The Office...
Yes, a "day in the life" of yours truely...
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... 

Reflecting a busy day..
15:15 : Book on. 
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...

1600: Stratford.
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.....
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....

Pretty flowers!!
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...

1900: 544 comes in.
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 pull my train right down to very south end of Easttown, as the locals and natives are getting rather bad at messing with trains here, climbing on them, under etc...

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!




This is a test to see whether I can flesh out blog posts in notepad, and then copy and paste them to the blog....
Righto... back in a moment...
Apart from a couple of shots taken on the ECMT, I have uploaded a few random shots taken in the early 90's..
4156 on the front of 526 @ Waitotara.
With the Chinese about to breach our borders, the days are numbered for our old bombs still in service.
The master scheme, as I understand it, shows great quantities of the new DL locos working in the North Island, sees the enitre fleet of DX's banished to the South Island, and everything else on the mainline (DFT's, DC's, DBR's, DQ's) will be turned into razor blades or ab circle pro's or something just as usefull.
That said though, the company have announced that they intend to give 6 DFT's a major rebuild and tart up for use on branchlines where their light axle loadings will be of benefit, taking the work currently performed by the much older DC's.

Thus! I have shifted my foaming focus from the new and shiney to capturing as many of the old chooks in service as I can before they are blitzed into the history books.

4571 still looking good in old government paint on train 570 @ Whareroa.
...since my last post, but work and extramural activities are getting in the way..... 
Getting out of bed at 3:30am everyday this week has not done anything for the motivation either.

I will update you all on last weekends foamer fest in a day or two..

Scratching around in the archives I found my folder of DF photos, so without anything better to waffle about, I thought I would share some of the pictures with my fans (both of you)..
I never drove a DF, nor did I ever get a ride in one, as by the time I had moved to Auckland, 2/3 of the fleet were being rebuilt into DFT's and the remaining DF's spent a fair bit of time running trains out to the bay..
I imagine a DF would probably be quite comparable to a DC at the time, with regards to ride quality and noise / vibration...
Anyway, onto the pictures..
No, I am not missing home, quite the opposite in fact - I am at home, sick! :(
And have been for the last three days, struck down something fierce by a nasty flu bug that took the whole family down on its way through... poo!!
The somewhat modified cab of DC 4006 at Westmere.
So in an effort to find something to stimulate you all with, I thought I would share the shots I got of DC 4006's demise at the top of the Westmere hill.
I wont bore you with the who or the why, but by geez the "what happened next" was somewhat eye opening, and led to a flurry of cab mount checks as Dc's were wheeled into depots by the dozen..

Somewhere in the archives there are a few more photos from this day, but I have yet to find them....
Hi, I'm Evan and I'm a Systems Support Tech for KiwiRail Network....which means in a nutshell that I look after the servers that keep train control in Wellington functioning as it should.  And yes, thats me looking surprised in the previous post at Palmy.

I've been out with Drew a couple of times before and like any respectable Train Geek, I jump at any chance to get out of the office and into the wilds....so when the email came through on Wednesday headed "What have you got planned for Sunday", I dont think I was really in a position to resist.  Luckily my wife Ali saw it the same way.....

So the plan was one tried and proven from the last visit, namely a bus to Palmy Sunday afternoon, being stood up at the bus depot for ages waiting for a car to appear ("10 minutes? What am I supposed to do until you get here?" REPLY: "Umm...make a new friend?") then 548 to Whareroa.  Monday would comprise of breakfast with Drews lovely family before being entrusted to a Palmy driver on 545, after which I'd catch the Overlander (201) home.

546 was still being readied when we arrived at Milson with tonnage still to arrive from Oringi, so there was a wee bit of time to kill...
*Click* 'Ooo, You Bastard...
With 546 finally away the shunt ran to Longburn to get our tonnage. Then without much further ado we were away, passing 547 arriving back from Whareroa with a load of empties.  Except "someone" decided they need a PNB (Personal Needs Break) and the train ground to a halt on the curve leading out of Palmy while they darted into the trees....I think half our train was still in the departure roads!

