The much feared "weather bomb" the Metservice had been threatening us with exploded apon South Taranaki in the wee hours of Saturday morning and caused untold chaos across the region! Poor old Patea ended up being the hardest hit, many houses loosing their roofs and one downtown shop even lost its frontage!
I was chalked up to run 543 to Palmerston North but have been struck down by the nastiest diarrhea bug known to man! Squirting through the eye of a needle is for amatures LOL. Ahem... anyways, I didnt make it to work Saturday, which didnt really matter as the storm was at its peak not long later, the resulting damage closing both the mainline and the main road!
Feeling somewhat more stable by midday, and with no power, we went for a drive around town to survey the damage...
Fortunately we were lucky and got away scot free, but the same couldnt be said for a lot of others.
Sunday I was feeling a lot better, and had been called into work to "turn locos". The line was closed, and all trains were cancelled. I catch wind of the plight of yesterdays 540, which was still sitting at Waitotara. Apparently a tree had fallen down onto 540 as it passed underneith, causing a lot of damage to a bunch of OM's!
Sunday dawns a blue dome day, cloudless and still. I roll up to work and find DXB 5137 and DCP 4611sitting in the yard together, both facing north. The pair had come into Whareroa on train 530 just before the storm took hold.
The shunter on duty was only there to collect appearance money, so I collar him to help me turn the locos. This meant running through to Stratford and spinning one of the locos on the turn table.
I fire the DX into life, followed by the DC. Joy, they both started! We gathered our things, headed out onto the loop and called control. Turns out that the line north of Whareroa had not yet been cleared and Ganger Tony was on his way to run the line. We backed up and went inside for another coffee while we waited.
Not long later the phone rings and Train Control lets us know that the line is clear and we can go. A few moments later with Warrant in hand we are galloping north headed for Stratford.
Fresh snow on Mt Egmont Sunday morning.
4611 on the turn table at Stratford.
Once we got back from Stratford, the call comes in that we have to re-wash the milk tanks on hand at Whareroa (8 om ex 546 friday night) as they cant be loaded if they have sat for more than 24 hours. The line was expected to reopen soon and they want to run 547.
Using the main line locos we pull the consist for 547 out of the yard and push into the milk siding and wash the tanks..
Once that was finished we put the train together and prepared it for departure.
While this was going on, rosters ring and I am told that as the line was reopening, they needed someone to go down to Waitotara and bring back the long lost 540. A taxi is organised and soon enough I am being escorted south.
The further south we went the greater the surrounding damage became and before long my taxi driver and I are just mesmerized by all the broken and fallen trees, the damaged buildings, roofs missing, barns flattened, power lines dangling down everywhere. Truly a sight to behold, I have not experienced storm damage quite like it before.
Arriving at Waitotara I am greeted by the stereotypical "one inept security guard" who had been "keeping an eye on the train" from the comfort of his car. Indeed one could almost describe him as a "slack jawed yokle". I shouldnt be too mean, as he was doing his job, but I my efforts to explain how railways work and that we dont need steering wheels were getting lost on his repeated questions asking what we use to drive with.....
Moving on, I had some trouble getting the DXB's fired into life. 5120 we proving to be a stubborn cuss after spending 30+ hours shut down abandond in the boonies and took some pleading and cursing before she got going. 5114 was not so bad. Once I had enough air, I put the brakes on and went for a stroll down one side of the train and up the other giving it a good check over. Sure enough some of the OM's had taken a beating!!
The offending tree... well, whats left of it.
More of the tree... note the bridge handrails punched right through the trunk.
540 in the loop at Waitotara.
Satisfied that my train is roadworthy, I call control, get a warrant, and after handwinding the points (no power) I head for home...
... and its soon apparent why the line was closed...
It turned out to be a pretty uneventful trip home, save for having to hand wind the points at Patea due to the lack of flowing electrons there too.
Once back at Whareroa I berthed 540 on the milk siding, cut the locos off and tied them down for their run out as 549. The shunt crew took over and wheeled the DSJ onto the tanks....