Some more odds and sods from the last few days......
Stratford, 01 March.
528 at Stratford.
4191 at Stratford.
Speedo in 7186, with extra bits for working metro trains.
wing mirror in action.
An ode to the now closed GMDD.
521 at Whareroa the other day.
542 in the loop at Manutahi.
Today saw the very first train ever to use the new loop at Manutahi as part of a test run to see if operational proceedures are correct for crossing trains there. 
Still some work to do yet, and the loop remains closed for buisness for now.
Its been a frustrating weekend full of dodgy locos this weekend.

Friday night saw a shunt crew shortage for night shift, thus 541 was cancelled and 544 only came up with 12 OM so that it could be unloaded in time to go back south with 523. 

544 had 5120 and 5108. After lining up the milk train for unloading, its "best practice" to shut down the lead loco as per the companies fuel saving edict. Being the good employee I am, I dutifully comply and hit the stop button on 5120. The engine revs fall and the loco is making all the right noises as it shuts down, but not long before the engine stops rotating, the revs start picking up again..... chug.....chug.....chhugchuggg cough slputter hack...... the engine comes back to life, but not to back to the regular engine speed at idle. The revs then start fluctuating as the loco coughs and hacks. None of the cab controls would respond and the loco was stuck in a state of limbo. Muttering away I had to stick my head in the long hood and push down hard on the lay shaft in order to physically force the engine governor to the stop position, and hooray the engine shuts down...... silly thing! 

Later on after the train is empty and we are back out in the yard I change ends and set up 5108 to be the lead loco. As I head down to the south end of the yard I find the speedo and head end monitor have stopped working. Much flicking of switches and wiggling of wires proves futile and left only one option, shut the loco down and pull the knife switch out to completely kill eveything, then restart. Bingo... the good old "railway reboot" works a treat once again and the speedo is working properly again.
(technology eh!??) 

We begin shunting the empty milk tanks and container wagons around at the south end when all of a sudden the alarm bells start ringing and the Brightstar display panel is in fits dishing out all sorts of fault codes as we dive into the murky depths of a "power circuit problem". The computer digs its toes in and the loco refuses to work (this is turning into a bad episode of Thomas the Tank Engine!!), reset squences do SFA so I have to stop the shunt mid movement and go back to start 5120 again, which it does so without issue. Its now howling with rain and back in the sancturay of the cab I put the sulking 5108 offline and we finish the shunt using 5120 as power.
Once everything was done and we were waiting for 523 I set to work sorting out the issues on 5108. Much pushing of buttons and many resets later the loco comes back to the land of the living. *sigh* Silly thing!

A while later 523 Rolls in with 5097 (dynamic brake not working) and 4283 (trail only, vigilance fault) so we slap 5108 and 5120 on the front and I hand it over to the 523 driver. Not two minutes into the shunt and the other driver is crowing over the radio that 5108 has spat the dummy again...
Long story short - we had a big phone conversation with the fitter on duty at Palmerston North, ended up cutting out a traction motor on 5108 to isolate that part of the power circuit and using 5097 as extra grunt to help get 523 to its destination!

Saturday night I was southbound on 549 heading down to get 548 and everything was going well until the lead DX on 546 blew a traction motor coming into Wanganui. With a crook loco the decision was made to leave 12 of the loaded milk tanks at Wanganui for 548 to pick up. 548 was then reduced at Palmerston North to make room for the OM's, which made everything somewhat late. 546 scooted past me at Patea with only 4 milk wagons and I went on down to Kai Iwi to get 548, which had 5137 (no dynamic brake) and  7241. No real drama until I got to the bottom of the hill between Mokoia and Whareroa on the way home and had no driving amps when I went to climb the hill! Looked back the the Brightstar display and the thing was all cross eyed and swearing at me, saying that there was a "power circuit problem" and that it was out to lunch...  Coming to a stop I had to spend a few minutes convincing the old girl that it could have lunch once we got to Whareroa.... and soon enough it came back and I was away again... 

Sunday and as I walk in the office door to start my shift, the day shunt driver tells me that 7186 conked out coming up on 542 that morning and he has not been able to revive it. I head down to the loco and after a while we find that the fuel pump has dropped its guts, causing it to short circuit and trip everything out as soon as we try to use it. Dead as a duck I am thankfull that the boffins who dreamt up the the standard 28 wire ARR trainline control system included the capability to power loco control circuits from another loco connected via the jumper cable. This meant that I could still have 7186 on the front of 547 (albiet dead) and run the train with the trailing DXB without worrying about the batteries going flat and causing loss of engine control etc etc...
This also saved having to take the DX to Stratford to turn it to run as lead loco.

