Once again my bedside alarm clock busied itself reminding me that it was 10 minutes past 3 in the morning and I was required to leave my nice warm bed and go to work, truth be known long before Dawn had even thought of her crack......
"Already!??.... bugger.... I only just got into bed..."
Well that's what it felt like anyway.
But it was Sunday, and lying in bed growling at the alarm clock was not going to get my train to Palmy any faster - the sooner I leave the sooner I can be back.
So Otto the autopilot was deployed and soon enough I was at work and had DXB 5068 substantially increasing its carbon footprint.
Sunday mornings require us to run 543 all the way to Palmy and bring a car home, which is a nice wee adventure but the only time we will get all the way to Palmy this roster.
Its only September but we will go through two more rosters before the year is out. Two trainees are nearly out of their time and when they do the LE's numbers based at Whareroa will go from 3 to 5. With it will bring quite a few changes to our roster and the way we run trains. And then just as we get started on that roster, December will see the "Christmas Roster" kick in, which runs until mid January usually.... then we will got to another roster and so on - but that's a whole other therapy session.
I head out into the wilds with 543, my orders telling me I am to cross 540 at Waitotara. I arrive without drama, pull in on the loop and cancel my warrant. Not long after, 540 glides past onto the main line.
A new warrant is obtained but alas, the naughty automatic points changing system decides its far too early in the morning to be playing trains and no manor of button pushing or expletives will yield a proceed indication.
So a brisk stroll along the line is in order to relieve the location box of its crank handle and manually change said mischievous set of points.
Back in the cab permission is obtained to pass the trailing indicator at stop and head south.
As I crest the top of the Waitotara bank I can see faint accents of vermilion red licking the underside of the cloud mass to the east. Soon I am treated to a simply amazing hell fire sunrise and as I pass the Westmere intermediate board the view to the east is simply spell binding, bands of cloud with incredibly rich hues of red, orange and yellow fiercely illuminating the sky, causing the large stands of pines and macrocapas on the near horizon to silhouette vividly as I roll by.
But the spectacle is fleeting and by the time I pass by the ghost of Aramaho station, the sky is nothing more than a dull mono-tonal grey.
A few log racks are witnessed sitting in the log siding, and as I thump my way across the river bridge the mighty Whanganui river is as flat as a mill pond, far below, reflecting my locomotives step lights as they pass over gaps in the steel structure.
I pull up on the mainline at East Town, cancel my warrant, obtain a new one and carry on south to Marton in the early morning gloom.
Time for a stretch at Greatford.
Green lights signal my passage through Marton and out onto the North Island Main Trunk, but I don't get very far, pulled out into the loop at Greatford and providing the perfect chance to get out for a stretch and some fresh air.
Unsure of what was coming at me the other way I didn't wander far, returning to the cab after a few minutes.
542 heads north.
Soon enough a headlight pops into view from behind the nearby fertilizer store and the form of 542 morphs into shape from behind the blazing headlights of 5074, which passes by in a brief noisy clatter.
Green lights reappear urging me on towards my destination.
An un-eventual trip ensues and all too soon I have arrived in Palmerston North.
The future site of Mainfreight takes shape.
Track work upgrades and modifications to the fly-over have been completed since my last visit, the area once occupied by the original fly-over alignment and the former freight center now flat and being prepared for construction of the new MainFreight distribution facility, the sight suitably recorded for posterity as we wait for a conflicting movement to clear.
I stable my locos on the arrival road midst a sea of other locos, great gaggles of DC's and DFT's lazily lounging about on a gloomy sunday morning. A couple of DL's were spotted too, but at this point I couldnt be bothered with dull lifeless roster shots on such a bland grey morning.
I fleece the rental car box of keys to my prefered ride, a new Toyota Corolla, gather up my belongings and hit the highway.
A rather empty Wanganui freight center.
Of course I couldn't pass up the opportunity to check out Wanganui and progress on the Castlecliff branch.
I have not had time to visit since the line reopened and trains started running, but the first thing I noticed was how baron and empty the Wanganui freight center was now, compared to how the place looked February!!
The same place a few months ago!
Now that trains are running out to the powder stores, the whole container park / swing lifting operation that Open Country operated before was no longer required.
I went for a drive along the line and was pleased to see how tranformed the former dead and forgotten Castlecliff line has become.
While down the line, I had a quick look at the Open Country container loading site at their powder stores, and noted that containers are placed on the ground for loading by a mighty reach stacker called a Fantuzzi (what a cool name!) that once worked for Port Taranaki.
Once loaded the containers are lifted up onto wagons for the shunt to take away. I really must make the effort one sunny day to come down and watch the shunt at work along here.
"Can I interest you in a Fantuzzi sir?"
Alas time was against me and my visit had to be curtailed, my presence required at the highest level in New Plymouth later on in the day to celebrate dads 66th birthday and a bbq with family I had to head for home....