Tag Archives: trains

Adjusting from Sydney to Wellington

It’s a been a good few months back home in Wellington, getting settled back into the city and organising catch ups with old friends. It’s also been a very busy couple months, with me getting straight back into work and projects, as well as looking for a house to buy with Lisa!

Obligatory couplesy photo.

Obligatory couplesy photo. I should really take better ones of these…

I’m happy to be home here in New Zealand, certainly loving the climate and the lifestyle a lot more than Sydney, although there are certainly a number of things I miss from/about Sydney.


The most noticeable change is that I’m feeling healthier and fitter than ever before, probably on account of doing a lot more physical activity, wandering around the city and suburbs on foot and climbing up hills all the time. The lower pollution probably isn’t bad either – by international scales Sydney is a “clean” city, but when compared to a small New Zealand city, it was very noticeably polluted and I can smell the difference in air quality.

Being only a short distance from the outdoors at all times is a pretty awesome perk of being home. Once I get a car and a mountain bike, a lot more will open up to me, currently I’ve just invested in some good walking boots and have been doing close wanders to the city like Mt Kaukau, up over Roseneath and around Miramar Peninsula.

Wind turbines, rolling hills, sunlight... wait, this isn't a data center!

Wind turbines, rolling hills, sunlight… wait, this isn’t a data centre! What’s wrong with me?? Why am I here?


The other very noticeable difference for me has been my work lifestyle. Moving from working in the middle of the main office for a large company to working semi-remotely from a branch office is a huge change when you consider the loss of daily conversation and informal conversations with my colleagues in the office, as well as the ease of being involved in incidents and meetings when there in person.

Saving journalism in the 21st century.

Work battle station. Loving the dual vertical 24″ ATM, but I lose them in a week when we move to the new office. :'(

The Wellington staff I work with are awesome, but I do miss the time I spent with the operational engineers in Sydney. Working with lots of young engineers who lived for crazy shit like 10 hour work days then spending all evening at the pub arguing about GNU/Linux, Ruby code, AWS, Settlers of Catan and other important topics was a really awesome experience.

Wellington also has far fewer of my industry peers than Sydney, simply due to it’s scale. It was a pretty awesome experience bumping into other Linux engineers late at night on Sydney streets, recognised as one of the clan by the nerdy tshirt jokes shared between strangers. And of course Sydney generally has far more (and larger) meetups and what I’d describe as a general feel of wealth and success in my field – people are in demand, getting rewarded for it, and are generally excited about all the developments in the tech space.

Not that you can’t get this in Wellington – but the scale is less. Pay is generally a lot lower, company sizes smaller, and customer bases small… there aren’t many places in New Zealand where I could work and look after over a thousand Linux servers serving millions of unique visitors a day for example.

I personally don’t see myself working for any New Zealand companies for a while, at this current point in time, I think the smart money for young kiwis working in technology is to spend some time in Australia, get a reputation and line up some work you can bring home and do remotely. New Zealand has a lot of startups, as well as the traditional telcos and global enterprise integrators, but the work I’ve seen in the AU space is just another step up in both challenge and remuneration. Plus they’re crying out for staff and companies are more willing to consider more flexible relationships and still pay top dollar.

It’s not all negative of course –  Wellington still has a good number of IT jobs, and in proportion to other lines of work, they pay very well still – you’re never going to do badly working domestically. Plus there’s the fact that Wellington is home to a hotbed of startup companies including the very successful Xero which has gone global… Longer term I hope a lot of these hopeful companies succeed and really help grow NZ as a place for developing technology and exporting it globally whilst still retaining NZ-based head offices, giving kiwis a chance to work on world-class challenges.


Moving home means I’ve also been enjoying  Wellington’s great food and craft beer quite a bit, and I’m probably spending more here than in Sydney on brunch, dinners, coffee and of course delicious craft beer. Hopefully all the walking around the hills of Wellington compensates for it!

Sydney is known for being an expensive place to live, but I’m finding Wellington is much more expensive for coffee and food. The upside is that the general quality and standard is high, whereas I’d find Sydney quite hit and miss, particularly with coffee.

I suspect the difference is due to the economy of scale – if you have a hole-in-the-wall coffee shop in Sydney, you’ll probably serve 100x as many people as you will in Wellington, even after paying higher rents, it works out in your favour. Additionally essential foods are GST free, which makes them instantly 15% less than in New Zealand.

Doesn't get more kiwi than chocolate fish

Doesn’t get more kiwi than complementary chocolate fish with your coffee.

The craft beer scene here is also fantastic, I’m loving all the new beers that have appeared whilst I’ve been away, as well as the convenience of being able to pickup single bottles of quality craft beer at the local supermarket. I’ve been enjoying Tuatara, Epic and Stoke heavily lately, however they’re just a fraction of the huge market in NZ that’s full of small breweries as well as brew-pubs offering their own unique local fare.


