For better or worse I find it hard to look at anything at all, without trying to join up the dots to something else, constantly seeing the possibilities in how an object, or event, a concept might be developed further.
Two separate ideas on the boil for me at the moment are; bringing commuter rail into the very centre of Christchurch and, closer to home for me nowadays, promoting the concept of an off road [mainly] cycle trail down through the central eastern seaboard of Te Wai Pounamu.
Me being me, it was pretty well inevitable as soon as I turned my back these ideas would hop into bed together!
I have come to believe that this great southern cycle trail route would put tourists on to South line trains in far greater numbers than conventional tourism alone will do.
Although a lot of local people would drive to the start point of a cycle trail, unless you want to repeat the scenery in return journey, there is always the problem of getting back to the car.
A cycle trail interacting at various points with a through line, between Christchurch and Dunedin, as suggested in a previous blog posting, and trains which have special train cycle carriages, could solve a lot of problems and between these two modes generate a lot of extra tourism.
Indeed the influx of several thousand cycle trail tourists, mainly in the eight months suitable for open country riding, could be the very factor that would make a commuter service to and from Timaru truly viable.
And when I say cycle tourists I don't just mean, three wealthy middle-aged teachers from Auckland, or an older retired couple from Arizona, nor a lone athletic Spanish women, or three laughing nuns on holiday. All these will entrain, course... but also ....
I mean mum, dad and two kids (aged 10 and 12) and their four bikes, heading south from Christchurch for a four day off-road cycle from Timaru to Oamaru via Waimate and Duntroon. Train down and train back. Cheaper than hiring cycles, and the kids get a rare chance to ride the rails.
"Rail & trail" Could also prove very popular with overseas tourists and those flying in from the North Island, particularly if the trains for Timaru and Dunedin travel via Christchurch airport before heading South (and returning trains enter Christchurch via the Airport loop as well). A great way to cram a lot into a short break of a few days.
Railing from Christchurch is also a very handy way of getting cycle trail users, heading for Methven and the (potential) start of the trail, over the "mile wide" Rakaia, onto the south side of a very long narrow bridge.
Is it possible that even a test-the-water, bare bones service, one train a day to Dunedin and return, and another from Timaru and return, only, could meet the needs of commuters AND cycle trail riders?
As usual I could not resist playing with timetables to see. Here is one set of possibilities, times are reasonable guesses based on road times and memories of the evening railcar service Christchurch to Dunedin back in 1970s.