I got to run 521 last night, which is not a normal Whareroa shift, and was quite a plesant change from the norm..
I didnt take any photos, but will endevour to fill in the blanks with stuff from the archives...
I arrive at Whareroa to book on. I check my bulletins and catch up on what else is happening about the place today.. My job today is to run 521 south and return on 548. As this is a Stratford job, I will need to find a way to get up there from Whareroa. A quick check of the carpark reveils there are no company cars on site, so I will have to get a taxi up there. I ring rosters and order a taxi.
While I am waiting, another Whareroa based driver wanders up from the milk siding.
542 is still unloading (DXB's 5108 and 5074). Having just done another line up, there is 30 odd minutes to kill before he is required to be back on his train. We catch up and soon the converstaion turns to the impending roster change.
One of the joys of being in a small seasonal depot are the constant changing rosters as the company trys to keep the customers happy whilst on the backfoot trying to pull itself out of a crew shortage bought about by lack of new driver training and experienced staff leaving in droves for Oz.
Soon enough a local taxi rocks up and I am being chauffered to Stratford in fine style...
I say goodbye to my cabbie at Stratford station, and head into the office. 521 is sitting on the mainline just shy of the station platform, bathed in glorious afternoon sunshine. On the front is DXB 5114 and tucked in behind is DC 4438 still resplendent in "bumblebee" paintscheme. In the office I find new LE trainee AJ, and his minder. Salutations are exchanged and AJ dutifully "hands over" 521 to me, telling me that 5114 has faulty dynamic brakes, which are cut out, that I will be shunting Eltham on the way down, I have two wagons with hazardous goods on board, the DC (4438) is shut down and that 52 shunt is on its way back to Stratford from Eltham. Digesting all of the info I thank AJ and head out to my train.
Knowing that I have 11 loaded wagons to lift at Whareroa, I head back and start the DC, as the load will be too great for one DXB out of Whareroa.
With the DC started, I fish out the jumper cable from the "boot", plug it in and head back to the cab of 5114.
I get out my diary to make some notes, get out my Track Warrant pad, check I have my keys (track warrant key, "A.S" signals key, and a few others) and then check the DC is repsonding by isoating the DX, centering the reverser (neutral) and give the throttle a few notches. Hearing the DC rev up, I throttle off and sit back and wait.....
One of the "steady as she goes" drivers is on the shunt, and as the Midhurst heat alarm has triggerd during the day, local heat restrictions apply further ensuring it will not be a fast trip back for 52.
After what seems an eternity, 52 comes into view around the bend at the south end of Stratford and enters the yard. DC 4398 is in charge (another black one) and looks very photogenic as it makes it way up the empty Stratford yard with 5 wagons behind it. The light is just perfect and I am kicking myself that I didnt bring my camera....
The stratford shunter, Serge, a French Canadian who has lived here for 30 odd years calls me on the radio and asks me to wait a moment for him to finish with 52 shunt before I depart. Serge is the afternoon shunter, and will travel to Eltham by road to shunt my train there, so while he is putting 4398 on the other end of the wagons they just brought in, I get a Track Warrant and prepare to depart....
Soon enough Serge is in the company ute and dissapears out of the yard with a clatter and a cloud of dust. I bring the DX back online, give a small blat on the horn and announce my depature from Stratford. The heat restrictions start at the other end of the station, and I keep the speed at or below the prescribed 40km/h as I head south down the grade to Eltham.
As I approach Eltham, Serge calls me on the shunt radio and he outlines the required shunt moves.
We tie down the train on the mainline and push three wagons under the shelter of cheese factory. Tr 908 (another bumblebee), a Hillside built machine, is quietly looking on from under the gantry.
Shunt completed I leave Eltham and head for Whareroa.
Pulling up at the Whareroa "ALL TRAIN STOP" board, I call the O.I.C (officer in charge) on the shunt radio, and he gives me permission to travel down the loop to the south end of the yard.
We detach one wagon off 521 for Whareroa, and catch 11 to go back on. We do a brake test on the rake, pull out and couple back onto the rest
of my train on the loop. Another quick brake test is completed and I set back up the loop a fair way and wait... and wait...
542 had finished unloading, and the 16 empty milk tanks along with a big rake of loaded container wagons had not long been sent out as 547 not long ago, to cross loaded milky 544 at Patea.
As its a 38 min run down to Patea and the same back, I had about 45 minutes to kill, so I took the opportunity to head up to the hut and use the depot microwave to warm up my diner (spaghetti). Its now 1830 and I was feeling a bit peckish...