Delicious pale ale with NZ hops from Tuatara, a very successful craft brewery in the Wellington region.

I’m still amazed at how poor the beer selection was in Sydney’s city bars and bottle stores. It’s bad enough that you can’t buy alcohol at the supermarket, but the bottlestores placed near to them have very little quality craft beer available for selection.

I remember the bottlestore in Pyrmont (Sydney’s densest residential suburb) had a single fridge for “craft” beer which was made up of James Squire’s which is actually a Lion brand masquerading as a craft beer, and Little Creatures which although is quite good, happens to be owned by Lion as well.

Drinking out at the pubs had the same issue, with many pubs offering only brews from C.U.B and Lion and often no craft beers on tap. Sure, there were specific pubs one could go to for a good drink, but they were certainly in the minority in the city, where as Wellington makes it hard not to find good beer.

Just before I left Sydney, The Quarryman opened up in Pyrmont which brought an excellent range of AU beers to a great location near my home and work, however it’s a shame that this sort of pub was generally an infrequent find.

There’s a good write up on the SMH about the relationship between the big two breweries and the pubs, which mentions that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is looking into the situation – would be nice if some action gets taken to help the craft beers make their way into the pubs a bit more.

I might be enjoying my craft beer a bit *too* much! ;-)

I might be enjoying my craft beer a bit *too* much! ;-)


The public transport is also so different back here in Wellington. Being without a car in both cities, I’ve been making heavy use of buses and trains to get around – particularly since I’ve been house hunting and going between numerous suburbs over the course of a single day.

Sydney Rail far beats anything Wellington – or New Zealand for that matter – has to offer. Going from the massive 8 carriage double-decker Sydney trains that come every 3-15mins to Wellington’s single decker 2 carriage trains that come every 30-60mins makes it feel like a hobby railway line. And having an actual conductor come and clip your paper-based ticket? Hilarious! At least Wellington has been upgrading most of it’s trains, the older WW2-era relics really did make it feel like a hobby/historic railway….

No mag swipe on this ticket!

No magnetic swipe on this train ticket!

But not everything is better in Sydney on this front – Wellington buses have been a bliss to travel on compared to Sydney, on account of actually having an integrated electronic smartcard system on the majority of buses.

I found myself avoiding buses in Sydney because of their complicated fare structure and as such I tended to infrequently go to places that weren’t on the rail network due to the hassle it entailed. Whereas in Wellington, I can jump on and off anything and not have to worry about calculating the number of sections and having the right type of ticket.

The fact that Sydney is *still* working on pushing out smartcards in 2014 is just crazy when you think about the size of the city and it’s position on the world stage. Here’s hoping the Opal rollout goes smoothly and my future trips around Sydney are much easier.


Finally the other most noticeable change? It’s so lovely and cold! I seriously prefer the colder climate, although lots of people think I’m nuts for giving up the hot and sunny days of Sydney, but it just feels so much more comfortable to me – I guess I tend to just “run hot”, I’m always pumping out heat… guess it works well for a cold climate. :-)

In event of a Wellington winter, your Thinkpad can double as a heating device.

In event of a Wellington winter, your Thinkpad can double as a heating device.

Commuting in Sydney

I’ve now been in Sydney for 5 weeks, settling into a new job, a new lifestyle and an entirely new city. Still very much in the tourist phase, there’s heaps we still need to see and do and only just starting to get settled really.

Sydney opera house!

The first two weeks here were spent staying with some of Lisa’s relatives out in Hornsby Heights – nice suburban area, but it takes a bus and a train in order to get into the CBD, which is a 1.5 hour per-way trip – 3 hours a day, or even more depressingly 15 hours a week just to get to and from work.

Because of this commute we haven’t really done much in the first two weeks whilst here, most of my time was either traveling or looking for a place to live with Lisa.

Sydney residents seem to complain about the train service, but it’s actually one of the best I’ve used, really the only thing that lets it down is the lack of a smart card system like Melbourne’s Myki

Instead it uses magnetic stripe tickets which are purchased via ticket machines at every station. These tickets can be for single trips, returns, weekly, monthly or even yearly – I had enough trouble keeping the paper ticket in one piece for a week, so unsure how well monthly or yearly tickets are going to last. :-/

Buttons! All the buttons!

The trains do vary in quality, some of the ones being run are a bit beat up and graffitied, but they always seem to be on time and pretty reliable.

It’s the first city I’ve been in which runs double decker trains – Sydney tends to run them as two pairs of locomotives, each with 4 carriages – effectively 8 carriages, or 16 if you count the fact that they’re double decker and probably fit about twice of the average carriage.

