Cor... its a bit dusty in here innit?? *cough* *cough*....
Hmm... you know, this is the first time I have opened Steel Ribbons in many many moons.
Today I thought I would just check to see if:
A: Steel Ribbons still exists,
B: I can still log on, and
C: People still come for a nosey.... 
And bugger me - yes, its still online, yes I can still log on, and yes, Steel Ribbons still gets lots of hits. 
In fact, yesterday there were 296 visits... shucks... you folk have nothing better to do??!! :-) 

So I still get asked, quite regularly... "when are you going to update Steel Ribbons?" and the usual answer is "oh - never", but guess what.... I am here and updating, nearly 4 years (OMG!) since the last post.

4 years! Geez, where do I start?? 
A brief overview of the last 4 years... hmmm well, its been a fair old wild roller coaster ride, I can tell you!
Sitting here trying to think of ways to summarise the last 4 years and the one word that keeps going round and round in my head is "crap".... tbh there has not been a lot of good things for railways in the Naki recently and its all a bit depressing...

Some key events:
We stop working the Kapuni Branch..
We stop hauling containers to Port Taranaki...
We loose the fertiliser traffic to New Plymouth...
The Fertiliser siding closes, and is lifted....
Stratford depot closes...
Whareroa and Stratford depots merged in a shitty illegal move that sees 4 drivers and 3 shunt staff made redundandt...
We say goodbye to our long time lovely office lady Jenny....
We loose 1/2 of our milk trains when Paihiatua powder plant opens..
We loose another 1/4 of our milk trains...
Half our track gang is made redundant and we loose half of their equipment / trucks etc...
Fonterra reduce their product production....
We have the shortest milk train season EVER... (Nov - Dec)
Kapuni branch is officially closed...
There is no operational need for any train to stop at Stratford any more....
We still have DL's.... and they are buying more... (meh!)

So as you can see... its all very poo!!

Some positives:
I still have a job....
We still have DXB's and DC's pass through on a daily basis
The container terminal in New Plymouth has been sold, upgraded and about to begin a new life as an inland port (which may mean more tonnage)...
Nova Energy has doubled its LPG taffic by rail...

But thats it - not much to crow about..

And the foaming??
Well, a 30 year habit is pretty hard to break isnt it! Yes, I still "foam", but to a fair lesser degree than in previous years. 
The DL's, while improved, are still just ugly in all respects and I can safely say that there is NOTHING about a DL that excites me... maybe because I am now "old school"?? 20 years on the job and having spent the most of it in DX's, DC's and DFT's, the new borg -like take over of Chinese rolling stock leaves me feeling numb and dissapointed, and certainly do not inspire any photographic interest. 

I have put a bunch of images online at Flikr probably covering the last 4 years since I stopped blogging.

I have also become a bit of a fan of the instant interactive-ness of Facebook, and you can find my images float past on the NZ Rail Geography fb page.

But my foamergraphs of local content are few and far between these days - same trains, same locos, same locations - you guys have seen it all before. 
I do intend to get some more stuff along the NIMT though, especially after the company announced they will be retiring the main trunk electrification and the Class 30's in 2 years time. Get em while you can!!

So, I shall shuffle off and leave you with a couple of recent snaps, and the prospect that Steel Ribbons my yet still have life left in it - if only short gasps :-) 

PictureDL introduction going well...
As some you may have guessed, I have become increasingly bored with railway photography and foaming in general, and I cant help but wonder if I have finally come to the end of a 30 year obsession???

The landscape of the local railway scene has changed dramatically, and the introduction of the DL class has taken all the fun out of foaming, with their hee-hawing homo horns, borg-like character and reliability typical of cheap imported Chinese junk.

Its hard to photograph something you dont like....