So I had a very quiet ride down to Patea on 547, and thankfully had no problems with 544 (5114 + 7213) on the run home. But, I did have to run them back out as 549 to go and get 548, which had 5137 and 7241 on it again. Half way to Kai Iwi and control calls me, informing me that 548's locos have bombed out and I will have to go through to Wanganui to do a loco swap....... FEK!!!
But joy oh joy the Palmy driver managed to coax the old chook back into life (same issue that happened to me the night before on 548) so our scheduled crossing at Kai Iwi took place as planned.  It was a bit later than normal and I didnt get back to Whareroa untill after 1am, 548 being a monster 640m long full of empty containers for loading at Whareroa.

Today I have another go at running 528 to New Plymouth and returning with 529. Fingers crossed I can get through this shift without a loco wigging out on me :-)

Its EV's birthday today...... he is turning the ripe old age of ** today...

Happy Birthday Dude. :-
Got a tip off this morning that DC 4070 was at Stratford....
So, with a small window of opportunity this morning I shot up to Stratford to get a photo of it, but as I was driving in, it was driving out!! 
I shot back down to Te Roti and snapped the following. Shooting into the sun they were never going to be much good, but one never knows whats round the corner for these old chooks.
The gas wagon is for the LPG siding on this side of Palmer Road and the container wagon will be going to Petrochem's urea plant on the other side of Palmer Road.

Sadly I am on a tight time line this morning and I did not have the time to chase it any further or wait for its return.....

Big thanks to Ev for letting me know it was here though.

Yay! There is now an UP train in the afternoon north of Whareroa in the form of 528. It gets into Whareroa around 3pm before heading north. 
Whats better is that its a regular feature on our roster and is a nice change to the "regular" afternoon shifts.
528 on the main at Whareroa with 547 on the loop next door.
Waiting at Te Roti for 52 shunt to get out the way.
Normally when 528 runs, so does its return number 529, but today 529 was cancelled and I had a sweet wee shift.

I took 528 through to New Plymouth, crossing 521 at Stratford, after having to wait at Te Roti for 52 shunt to clear out of the way.  The last few days there has only been no more than 6 wagons and one loco on 528, but today there was 500m and 700t, complete with two DFT's. And although 7092 was hauled out of the fitters shop with bits hanging off it and only running at half power (due to loco shortages) the pair went exceptionally well, with 7322 on the point riding like dream and was pleasantly rattle free.
It was a fabulous hoon north, but only the briefest of visits to New Plymouth as the locos became the power for 523, so we pulled in, cut off, ran round the triangle, backed onto 523, did a brake test and zoomed out again. 
I picked up a minder driver and his trainee in New Plymouth due to some cock up which saw their train cancelled and their loco sent away on 521 so they had to go home on 523.  As there was a trainee present, he was promptly plonked in the hot seat and I rode shotgun back to Stratford, where I picked up the fleet car and drove back to Whareroa.... sweet... job done. 
Back to normality tomorrow with another few days on 547 - 544 etc .
4611 was used on 52 shunt during the day then went south with 523.
Gathering up my things at Stratford, the yard was totally empty save for a lone DC that was just calling out to be photographed.... it would be rude not to and I just know I would regret it if I didnt, so I bagged a couple of snaps for posterity. 
4611 was gathered up and included into 523 to go south tonight. Tomorrow a different DC will come up on 520 to take its place.
I am still smarting after karma kicked my arse the other day when 4070 rolled up on the front of 544 in the glorious sunshine and I had forgotten to put the memory card back in my camera..... grrrrrr.....

Now I am REALLY paranoid about taking my camera to work, knowing damn well I will miss something if I dont hahaha..

As you were.

For DB, here is a close up of the wing mirrors fitted to 7186.