Inside one of the newer trains – note the upper and lower levels!

The suburban train network has the best views, most city training tends to be underground into subway stations, which do tend to be quite hot and cramped – thankfully Sydney has seemed to learn to build big, the newer stations in some suburbs are massive spacious underground caverns.

Unfortunately this large station entrance is an exception to the rule…

Of course you don’t necessarily have to take the underground rail….

MONORAIL!!! I get to walk past it every day on the way to work, so cool.

There’s an active cycling scene in Sydney, particularly around where I live and work, although I’m not sure how anyone survives cycling in hot Sydney days which are pretty horrific survival experiences at times. :-/

Whilst there are cycle lanes, they can be a bit scary as a pedestrian as a lot of cyclists seem to consider themselves immune to the cyclist traffic lights and will sometimes ride right at you against the red light whilst pedestrians are crossing…. There’s also a few wonderful design failures such as shared pedestrian/cyclist zones that are no larger than 1 bike each way at a time leading to people riding a bit too close for comfort.

Thankfully we have now found a place and we’ve finally settled in somewhat – now living in an apartment on Clarence St, right in the middle of the CBD which makes my job in Pyrmont only a short 20minute walk, meaning I can actually spend time enjoying my evenings.

Tree lined home street!

There’s a few pretty awesome perks to my commute, which takes me over Darling Harbour via Pyrmont Bridge and offers some pretty neat views.

Pyrmont bridge in the evening – note the monorail track which goes over it.

Harbor view – just off to the left is the rear end of a warship and a submarine at the maritime museum – but I’ll post more about these later on….

Generally things are going pretty well here, quite a culture shock compared to NZ, but we are getting out and about learning new places and things to see.


Whilst I’ve been in Auckland for about 8 months now and driven past it a number of times, I had yet to visit the Auckland Museum Of Transport And Technology (MOTAT). However this month (June) there’s free entry for all visitors, which gave me a pretty compelling reason to head over there and check it out. :-)

Being a free weekend, it was pretty nuts with huge crowds there, but the staff did a great job and once we got in, as long as we avoided the major kids-focused attractions, the crowds weren’t an issue.

And wow, I’m glad I went. It’s actually one of the best things I’ve found in Auckland –  huge range of trams, from Wellington, Auckland and Melbourne, a massive aviation display and a solid number of trains, cars and other displays including Antarctic machines, Kiwiana display, old printing systems and a Victorian village.

Definitely the place to take geeky out-of-towners wanting something to see other than just traffic jams and the sky tower whilst in Auckland. ;-)

Motorised Auckland Fire Truck

Seeing how exposed drivers were on early cars are trucks is amazing, it must have been like driving whilst sitting on a park bench…. and no such thing as a seatbelt, or even doors to stop yourself from falling out sometimes :-/

I didn’t get many pictures of the other cars they have, although there’s a big selection of icon cars from the 20th century – quite surprising seeing how big some of the early models were, compared to the compact size of modern vehicles – some of their engines must have been at least 4 times the physical size of my modern 1.3l engine.

Mechanical printing press.

The mechanical printing press was pretty interesting to watch – the machine has an arm with various suction cups on it, which is used to pickup each sheet of paper and feed it into the print rollers.

The photo doesn’t really do it justice, so I’ve uploaded a youtube video of it in action here, you wouldn’t expect something that looks like such a crude mechanical machine to do such as accurate job of feeding and printing the pages.

Wonder how long until the news paper printing presses of the 2000s era end up in there as well, with the shift to digital it might not be that much longer…

Trams! And a Melbourne tram no less! :-D

Wellington Tram! (double <3)

Steam powered tram - it's effectively an engine only, designed to pull/push tram trailers.

Auckland Tram!

Double decker Wellington tram! I wonder how popular the upstairs was on a cold windy Wellington day. :-/

Map of Auckland's tram network - really wish they had kept it, Auckland needs all the public transport it can get. :-/

Trams on Queen Street.

It’s probably pretty clear that I love trams and MOTAT offers a great experience with a large number of them in excellent condition, as well as a number of ongoing restoration projects in the works, including an interesting sounding “freight tram”.

There’s at least a couple Melbourne trams and several trams from Wellington which are in good running condition, not sure about the Auckland ones, but they look pretty good so I presume they may also be in running condition,

What’s really cool is that since MOTAT is split into two sites, they run several trams regularly which you can ride between the two sites, with an in-between station at Auckland Zoo – you get a free return ticket with your MOTAT entrance fee.

Tram ride ticket :-D

Historical sandwich maker :-P (just kidding dear! don't hurt me!)


The mini from Goodbye Pork Pie

Retro buses!

Massive locomotives - would love to see that steam train when it was running!

Steam punk throne! m/

OMG OMG OMG steam train!!