The humble DC has not yet been totally vanquished, and still provides a bit of character from time to time, and last night while at athletics with the kids, 521 cruised past with 4 on the point, 3 blue ones, looking and sounding fine in the late afternoon light!
We also still see DXB's on occasion, usually paired with a DL on milk trains, though the jungle drums tell me 5022 has headed south so I guess their days here are numbered too.
Its been a messy milk season thus far, with many trains coming to grief through the short comings of the DL's, and many "thunderbird" missions to retrieve said disabled trains. 
To be fair, when you get a DL that is working correctly, on dry rail, the power is outstanding, and man can they pull, BUT, there are so many things with them that could have been done a LOT better, their poor design, ergonomics and quality just turns them into cheap rubbish. They have a long way to go to get them right before I can comfortably call them worth of the title locomotive..
Initial excitement and curiosity about hi-tech new toys has given way to the morbid reality that we are now stuck with these things, probably for the rest of my railway career and that is just sad!
And so to my lack of enthusiasm??
I cant deny that my passion for foaming has diminished considerably, now to the point where I cant even be bothered taking the camera to work....
The cure? Who knows, but I am planning on enjoying the summer months with my family as much as possible, making time to go camping / tramping / fishing and all those other summer things people like to do. I will also be putting more energy into other hobbies, such as BMX racing, and motorsport, with active foaming well down the list.

I have seriously culled the amount of stuff I follow on Facebook, including the foamer groups - its just too hard some days to cut through all the crap and dribble and fighting, and all the nonesense comments when a photo gets posted - sorry - over it!

And, as I have run out of worthy things to talk about, I will leave you with a bunch of recent foamings and a farewell for now. I will leave the blog online to collect dust, but I cant see me updating it for the forseeable future....

I thank everyone for their time and input over the last 3 years.. 

I managed to get all the way down to Palmy on a nice sunny Saturday arvo yesterday and the depot was chokka block full of locos. 
I reckon there must have been near 30+ locos on site and there were only 3 or 4 that were not in Kiwi Rail paint!! 
It really did look good, and I do have to admit that I have become very fond, almost proud of the Kiwi Rail paint scheme, and that I get to see it every day. 
And when so many of them are glowing in the afternoon sun like that I just cant help myself.. :-)
I will string together a more intelligent post shortly.

535 in the loop at Manutahi.
Yes, its been a long time... over 4 months in fact. 
There will be more... soon...
(the boys blew our data cap on stupid minecraft you tube videos in the holidays!!

OK, so its been frikkin AGES since I last posted here!! 

Its amazing who actually reads my dribbles, and it was only when my boss (!!) asked when I was next going to update my blog that I thought I better give it a tickle lol.

So, where have I been you may ask? 

Well there has been a lot going on in the background with family life over the last 2 months that has consumed a lot of time and energy, and I have also been slutting my way around the Book of Faces sharing my photos there...
*GASP* I hear you say! "TRAITOR" (or worse!!??) but there is some absolute GOLD coming out of the woodwork on such pages as 

New Zealand Locomotives, ( ) 

or the New Zealand Railway Historical Group ).

Not only have these pages provided an instant medium for sharing photos, but also allowed a lot of old railways staff to interact and provide almost instant feedback on photos and comments.....

So, does this mean the death of blogs and websites as we know it? I dont think it so, at least not here. 
Yes, I have not posted here while I been off "seeing the world" but I have found that Facebook can be too public, and very impersonal. You get a LOT of know-all's who quite happily will had their $10.00 worth, commenting and judging on anything and everything as they see fit, which can be quite detrimental and lead to splitting of factions and so on.

So, back to Steel Ribbons.....
PictureDL heading west on the Kapuni branch.
I guess the big news of recent times round here has been the inevitable introduction of the DL class to the region. 
On the 4th of June DL 9129 came through on a clearance run light loco, that encompassed the full length of the MNPL right out to the port in New Plymouth, and also included a romp out to the very end of the Kapuni branch.

The company intends on running milk trains this coming season with DL's, and have been progressively putting the process in motion, first with the clearance run and then with some upcoming test trains to be done on the westmere.

Staff training has also started to happen, with the Team Leader, his off sider and a couple of the union blokes now "converted, the rest of us will follow in mid July.

To me this is the death bell ringing, the beginning of the end for all other mainline locos in the region. 
Soon enough all we will see is DL's, the DC's slated to be retired, the DFT's to be sold and the DXB's banished to the South Island.....

Palmer Road. Kapuni Branch.
Kapuni branch.
With the planned mass extinction of the locomotives we have known for long now written on the wall, I have been making an effort to photograph just about EVERYTHING before the borg-like Chinese clones take over. 
I have been fortunate in recent weeks that almost all of my trains have had DC's on the front, providing some sort of foamery swan song if you will as they run out their last miles. 
Yes, I guess it all sounds a bit tragic and dramatic, but I figure someone has to register the fact we are at the end of a era as far as railroading goes, and soon all our trains will be hauled by identical machines and railfanning (at least in the North Island) will become pretty repetitive.....

