Many thanks to Craig McSkimming for the piccys.
First of all, a disclaimer. This is going to be a long post, as it was a long day. And some of the pictures are crap, but they are included here as they tell a story.
I'm currently on holiday at my folks place in Timaru, South Canterbury and taking the chance to fit in a bit of gentle gooning. However, I saw that there was a chance in the timetable to get to Dunedin and back in a day if I could finangle a cab pass. I sent Paul Henry (no relation), our loco team leader in Dunedin, a suitable greasy email pleading for a chance to ride on trains 937 and 922. This would have me leaving Timaru at around 0700 and home at 1800, just in time for tea. Astonishingly, a reply (with paperwork) arrived back very quickly! I was soon to find out why.....
Thursday morning at 0630, and I'm introducing myself to Bill Murdoch and Alaister Craig who will be taking 937 south as far as Oamaru. Bill has just transferred from Otira and so is learning the road with Alaister as his minder. Unfortunately I missed 934D coming into the yard with 7226 on point, but we soon walked out to 937 and got settled in the cab of DXB 5448 (which for yours truly meant an hour sitting on the first aid box)
First shunt on the way south was the freezing works at Pekeuri, where we dropped off a couple of CB's of coal and some empty containers....and thats where things went pear shaped....
Coming south, we heard radio traffic about emergency services and other fragmented conversations. We arrived at Oamaru at 0820 to find 920D (which we were supposed to be crossing) had hit car at a level crossing north of Herbert, and a relief driver was being driven up from Dunedin. Total wait: 2 hours! So we hunkered down, or in Bills case, went and visited the local model shop and bought some kits....
A slightly battered 5293 finally arrived around 1045 with relief driver Les Box in the chair. After a quick natter, an inspection of the damage (minimal, luckily)and a quick driver change, we were off into the wilds south of Oamaru. Now, I've known Les since 1986 when I was 16 and he gave me a lift on the Southerner out of Dunedin in a DF (he used to work with my late uncle), so it was an exceptionally pleasant trip. Les is now the last "Steam Man" left in Dunedin and fired the last overnight express in 1971.
On arrival at Palmerston, we met up with Paul Henry who had come north to perform the shunt as Les wasnt certified to do it (despite driving for 47 years!!). So while Paul moved the levers, Les walked the ground with UHF in hand, directing proceedings.
The rest of the trip down was just stunning...it really was a gorgeous day, and the climbs out around the coast at Seacliff and around Doctors Point were really stunning (these two pictures were taken on the way home but show the view from up on the cliffs and along the Harbour).
We finally arrived at Dunedin about 90 minutes late, and Les handed over to Chris to turn the loco and take it back north as 922. The train wasnt exactly inspiring (one ZM) but we were due to pickup the 3 IA's at Palmerston that we'd dropped off earlier, plus a huge number of container flats would be added to the train at Timaru (31 to be precise).
This was when the trap was sprung...Paul ushered me into Trevor Buckley-Beman's office (Trevor is the man in Dunedin). We had a good old chinwag about radio stuff, inadequacies in the system, things that make their life a misery....just a real rant session. And I loved it. Its really good to meet these guys on their turf and hear their concerns, and although I may not be able to fix all of their worries, I can at least make sure the right people hear about it.
Trevors most telling comment is that he is having to turn work away due to lack of drivers, locos and wagons.....thats annoying for us now, but it really shows we've got a bright future once the south is flooded with locos displaced from the north and he gets some LE's back from school.
So, just an hour late now, Chris and I finally headed north on DXB5448, this time on service 922. We had a nice relaxing run down the harbour until we came across a real surprise at Sawyers Bay; one of the OETT Dj's was out for a run, and in its 1970's "Southerner" scheme it sure looked real purdy!! Interestingly enough, both Les and Chris said their favourite locos were the Dj's, purely for their ride quality...interesting.
After the leisurely ride around the coast gain, we got to Merton where we changed crews with Brian off 923 (5241/4640 at the front). Whereas Chris was down to the do the Dndn-Merton-Dndn shuttle once more for his shift once he got home on 923, Brian had already driven from Dunedin to Timaru to take 923 south, then take 922 back....and then drive home again from Timaru...a long day!!
Brian was very pleasant company as we headed north, stopping only to pickup the IA's at Palmerston. At Studholme we had a rolling crossing with 925 that had 7226 and 4784 on for the long grind to Dunedin with a full load.
And so with darkness falling, Brian was finally relieved as Lindsay from Christchurch drove down to meet us at St Andrews......and after a quick and extremely bouncy run north (I dont think Lindsay believed on slowing down over rough spots!!!) we finally pulled into Timaru just 30 minutes late.....not bad at all after the trials of earlier in the day!
And so the long day ended......would I do it again? With the superb weather, scenery, company and crossing 4 opposing trains, I wouldnt hesitate.
Fell out of bed at 0330 this morning and made my into the darkness.
Rounding the corner at work I was pleasntly surprised to find 5143 on the front of 543. Its been living in Auckland for the last couple of years so its nice to see something a bit different. I believe its just "passing through" as it and the two DXR's are being transferred to the South Island.
Bugger.... its dark, there's no guaranteeing it will be back and I don't have a tripod..... so what better tripod to use than the ground!?? LOL.
Kinda pleased the shot worked out as it was a total blind guess at aim and settings, set the timer and plop the camera on the ground..
So I headed south with 543, and sat in the loop at Patea for a while waiting for 540 (5166 and 7267) then carried on to find 526 at Kai Iwi.