544 dutifully arrives, roaring up the hill behind DXB's 5051 and 5068. Once he pulls in clear, I get my track warrant and pull down to the south end points indicator.
A ute roars up and three keen foamers fall out and quickly jockey for position. I immediatly recognise them as David from Auckland, and his good friend, the older bloke with the high end movie camera whos name escapes me... A cheery wave and I rumble past and down the hill heading south. Next stop is Kai Iwi to cross 546.
As I dont have any dynamic brakes, I must travel over hill and dale using the Serial Braking technique, which boiled down is a the process of decending the grades using a series of brake applications, each one pulling the trains speed down a long way before release, thus allowing the train brakes to have sufficient time to recharge properly before the next brake application, all the while keeping the train speed from going to fast downgrade.
Those in the know, will know that there are HEAPS of hills between Whareroa and Wanganui so its going to be a slow trip south. If the dynamics were working I would be able to keep the train at a higher constant speed down the hills....
Meh, no worries, its a ripper summer evening (should be fishing or at a bbq or something) and a nice change from banging milk tanks round the yard at Whareroa.
2100: Kai Iwi.
Approaching Kai Iwi I give my mandatory call on channel 1, announcing to anyone listening that 521 has a warrant to enter the main at Kai Iwi, crossing 546. The driver of 546 (5137 and 5166 and 16 loaded om's) responds, informing me that 546 is stabled and stationary on the loop at Kai Iwi. I snake my way down the hill into Kai Iwi and pull up on the main line.
A quick chat with the Train Controller and I have in possesion another warrant to take me through to Wanganui. Out of courtesy I tell Caery that it will be a bit of a slow trip down "the hill" (the Westmere bank) as I am serial braking.
I power up the grade out of Kai Iwi, working my way through the curves and a 25km/h speed restriction and down through the new cutting that bypassed the old Kai Iwi tunnel. I give it some curry to get up the hill and notch off as I crest the top of the grade at Westmere.
Following the prefered proceedure for serial braking, and the good old nugget "speed low, air high" I slowly roll over the summit and start decending down the mighty Westmere bank, a long winding decent to Wanganui with parts as steep as 1:33. I keep about 100kpa on the loco bakes and as my speed gets approaches the maximum allowed speed of 40km/h I give the train brake a squeeze and get a feel for how the train is responding down the hill.
I apply a little more brake which automatically starts increasing the loco brakes above 100kpa, so I feather them back down.
For those in the dark, when you make a brake application on a 26c automatic brake valve (train brakes) the system autmatically applys the locomotive brakes as well. Normally when making a brake pipe reduction, one bleeds the loco brakes off to keep the train stretched and those nasty " in train forces " in check...
The last I heard, the "best practice" for serial braking down long grades was to keep around 100kpa of brake applied on the locos to help slow the rate of decent when you release the train brakes and recharge the system.
The catch is that the vigilance system is suppressed when it sees 160kpa or more on the loco brake, so one has to keep that in mind otherwise you might inadvertently leave yourself without a key safety feature!!
I let my train speed come right down to near stationary before I release the train brake, which is lower than the max speed set out in the book, but I dont care as I would rather have a stress free safe trip down the hill than be sucking seat leather up my butt....
After many repetitions, I finally arrive at Aramaho and can kick the brakes of for the last time.
As I pass the old fertiliser works and the track gangs facilities, my attention is drawn to the loader loading logs onto 40' "logracks" mounted on UK wagons along the fertiliser siding. 12 in all. I sound the horn and as I get closer the loader driver gives me a wave and pauses from his work to wait for my passing.
And as usual, there are some stone throwing scroats hiffing racks at me as I glide over the Wanganui river bridge and past the old Easttown railway workshops....
I get another warrant and launch forth, heading for loop at Ruatangata to meet 548.
The climb up the Okoia valley is uneventfull, but allows some faster running that the undulating hill country north of Wanganui.
Before long I am at the entrance to tunnel #3 at Fordell. There is a speed restriction starting immediatly outside the other end of the tunnel, but as the gang cant put up caution boards inside the tunnel due to clearance issues (ping... wassat??) the restriction starts here.. Also starting here is a heat restriction, as denoted by the big H board that stands right beside the big C board. H + C side by side (hot and cold??) looking like bath taps.. but anyways.
I womble down the hill and again call out on channel 1 to announce my arrival at Ruatangata. 548 calls saying he is at Turakina so I pull up to the arrival signal, get out and set the points for the loop.
Once in clear I call control and cancel my warrant. Just as I fiinish, 548's headlights come into view piercing the dark with great gobs of lux...
I look up and the sky is crystal clear and full of millions of very bright stars... cool!