Located at the foot of Christchurch’s Port Hills, on the site, initially, of an ancient Maori hunting ground and later, of Zealand’s first public railway, Ferrymead Heritage Park includes the model town of Moorhouse (old Christchurch from colonial times to the 1920s) as well as a transport and technology museum.
On weekends and during holidays, a team of dedicated volunteers mans the businesses and transport of Moorhouse and visitors stream into the little town to ride the tram and the old steam train.
On the Thursday afternoon that we visited Ferrymead all its attractions were ‘static’, which meant that neither the transport, nor the businesses in the town were manned and operating. Still everything was open and the whole of Moorhouse was ours.
We could visit one another in “our” cottages and shops. We could linger in the dimly-lit church and in the spooky gaol, where a criminal dummy lay stretched on a bed, staring with glassy eyes at a small barred window. We could tinker with the pumps in the street and potter with the gadgets in the sheds. We could sit in the single classroom in the little school. We could push buttons and follow tiny trains around miniature landscapes, through tunnels, points, signals and crossings in the model railway shed. We could hide in the thunderbox outhouse and scuff along dusty roads.
There were huge garages lined with motors from every era. There were hangars full of aeroplanes, including an old NAC Friendship like the one on which I took my first flight in the 1960s.
It was a great afternoon for all of us – a lovely walk down Memory Lane for the baby boomers and a fabulous flight of imagination for the 21st century kids.