70.9T

        The English Electric with a higher proportion of weight on its powered wheels was the best from a rail-adhesion perspective. The Ganz Mavag with its smaller relative difference between motor and trailer weights tended to slip/slide the most.

  6. It’s a shame former journo David McLaughlin seems to have nuked his old “Poneke” blog, because he told a great story about being a junior reporter, on the trail of a story about the decision to purchase the Ganz Mavags and their unsuitability, having Muldoon make a direct threatening call to his editor at the Dominion to kill the story (which they did).

    1. As one of the speakers at the event yesterday remarked it was a “Ganz for butter ” deal. So they were probably not state-of-the-art at the time. ‘Matingi’ is te reo for ‘the wind’ which is appropriate for their speed and Wellington’s reputation.

  7. According to the linked DomPost article, Transdev takes over at 0300 on 3 July, not on 1 July as stated above.

  8. Was there any thought given to standardising the Wellington and Auckland trains? They both must have designed around the same time. I would imagine the production runs for these are quite small by international standards?

    1. Wellington runs on 1600V DC, Auckland on 25kV AC.

      It might have made sense to rebuild the Kapiti line for 25kV AC and use the trains now used in Auckland on the line where their higher speed could have been useful. But that was not what was done.

    2. The platforms in Wellington are quite a bit lower in Wellington as well, along with them not requiring the power to be able to climb the CRL like the Auckland units require.

    3. The Wellington ones were designed and procured before Auckland, back when Auckland had only diesel hand me downs and the bees in the beehive were still saying nobody would every catch trains in Auckland.

      1. Essentially, the units were specified and bought by two different organisations for two different railways, so there would be little (if any) benefit in standardisation. Wellington is a legacy system in respect of power supply, signalling, infrastructure (single-track Vogel-era tunnels in particular), while Auckland has none of these constraints. As noted, Auckland also has its own standard for platform heights, inherited from Perth.

        Production runs are quite small, but standardisation would have meant sub-optimal trains in Auckland and/or major extra capital expenditure in Wellington, and why would AT in Auckland, KR and GWRC in Wellington want to specify that?

        1. To take an extreme position, if the Auckland-Wellington line had National Significance, it would likely have a single electrification standard all the way along it. It would then make complete sense to minimise unit costs by maximising the production run, using a single suburban unit design in a number of places. Among other consequences would be the ability to run a service for a period around Hamilton and if the results weren’t satisfactory to reuse the rolling stock elsewhere.

          It’s common enough for a manufacturer to sell an off-the-shelf train. Bombardier’s Talent is one example. And there are no cars manufactured for use only in New Zealand.

        2. Both Auckland and Wellington EMUs are designed and manufactured only for use in their particular parts of New Zealand. While they have elements in common with their manufacturers’ other products, they are no units to the same specification in use anywhere else in the world – unless you’ve information to the contrary?

        3. And there are no cars manufactured for use only in New Zealand?

          Cars are fitted out for the legal and market requirements of where they are being sold, they aren’t identical between countries.

  9. You forget Donald that Wellington has other lines that would need to change if the electrification standard changed on the Wellington portion of the NIMT. Otherwise you wouldn’t have a unified fleet, and operationally wise, having two fleets with different power systems would be awful! Given the differences in power standards, platform heights, signalling, tunnel clearances, etc etc, it just isn’t worth it.

  10. A changing of the times. My father was on the design team and always stated that the Hungarian contract was not the preferred tender. A bit of Government muscle for future trade prospects. With different countries providing different components (including the UK) they were a unique build, I bet the new Matangi’s are 100% Korean. With a bit of imagination they feel like overseas trams.

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