Changed over and got another nice suprise.... 5016 was my trail loco - yet another loco straight out of Jafastan! As more of the DL's have come into service, some of the other locos are being redeployed. I think 5016 has joined us for the milk season, which will be nice as its a real goodie...
There was also a tamper and regulator tucked away on the short "service siding" at Kai Iwi. With warrant in hand I set sail for Whareroa and all points north.
I had a short wait at Whareroa while my locos were cut off my train and the yard shunt added a couple of wagons to the head, carrying containers full of butter bound for the port at New Plymouth.
Heading north, it rained almost all the way to Lepperton, until at last I found a bit of sunshine at Smart Road.
I serviced my engines and parked them up next to 5051, which came in on 520 earlier on this morning.
And with the sun shining down from above, I just couldnt help myself.... sun over the shoulder 3/4 roster shots...wooot! :-)
I must admit that I have grown very fond of the KR paint scheme, especially on the DX's....
Lastly, I had to stop at Stratford on the way home, and I noticed that 52 shunts DC nose has grown even more appendages than normal, and is starting to look like it has a bad case of warts. Not too sure what the extra aerials are about, but hopefully soon we will be able to order pizza with our track warrants....
well, if you are a Kiwi Rail accountant perhaps.....
Largely thanks to Mother Nature causing a big arse slip that closed the road through the Manawatu Gorge, milk trains have started rolling a little earlier than planned.
As the milk tankers could not get through from the Hawkes Bay to Whareroa or over the hill very well into Longburn, the milkies have been pumped into action to ferry the milk through to Wharero. And in the blink of an eye we have three full milk trains running already.
I spent today on Yard Shunt, unloading 540, making up 545 and pushing some empties around with the DSJ.
I had the day off tomorrow, but I have been called in to run 526 so no doubt there will be chance to get some more cheesy roster shots :-)
Working over the spud patch today I found a few more spuds in the ground than I thought was there!! previously we have just let the spuds take over a third of the garden, but its been quite hard to manage, so this year we are putting them in rows...
A couple of wedgies below takenlast week..
Also made a video with a mates borrowed cameras strapped to my loco.... was a bit of humour! :-)
Back in the summer of 2001, my wife and I did a big roadie from Blenhiem to Greymouth, then over Arthurs Pass to Christchurch and return. The pictures in the slideshow below are a bit out of order, but were all taken within the same week....
Had to go to Palmy in a car this morning and bring back 526. What a mission!!!
The picture above shows my car in the carpark at Whareroa after getting to work, and the car next to it is the rental I had to take to Palmy. I drove off down the road in it and wondered why the headlights wernt working, but then realised I had to stop and clear the snow off them so I could see the road!!
Driving to Palmy in a blizzard for most of the way was certainly a fortifying experience!!
I encountered many heavy falls of snow on the way down to Palmy, but it wasnt actually snowing in Palmy itself.
I had DXB5137 and DC4219 on 526 this morning, with 879t of tonnage for New Plymouth. A heavy train for the power provided and it was certainly slow going in places.
I found the snow again at Feilding and by the time I got to Marton it was snowing heavily again.
There was plenty of snow all the way along the MNPL, including most of the Okoia valley to the south of Wanganui, and even up the Westmere, which made conditions tough going for an already on the limit train. No problems though using a little experience gleened from the Otira banker drivers and some tricks taught to me by my peers during my days in Auckland man-handling DFT's with overloaded NAL trains up the the hill to Remuera from NewMarket.....
Most defiantly a day to remember, and after a nana nap at home, the family built a snowman in the back yard and had a snowball fight :-)
Well we have now jumped over to our milk season roster, and eagerly await the first milk trains to start running, which wont be long now according to the boss.
Some OM's have already arrived for cleaning, and are being used to do pre-season tests of the CIP system. This is a time for the maintenance staff and specialists to pour over the whole process and milk siding, tweaking and tutuing at will..... why they leave it all to the week before the milkies are about to start is beyond me!??
I booked on at 4am and took a car south to find 526, which I ultimately ended up boarding at Easttown. I had DXB5120 and DC4219 with 879t and 375m of train. This is quite a bit more than the average 526 normally carries, but this increase in traffic is thanks entirely to Maersk!.
Maersk have stopped sending boats to New Plymouth, so a great deal of the containers that normally land in NP off the boat are now being railed into the region. Apparently there was another full train load of Maersk imports in Auckland trying to find its way here too.
This is a pleasing situation in my mind. The shipping company has ceased sending its boats, so the import and export tonnage is now being moved by rail.
The extra tonnage and the rain certainly made the old girls work for their money this morning!
After servicing my locos I took the time to wander up the top end of the yard for a look at progress on the new gas siding. According the plan, trucks will pull up alongside the rail wagons and transfer their explosive contents via some sort of transfer pumps.
LPG tankers such as the one above are a common sight here now. They will use the new siding once completed to fill UCG's and 20 foot ISO gas tanks.
Lastly we have a couple of photos of the active DSC's in New Plymouth.
2543 is the gantry mule, pushing wagons to and fro under the gantry as transhipping needs dictate. The photo below shows its recent paint "enhancements" after a couple of locals broke into the place the other weekend.
And at the bottom in DSC 2569, on hire to Ravensdown for shunting their fert stores..
With the prospect of more tonnage coming this way by rail, train numbers and lengths may very well increase between Whareroa and New Plymouth!
Was scratching around in the files this morning and thought I would share some random Wellington stuff...