So to the photos....
(theres lots - you have been warned! Lol)

521 near Te Roti.
537 at Whareroa one gloomy day.
A couple of screamers, my power for 537.
Dark as sin, in the hole at Greatford with time to kill, I plopped the camera on the ground, chose a few settings and lit the loco with the torch on my phone.... worked out alright.
529 at Whareroa.
Smart Road.
Turning the DC at Stratford to run 582 to New Plymouth.
Palmer Road.
526 arriving at Stratford while the shunt waits for the LPG wagons..
Ballast train at Patea.
526 arriving at Stratford while the shunt waits.
Fresh from Hutt...
Rail grinder arriving at Whareroa.
The modern jigger? Signal maintainers velocipede, complete with GPS, radio and flashing light :-)
As best I can see, there is probably only about 5 or 6 weeks left before we see DL's on everything up this way, and as such I am going to continue on my mission to photograph as much as I can before then - I reckon I will be pleased I did in 10 years time when the only place to see a DC or a DBR will be in a museum...

Untill next time.

I couldnt think of a witty opener, so I found some classic cheese instead......
Baywatch! WOOT!
(its my blog and I will be random if I want to!)
526 at Whareroa.
52 shunt at Eltham.
526 at Te Roti.
528 at Waitotara.
And seeing as though I am being totally random tonight.....
BTH DSC 2067 getting a tart up prior to going back to Waharoa. 2001
Wellington, circa 1992.
Tr 183 in bits, Hamilton 1992-ish, about to be loaded on a well wagon and saved.
L8. Henderson, 1998.
Wellington, 1992
Wellington, about then, overexposed to boot!
Westfeild C+W
138 and 201 crossing at Te Kauwhata.
Yes, its been some time since anything meaningful happened here......
Life has been rather hectic of late and foaming has taken a bit of slide recently, but here are a few recent snaps to prevent mould buildup on the blog..
2624 filing in while 4045 was away for its 3 monthly...
Four of a kind. 521 at Stratford.
Eye spy...
546 at Maewa.
545 climbing up the Waitotara...
544 at Kai Iwi.
Old rattler on the point, 544 at Waitotara. Not too bad for a phone cam photo.
A quick step back to 1995, Palmy yard.
Lost in the 90's. Stratford.
4346 with the Weedspray train, Hawera 1994
No witty text or thought provoking spiels here, just some photos from a West Coast summer sortie back in January of 2010. 
When that West Coast weather turns it on its simply unbeatable!
The Gods (both Weather and Railfan) were smiling on me this day.
An empty coalie has just arrived at Stilwater for loading. The 30 wagon consists are too long for the loading siding so the train is split in half.
The first half of the train is backed down to the loading bank.
Mmm 24 cylinders of 4 stroke... chug chug chug chug chug
Thus begins the slow process of loading 30 wagons, one scoop at a time.
What Ho! A loaded coalie from Rapahoe makes an appearance, and heads east onto the Midland - the chase is on!
A fast blast up the road to Kokiri for one of those "down the line" shots. Not patient enough to hang around for some closer views I gapped it seeking better vistas.
Ohhh yes, Moana, the inner sanctum and spiritual home of a renowned Midland Line fanatic :-)
The coalie eases into the loop at Rotomanu for its schedualled crossing with "The Tranz".
And soon enough the Tranz Alpine glides round the corner.
As far East as I was wiling to go today, I "turned and burned" chasing the Tranz back to Greymouth.
Tempting fate on a "spirited" drive back to Greymouth, I pause to catch the Tranz hedging the river Grey just south of Stillwater.
And crossing the Omoto bridge.
The sun high in the sky I document the depature of the return service back to Christchurch before partaking of a Sub from Subway (just out of frame to the left)
I wander down to Hokitika, and find Westland Dairy's Scania powered Tr (ex NZR 718) busy in the compact yard.
I headed back up the road and followed the Hoki shunt back into town.
Seen just after crossing the new Arahura river bridge, previously a road / rail affair.
eye spy...
And to end the day a shot of the shunt leaving Hoki for Greymouth.
No, not the Police listening "prepping for a bust from the po-po" type Motorola radio scanner, but more about film and slide scanners.

