The primary passenger service on the Marton - New Plymouth Line was the New Plymouth Express between Wellington and New Plymouth. It was augmented by three slower mixed trains that ran south from New Plymouth daily. In 1926, patronage was sufficiently high to justify replacing one of the mixed trains with a dedicated passenger service between New Plymouth and Wanganui. This train came to be known as the Taranaki Flyer.
For most of its life, the Taranaki Flyer was a carriage train hauled by steam locomotives, and when it was introduced, it took approximately 4.5 hours to complete its journey. On 31 October 1955, the carriage trains were replaced by more economical railcars. The railcars used on this route were of the Standard and 88 seater types of the RM class. During the railcar days, the northbound train was no. 524 and the southbound train was no. 525.
During the 1950s, the impact of airlines and private cars started to significantly reduce patronage on New Zealand's trains. Although the introduction of railcars prolonged the life of many other provincial services in New Zealand, it was not successful for the Taranaki Flyer. On 7 February 1959, the service ran for the last time. The final train no. 524 was handled by an 88 seater, RM 116, and a Standard railcar ran train no. 525, RM 30 Aotea.
AB745 The Taranaki Flyer Project
NZR AB class No.745 North British Locomotive Company built Pacific locomotive, makers No. 22880 of 1922 is being restored by The Taranaki Flyer Society Inc.. The locomotive was involved in a washout accident in 16 July 1956 and plummeting 50 feet, while hauling a full load of freight from Wanganui to New Plymouth. Both crew survived. Too expensive to recover it remained in situ built into the embankment at Hawera. The engine lay undisturbed until November 2001, and in 2002 salvage work began after 46 years underground. The raised wreck minus tender was taken to Waitara. In 2007, The Taranaki Flyer Society Inc. was formed and AB745 was transported to its new home at the old railway goods shed at Stratford, where it is being restored. Due to the loss of lease on the old Stratford old railway goods shed and lack of funds, the Society decided reluctantly to offer the locomotive to other groups. Rimutaka Incline Railway Heritage Trust's proposal was accepted and the locomotive relocated to their workshops at Maymorn south of the Rimutaka Tunnel in October 2013.
- Geoffrey B. Churchman and Tony Hurst, The Railways of New Zealand: A Journey Through History (Wellington: Grantham House, 1991), pg. 133.
- Churchman and Hurst, The Railways of New Zealand, pg. 133.
- Tony Hurst, Farewell to Steam: Four Decades of Change on New Zealand Railways (Auckland: Harper Collins Publishers, 1995), pg. 74.
- Hurst, Farewell to Steam, pg. 74.