7186 at Patea on 543. 16 Feb 2012
A very late 543 waiting for an even later 540. Patea. 16 Feb 2012
544 in the loop at Patea. 18 Feb 2012.
544 unloading at Whareroa. 19 Feb 2012
Random shot from March last year.
Running 543 for 526 the next couple of days. 
Had 4467 + 5120 + 5114 on 543 this morning and went to Kai Iwi to get 526, which I ran through to Stratford. Very routine today and not much to report.
The poor old DC's are really starting to show their age, and the non Kiwi Rail painted ones are looking really tatty, well used and well past their expiry date.
But I think just like their domestic USA bretheren, another rebuild and they would go again for another 10 years. Old GM's just dont seem to die.
Still, I will diligently record as many as I can - they will be gone soon enough and I will no doubt lament not getting more photos of them if I didnt.

Hoping 4070 makes and appearance tomorrow..... word has it its been slated to be the first DC to be retired once the nod is given....

Monday morning and the weather was just superb! Following a hearty breakfast we said our fond fairwells to our hosts for the weekend and hit the road.
After being robbed by Shell at the local servo, we headed east, via Stillwater following the railway line towards Otira.
First stop was Moana, on the shores of Lake Brunner. 
Moana has always been a magical place for me, and the views are just stunning. Certainly a place I would recommend to visit.
After the short interlude at Moana we carried on east, the road following the railway line almost all the way through Rotomanu and Inchbonnie before it rejoins the main road again at Jacksons which parallels the railway right to Otira, where we stopped for some more piccys.
The banker locos stabled at Otira.
Its a hard life for coal motors on the Midland Line.
With the coal locos shut down, it was very peacefull in the valley, and the remoteness of the location makes itself known. Was wonderful to hear all the native birds and the nearby river though.
Looking west towards Greymouth. The upper tracks are level, while the mainline shows how much gradient is here.
With no signs of any trains for a while we continued our journey, climbing the very steep road to the top of the pass through the rock shelters and across a huge viaduct.
We stopped at the lookout at "Deaths Corner", so named for its deadly history of claiming motorists lives over the years.

We also came across some Keas...
Looking down the valley towards Otira.
Charlie The Cheeky Kea.
Innocent my arse!
You really have to keep your wits about when these cheeky buggers are around! We were there about 10 minutes and in that time two of the little blighters had savaged someones 4 wheel drive, and totally ripped their spare wheel cover to bits!!! I turned around one of them had helped himself to our window rubber!! 
Maggie opened the back door of the van to get here jersey and a Kea hopped round the back to have a nosey and was going to get in!!

We were saved by some elderly tourists who started throwing bread everywhere, capturing the Kea's interest more than our cars.

With that we headed east some more. 
There was nothing of interest at the village of Arthurs Pass, so we carried on to Springfeild, only stopping briefly for more panoramas of the amazing scenery on offer.
Apparently the prevailing westerly Fone winds over the Pass dump all their water on the west side ( Greymouth to Otira) hence the dense bush and lush vegetation on that side and the dry arid baron hills of the eastern side of the Pass. Its a sight to behold and well worth the visit.
Much of The Lord Of The Rings trilogy was filmed in these parts!.
After a superb drive through the hills we soon found ourselves on the fringes of the Cantabury Plains. 
We stopped for lunch at Springfeild, and as soon as we stepped out of the car at a cafe, the air was filled with sounds of multiple DX exhaust barking away and fading fast to the west...... bugger.... another missed coalie. Never to mind.
With some wholesome cafe food in hand we found a nice shady spot in a nearby park to rest and eat lunch. Not much later the very familar sounds of railway wheels squeeling around curved rail broke the peace, followed by the VERY familiar sound of a pair of DC's burbling away.
Abandonding wife and child (again) I shot round to the railway station and found a pair of DC's with a short ballast train in the yard. They then cut off and ran around the train.
Looking west, track machines stabled in the yard.
Sitting in the backshunt.
With time against me, I wnet back to the park and collected Maggie and Hailey, and we headed into Christchurch.
As we still had another 4 hours driving to get back to the farm in Havelock, there was not a lot of time for sight seeing. We had a very sobering drive through downtown Christchurch, and then headed east out to Bexley for a drive past our old house. The damage to both roads and buildings is just unreal, even a year on after the fatal shake that caused most of it. Some streets still had portaloos, and may houses showed the damage sustained. 
With all that soaked in, we headed for points north. 
It was a quiet drive up the east coast, stopping at Kaikoura for dinner, before reaching our lodgings around 9pm....

A fabulous drive, some fabulous country