I was digging through my wee treasure trove of old negatives and slides, and I realised that I have a lot of great railway stuff hiding away and I really should pull finger and get them digitised before they go rotten...
Whats more perplexing is that I dont seem to have anywhere near the same number of prints as I do negative frames and thus wonder what I have ever done with all the other photos over the years? Hmmmmm. 

Needless to say I would love to get some of them online, especially the older stuff, so, scratching around on Trade Me I found three options for purchasing a film and slide scanner.

First up is this el cheapo wunder scanner..

a 9MP upright one hit wonder with a price tag of a measly $159.00....
*Outstanding image quality thanks to 9 megapixel image sensor (3696 x 2464) 
*Package includes everything you need to get started 
*Scanner for 35mm film, slides, negatives 
*Stand alone unit (no computer needed) 
*Saves scans as JPEG files to SD card"
Having used a similar cheapo upright that belonged to my father, I was not that thrilled with the results, and concede that the one frame at a time scan is bothersome and time consuming hence I am a bit reluctant to buy one myself.

Next pick out of the bunch is this $350.00 Canon LiDE 700F Scanner USB 2.0 HS flatbed......
Which boasts:
High quality scanning at 4800x9600 dpi 
- 7 EZ buttons allowing you to quickly create a multiple-page PDF file optimized for your originals, as well as copy, scan or e-mail images quickly and easily 
- FARE Level 3, the optimal solution for film scanning 
- Automatic dust & scratch, fading, graininess and backlight correction technology 
- Film scanning: 6 frames of 35mm filmstrip (negative/positive) 
- One-plug-in startup - No power cord needed

Ahhh Canon, a name one can trust. Better resolution, no doubt better quality, powered via USB (take it anywhere!) and does 6 frames of a negative at once. Seems to be good value for money...

Last on the watchlist is this rolls royce luxo barge Canon (mmm cant go wrong there!) $500.00 monster - the mighty Canon CS9000F.

- High-resolution scanning up to 9600x9600dpi and 48 bit input/output resolution. 
- FARE Level 3, the optimal solution for film scanning. 
- Automatic dust & scratch, fading, graininess and backlight correction technology. 
- Continuous scanning of up to 12 frames of 35mm filmstrip or 4 mounted slides. 
- 7 one touch buttons allowing you to quickly create a multiple-page PDF file optimized for your originals, as well as copy, scan or e-mail images quickly and easily. 
- Backlight-style Movable Light Source Film Scan Unit for high speed film scanning. 
- White LED scanning for high brightness scanning. 
- Ultra fast book scanning in 7 seconds. 
- USB 2.0 Hi-Speed interface for fast data transfer 
- Instant warm up allows operation virtually the moment the scanner is turned on. 

Type: Flatbed (Film, Photo and document) 
Resolution: Optical resolution/9600 X 9600 dpi (film scanning) 
Maximum Size: Document - A4/Photo - LTR (216 x 297 mm) 
Scan Speed: Preview Speed/Approx. 3 sec. 
12.1 msec/line (4800dpi) 
12.1 msec/line (2400dpi) 
6.1msec/line (1200dpi) 
1.5msec/line (600dpi) 
1.1msec/line (300dpi) 
Greyscale, B & W 
12.1 msec/line (4800dpi) 
12.1 msec/line (2400dpi) 
6.1msec/line (1200dpi) 
1.5msec/line (600dpi) 
1.1msec/line (300dpi) 
0.8-36.3msec/line (Colour, Greyscale, B&W) 
Interface USB 2.0 Hi-Speed 
Dimensions 270 x 480 x 111mm
Hubba hubba, this thing does it all - 12 frames of negatives or 4 slides, makes coffee and poaches eggs too!! It has a massive resolution and would be able to do justice to old photos too. 

The ultimate plan is for said scanner to shared out around the tribe once I have finished with it so the extend family can do all their bits and pieces too, so build quality and robustness is a key factor here.

With WOMAD only 2 weeks away, I might be tempted into splashing out for the CS9000 sooner than one thinks.

I have heard that the Epsom scanners are held in high regard too, but sorry, not this kid! I have owned a couple of Epsom printers and a scanner in the past and they were the worst, most unreliable bit of kit I have ever owned, and have vowed never to return for more.

Being a one-eyed Canon owner, I can really only see one true path here - what say you??