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Canterbury Railway Society - About

About The Canterbury Railway Society

Society History

Archived News

The Canterbury Railway Society is the successor of the Canterbury Group and then the Canterbury Branch NZRLS. The formation of the NZRLS in 1944 saw a number of local groups established around NZ. In Christchurch this led to the formation of the Branch in the 1950s. The Branch was reconstituted as the Canterbury Railway Society in 1990.

Activities carried out by the Society since its formation include:

  • Excursion train operation
  • Operation of public trains and charter services at Ferrymead Heritage Park on the Ferrymead Railway.
  • Operation of public trains within the Christchurch and other areas on Tranz Rail tracks. The Society has also participated in the operation of steam-hauled passenger shuttle services between Christchurch and Ferrymead.
  • Library and archives. The collection is mainly made up of members' bequests beginning with the late E A Gay and comprises books, magazines, photographs, blueprints and other items. There is also a collection of large items such as signs, lamps and other artifacts.
  • Acquisition, overhaul and operation of locomotives, railcars and carriages, on the Ferrymead Railway and on other preservation lines, and also on Tranz Rail's tracks. The electric locomotives operate on a section of track that is provided with overhead catenary energised at 1500 volts DC, being the only electrified preservation railway in New Zealand.
  • Organisation of and participation in railway festivals. These include the 1988 "Ferrymead 125" three-day commemorative festival which attracted widespread participation from preservation societies all over New Zealand.
  • Loan of locomotives and rolling stock for operation on other preservation railways, and hosting of locomotives and rolling stock on loan from other preservation societies. This includes the four large diesel-electric locomotives at Ferrymead which are owned by another organisation and permanently based at the site.
  • Construction and operation of the necessary infrastructure of a working railway. This includes track, signals, stations, display facilities, repair and servicing facilities and equipment, and member amenities.
  • Sale of publications and souvenirs. Members are eligible for a discount on the prices of publication and souvenir items.
  • Publication of a monthly newsletter, "Branchlines", which covers local and national railway events.

Society Governance

The conduct of the Society is governed by its Constitution, rules and regulations, and applicable legislation (such as the Land Transport Safety Act, Rail Corridors Act and Incorporated Societies Act).

Our Constitution covers our aims and objects, membership, subscriptions, election of officers and other administrative matters. The Ferrymead Railway operates under a safety system registered with the Land Transport Safety Authority. The system includes our Rule Book and related documents, and our training and auditing systems.

Society Executive

The Society as per its Constitution is governed by an elected executive consisting of thirteen members, plus a Patron and a Financial Auditor. The Executive is normally elected each year at the Annual General Meeting. Specific areas of responsibility for certain members of the Executive, such as the President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer, and for the conduct of the Executive, are detailed in the Constitution.


The Society's Constitution makes provision for any number of subcommittees to be established as required. The most important of these is the Ferrymead Railway operations subcommittee, or "Heads of Departments", appointed by the Society Executive. This subcommittee is responsible for the safe and lawful operation of the Ferrymead Railway in accordance with statutory requirements and incorporates certain statutory positions such as the General Manager. The Electric Locomotive section is also run by a Society subcommittee.

Positions of Responsibility

The Society Executive in addition to appointing the members of the operations subcommittee, normally appoints persons to specific positions of responsibility for Society activities. Typically such positions are less formally structured than those of the Executive or the Operations Subcommittee, and may be made for an unspecified or indefinite period. An example is the editor of "Branch Lines".


The membership of the Society consists of approximately 20% Junior members and 80% Adult members. There are a small number (currently four) of Life members who are not required to pay subscription fees. This status may be conferred upon members in recognition of their exceptional service to the Society by a vote at an Annual or Special General Meeting. The Constitution also makes provision for Honorary Membership to be conferred for a defined period in recognition of services rendered, by a vote at an Annual or Special General Meeting. Honorary members are not required to pay subscription fees during the period of their honorary status.

Current Life Members of the Society are:

  • Keith Brown - held a number of positions including Society President. Currently works with the "Thursday Gang" on rolling stock restoration.

  • Colin Dash - held a number of positions. Organiser of the Ferrymead 125 rail festival in 1988. Past General Manager and current Traffic Manager. Secretary of the Diesel Traction Group. Convenor of the Historic Rail Vehicle Trust.

  • Bruce Shalders - held a number of positions including Treasurer for a number of years. Society President 1996 - .

  • Garth Beardsley - held a number of positions. Patron for the last few years.



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