Mind and bladder calmed it was on with the show, and we made good time along the trunk towards Marton.  I was a bit concerned to hear 546 calling for warrants to Ruatangata and thought "We'll be right up his bum all night".  However, I need not have worried; a large number of weather related speed restrictions through Turakina made for slow running and we reached Wanganui with 546 well and truly gone.

Time for more PNB's, to which Carey Sullivan (Train Control) queried saying "Are you off to buy some pies?".  Unfortunately, that made me realise how hungry I was and the story had its conclusion at 1am the next morning buying a pie in Hawera....yumm, pies...
548 left wide open and running while Driver visits the Easttown amenities block
Finally away, we attacked Westmere (the 1:35 climb out of Wanganui).  This was the first time I'd been on a DXB for the climb (previous climbs had been on a DXE and a  DFB) and 5097/5068 were a revelation.  They charged up the hill with no strain and no fuss; The DXB definitely ticks all the boxes when it comes down to outright lugging power!

From there we sauntered through Kai Iwi and Maxwell on our way to Waitotara and a meeting with 549.  Our warrant allowed us to take the loop so we hunkered down and waited for the lights of 549 to make an appearance on the horizon.
548, In and Clear at Waitotara
Seems we werent in and clear though....650 meters is a long train in anyones books and we were hanging out the end by 4 UK's, making the home signal a stop and proceed....so as I stood trackside, I got to hear 7213 and 5137 spool up from a standing start and roll past me; quite impressive in the dead of night!

We then attacked the climb out of the Waitotara valley with gusto and quickly passed through Waverley ("Yes Drew, that is an Xc in the loop!") before dropping down into Patea, a station that holds a certain fascination for me.  Then it was back up the hills to Manutahi before Mokoia and home to Whareroa at around 0100.

Impressions:  From an operational point of view, I've noticed the DXB's take a bit longer to decide what to do than the DFB's.  Whereas a DFB will cry "Done!" as soon as the driver moves a lever, the DXB seems to say "Well.......Okay, I suppose, if thats what you want" before complying and I've noticed that Drew (and the other drivers) need to be slightly ahead of their game and anticipate more when on DXB's, and good road knowledge is essential for this.

Everytime I've been lucky enough to be invited into the cab its been really special.  Some people may question what you can possibly get out of a trip in the darkness, but in reality I think you get a much better appreciation of how the train is handling and performing without the distraction of the goings on outside. Having the chance to catchup with a good mate is really just the icing on the cake.  Its also a nice feeling being in the middle of nowhere at night with a sky full of stars and a purpose in mind.

And 545 for 201 the next day?  What a mission that was....
Sunday saw a car trip to Palmy so I could run 548 back to Whareroa...
Sundays are great in the big depots, as there are usually lots of locos to see and not much activity, instilling a warm fuzzy "lazy Sunday" feeling as one wanders around the depot (safely of course) soaking up the atmosphere....

7267 and 4156 lounging in the afternoon sun.
*click* 'Ohhhh you bastard...'
I was very fortunate to have a good friends company for the day, and tried to keep up as he explained the intricacies of modern train radio communication.

Did I mention lots of locos??
After prowling around the yard for a while, the shunt returned from Longburn with our milk tanks, so we climbed aboard the our assigned power, DXB's 5097 and 5068 and headed out into the yard.

Our train consisted of 8 loaded OM milk tanks and 25 container wagons with empty containers for Fonterra back home at Whareroa. 
All up just over 600m and 1030 tons.

RM30 at Wanganui
On the way down to Palmy I swung into the Wanganui freight center to try my luck, knowing the Silver Fern was about, and whaddya know.. there it was!.
RM30 has been charted by the Dominion Post to do a lower North Island rail tour covering the MNPL, the PNGL and a few others.
It was great to see the old chook out and about again, but that horrible yellow frontage still makes me shudder.. yuk!