After tripping down memory lane at Rapahoe, I made my way back to Stilwater, stopping by the old station at Runanga along the way.
For those in the dark, Runanga was the junction point for the line to Rewanui and its famous incline. Once a busy place, its now a a mere shadow of its former hey-days. The branch to Rewanui is long gone, though the right of way is still very visible, and I think there is even a walking trail up the line to the old Rewanui yard. 
Back in 2005, the old Runanga station was home to an eclectic group of blokes and a loosly run model railway club, which built a modular layout of the rewanui incline. 
Good to see the old station is being looked after.....
Passing through Taylorville on the way to Stillwater I was rather taken by all the old buildings around, and just HAD to get a photo of this old house which looks like it hasnt seen any paint in 50 years. It even had a mk2 Zephyr hiding in the long grass! From what I can tell it was till inhabited!
Coming into Stillwater I was greeted by the sight of an empty coal train stopped at the 196.34 signal (I'll explain it one day) getting a track warrant. Sans scanner I didnt know which way it was going, so I paused for a moment to see if it went north or south. North it went, so the thunderbus was urged into life and haste was made north too. This time I was determined to get a good photo, so with dim memories of what was around I made a bee line straight for the old Ngahere railway yard, and to my delight there was might pile of ballast conveniently placed for me to ascend and get my photos.....
Joy! A semi decent photo of a coal train! Certainly not one of those jaw dropping Bond-esque coal train masterpieces, but a clear and concise record of events all the same. 
Ngahere was a busy yard back in the black and white days too, and the junction point for the Blackball branch, which also had a center rail fell type incline similar to the Rewanui and Rimutaka inclines. Sadly very little remains to see of the infrastructure that was once here, and there is no visual evidence of the branch to Blackball any more thanks to constant changing landscapes and industrial workings in the area. 
Ngahere was also famous for its sawmill and bush tramways in the hills to the east, and once home to an amazing fleet of geared steam engines.

I drifted once again back to Stillwater where I rang 0800 FOAMER ( many thanks Ev :-)   ) to see if there were any more trains in the area..... short answer - no!
So, I decided I would take some time to explore the nearby Brunnerhistorical  mining site.
DOC have spent a truckload of money on the place in the last few years protecting the industrial ruins, building information centers and recreating some of the infrastructure that was once onsite. There was also a brickworks onsite, and coking ovens, under the big red roof.
Brunner was once a very busy coal mine, and coal was loaded into wagons and pushed across a mighty suspension bridge that spanned across the Grey River to the railway yard on the other side for shipping to Greymouth by train. 
It was also the site of the worst mining disaster in New Zealand where 65 men and boys died down the mine! 
 ( see for more about this )
Spooky as!
Replica (non working) wagon turntable and info center.
River bridge. Used to be tracks across it.
Display area on other side. Main line to Greymouth in between the fences.
Restored Q coal wagon on display.
Overview of the bridge looking back to the west side of the river.
Overlooking the site there is also a Miners memorial to honor those who have died in mining accidents around the country, and those miners who fell during wars.
There is also a very sobering plaque on the wall from a disaster that hit the region very hard recently.....
After some time prowling around the site, a work colleague rang to let me know he was home, and keen to catch up, so without further ado I toddled round to his place and spentthe rest of the afternoon in the backyard yarning away and looking over old train photos..... nice!!

In the final installment, we head across the Southern Alps and have a run-in with some keas!!

Drifting through some old photos today looking for something else I stumbled apon this photo taken back in 2009. Sure, its a motley collection of locos, but what I found interesting was that all 4 locos in the frame have since been repainted. 
DSG 3210, DSJ 4045, and DC 4012 (over the back) are now resplendent in Kiwi Rail paint, while DFB 7348 wears ARTA purple and spends its days pulling and pushing Aucklanders around the metro network north of the Bombay's.......

Small things..

Sunday morning dawned a lot clearer than the day before, so after breakfast I successfully gained a leave pass to go exploring once again. 
Leaving Maggie to yarn the day away with her life long freind, I made the Greymouth yard my first point of call.
Having spent some of my working career here, I was pleasantly surprised to find that nothing has changed in the last 6 1/2 years since I left!
The grey morning mist was lifting fast so I went over to look at the old railcar shed. Previously used to house and maintain the railcars that served the coast and ran the services to Christchurch. Apart from the yard office and the building thats now used as the freight center, the old railcar shed is the last remaining direct link to the old glory days of steam and its age is starting to show.

When I was last here, the resident DSC loco was stored inside the shed, but as time has passed and operational needs have changed, there is no longer a DSC based at Greymouth, and the shed has become somewhat derelict.

Something of interest outside that caught my eye was the old capstan winch that was used in conjunction with a long rope to move empty wagons out of the shed during repair work. Judging by the items left lying around I can only assume the shed was also used by maintenance staff as a wagon repair depot. 