I was fortunate in that I chose to come on the right weekend, as the steam train only runs on select Sundays. Whilst it’s not a long run of track, it’s always a treat to see steam locomotives when running – I took a video and uploaded to youtube of the train running. :-D

Standing on trams is great for holding cute females closely. Watch out Melbourne ladies! ;-)

Tank rides! I didn't get a chance to go on it myself, but looks quite fun. They move surprisingly quickly over the muddy field too

Quite neat seeing planes in various stages of assembly in the workshop.

Lots of planes outside in various conditions, many military options, some DC3s and some sea planes.

Massive sea plane - size becomes really noticeable when you see the people on the ground near it.... it amazes me that these things actually fly sometimes.

Avro Lancaster Bomber

Bombing bay... I wouldn't want to be anywhere near bombs that size when they drop....

The Avro Lancaster is one of the best pieces in the aviation hall – it’s got to be one of the most famous and well known aircraft of the war, but for all the pictures and videos, you don’t really realize how massive the aircraft really is until you get up close to it IRL.

Especially the massive tires, rather than modern designs with groups of numerous smaller tires, the Lancaster has two massive tractor-sized tires that retract up into the wing.

Apparently one of my great grandfathers was on these during WW2, although I’m unsure of his exact position/role onboard.

Ah, the NZ skyhawks.... the most action they ever got was firing a warning shot over the bow of an illegal fishing ship, then got to sit in plastic wrap for years until the government decided nobody wanted to buy them, so scrapped them.

Aerial Mapping Plane

Large number of interesting bombers like this around the hall.

Old NZ Air Force VIP transport.

NZ-build Gyrocopter :-D

"Flying Flea" kitset aircraft

Overall it was a pretty excellent trip – we spent about 3 hours there, but I could have spent maybe 5 or 6 even, if you stopped to do everything and took the time to watch more of the scheduled activities and events.

It’s actually one of the few touristy things that I’d be happy to pay the entrance fee for, at $14 per adult, it’s pretty cheap – especially when compared to other Auckland attractions like Kelly Tartons ($34 per adult, maybe 2hrs activity at most).

It’s easy to get to with a car, there’s an abundance of parking, and there’s also a bus stop right outside if you’re going to brave the Auckland public transport system. :-)

Matangi Trains

I was in Wellington the other week to catch up with friends and family and had the opportunity to catch the new Matangi trains out to Johnsonville – you might remember my previous trip out there featured the pre-WW2 relics, so it was exciting to check out some 21st century transportation. :-)

In some ways, it’s sad to lose the old relics since they were great fun as a visitor, but I can imagine that the local are grateful for some of the more modern comforts and quietness.

Speedy train is speedy! (or crappy phone camera is crappy)

I do think showing the train's model name rather than the actual destination is going to be pretty unhelpful for tourists, I'd be pretty worried if I was trying to catch the "Johnsonville" train if it had a sign saying "Matangi". :-/

Nice and new :-)

Of particular interest is that the Johnsonville units are specially marked, as they feature an additional feature of “wheel flange lube” –  apparently this is to help deal with reducing wear on the tight Johnsonville line rails by keeping the wheels lubricated.

Wheel flange lube? Sounds kinky!

Johnsonville Train

I was in Wellington a week ago for several work projects and ended up on a train out to Johnsonville to help my good friend Tom with his wifi/cable modem issues at his new flat, now that #geekflat is over. :'(

It’s not a secret that I love trains, a good deal of my per-computing childhood was spent reading train books, visiting the Silverstream Railway in Wellington (I think I was the youngest member at the time) and when I was younger Dad would sometimes take me out on Wellington’s suburban trains for daytrips.

The fact that Wellington’s rolling stock was (and in many cases, still is) positively ancient made it fantastic for a young train fan, since all the locomotives made such great noises, screeching and rattling around the place.

Until recently with the 2011 introduction of the Matangi FP Class trains, most of the Wellington region passenger trains were the NZ EM/ET class dating back to 1982 or even worse, the NZ DM/D class trains which date all the back to 1938.

DM/D train running the Johnsonville Line in the foreground. An EM/ET class in the background.

The current Johnsonville Line was laid and the current Johnsonville station opened in 1938, which replaced the original rail line dating back to 1885. If you’ve caught a train on it recently, you might be forgiven for thinking that nothing has changed since.

This will be changing, new Matangi trains have been successfully tested on the Johnsonville Line and will be finally replacing the DM/D class – which whilst it will make for a smoother trip, will make it slightly less exciting for train fans. ;-)

There’s a great youtube video of the whole trip at about 23 minutes which gives you an idea of the noise, but if you’re just wanting a quick idea of the route and the number of tunnels, there’s a timelapse version. :-)