Quasimodo, is that you???
The only loco present was humpback whale (or should that be hunchback) coal motor DXB 5310.  Prior to coal service this loco was involved in a crash and ended up on its side. 5310 was taken to Hutt for repair during the peak of the DXR program, and as such during repairs received a rebuilt DXR-ish long hood as a trial to evaluate its worthiness for the rest of the fleet. As it turned out the decision was reached that the new style hood was a lot of effort and money for sod all benefit and apart from the two DXR's has remained the only DX to get a long hood like it.
IMHO I think it looks great, with a real chunky industrialfeel to it, the coal chutes bringing it all together nicely....
Just to the south of the yard were some UK wagons with old school NZR TBB and TBC butter containers, used exclusively for moving product from Westland Dairy's plant in Hokitika to the export cool stores in Christchurch. A little hint of nostalgia was present here too as most of these containers were once used in Taranaki to haul butter for Kiwi Dairies Ltd (now Fonterra) from Whareroa to the port in New Plymouth.
Also in the yard was a short rake of 3 YD wagons and very oddly painted plow van - clearly the work of bored shops staff who either did not have or chose to ignore the company painting charts lol.
So without much else to stimulate the mind, I pointed the thunderbus north west and headed for Rapahoe.
The short journey from Greymouth to Rapahoe was sadly uneventful as hopes were high that I would find a coal train along the branch. Alas it was not to be, as I have since found out there wont be any trains to Rapahoe for a few months while some new coal mining machinery is installed.
Coal is king out here, and everyone is still feeling the raw wounds from the Pike River tragedy, the mine that holds the 29 lost souls being just up the road, the stillness and desolation I found at the Rapahoe coal loading facility was quite haunting.
I was sad to see this very old work site now unused, and felt quite old myself as I used to load coal trains under the now silent coal silo. Trains are now loaded about 1km back along the line towards Greymouth at the "Rockies" siding, hidden from view by huge mounds, bunds and massive wooden walls to protect the townsfolk of Rapahoe from the noise pollution that comes with a large industrial work site like a coal mine and loader...
Taken back in 2005, looking at the old loader from the new one...
Loading coal at "Rockies" in 2005.
I cant seem to find the photos I took from the cab while loading from the old loader at Rapahoe, but I have included a couple of shots I did find of the place taken back in 2005.

Time is against me, so I will wrap up part 2 here.... part 3 will be along soon.


I was recently unexpectedly graced with a couple of weeks off from the rigors of "humping moo juice" (as someone once said) so without hesitation the tribe was bundled into the thunderbus and we high tailed it down to the sanctuary of the family farm, which is nestled in a quiet piece of paradise within the Marlborough Sounds...

Here I am treated to a great many wonderful things including fishing on the family launch, hunting for pigs in the hills above the farm and kayaking on the stunning rivers in the region.
Be afraid..... be very afraid....
Kayaking with family on the Pelorus River.
Sadly I dont get to visit very often, so I make the most of my time while I am there and try to do a great variety of things..... its very relaxing and is without doubt my favorite place to be on the planet....
This time round we took the chance to go on a road trip to visit some friends and family further down the mainland, taking in the sights of the West Coast, Greymouth, Arthurs pass ending with a sobering drive around Christchurch and the overwhelming destruction of the suburb we used to live in....
Anyway, on with the trains...
After a 2 hour drive down the Wairau Valley, through Murcheson, and across to Inangahua Junction. We stopped for lunch in Reefton. The weather was pretty dodgy, with regular periods of rain broken by short bursts of drizzle. Our infant daughter had decided she needed a break from the confines of her car seat, so seeing as though there was nothing of great interest to see at the railway yards, we found a nice wee spot to relax beside the mummified remains of the only remaining single fairlie on the planet... (I think). 
Black hissy things are really not my scene, but I do admit to being quite intruiged by this old pile of metal, dating from the late 1800's, the old girl saw service with the NZR until the 1940's whence she was sold to a local bush tram for work on a logging site. Eventually retired R28 was given to the community of Reefton in the late 1950's, stuffed and mounted at a childerens park, it was moved to its current site in the 80's....
Another hour down the road and we reached our stop for the night - Greymouth. 
Quite by chance we had arrived just in time to witness the depature of the Tranz Alpine, hauled by a nice clean (ish) pair of KiwiRail clad DC's.
Not much later the poor weather we had experienced in Reefton caught up with us and the famous West Coast rain took hold, not that it deterred me much.. 
Coal train loading point at Stillwater.
After a coffee and a chat, abandoning wife and child at family friends, I headed up to Stillwater to take my chances at seeing a coal train. 
The place was deathly quiet and light was fading. Having left my scanner on its charger 1500km away in Taranaki (doh! Idiot!) I was forced to ring one of my "contacts" to see if any trains were in the area, and what luck, a coalie was due into Stillwater any moment to head up the mines for loading at Ngakawau. 
And sure enough a long black snake rolled into view with a couple of grubby looking snot rockets on the front..
Determined to get a nice shot of this train I head back north along the line looking for a suitable place to get a shot..... 
Sadly I underestimated the speed at which empty coal trains can travel the valley, and as I was scoping out a potential spot at Red Jacks, around the corner came the train........ bugger....
With heavy rain now falling, light fading fast and my curfew for a dinner appointment approaching fast, I gave it a rest for the day and headed back.....
Part 2 soon....