Extreme closeup.... woahhhhhhh
I have been flat out recently, at work almost every day as we barrel head long into the peak of the milk season, but there has not been much chance to go nutting, not that there has really been much to foam about - just the same locos, same trains, same locations as always...

That said I have picked up and extra shift and am now on 52 shunt this afternoon and then have to go to New Plymouth and bring 523 down. This should yield the chance to get some shots of the loco depot today, weather permitting.

I have attached a few photos below for your viewing pleasure.

Three up on 544 the other day. We have quite a few dead or half dead locos around at the moment and some interesting combos have been showing up.
A rather tied looking snot rocket..
Trying to be a bit arty farty.... I think I need more practice.
521 runs down the main while 544 unloads and the puddle jumper looks on.
544 on the main at Waitotara. DXB's 5016 and 5022 presiding. 5022 died later on and it was a slow trip home...
Lost deep in dream land in an alternative universe I was rather abruptly bought back to the real world by a shrill chirping noise....
I lay there for a moment lying in limbo between the real and sureal.....
"chirp chirp" 
"hmm..." I thought to myself "there it is again..."
"chirp chirp"
"Oh, I know that noise".... "its the phone.... the phone is ringing...."


Through one blurry eye I try and read the time on my clock..... 4:45am....


I fall out of bed and shuffle in my best zombie fashion out to the lounge and pick up the phone..
"bro, your late for work!"
"no im not... its my day off"

"yes you are, ops just rang looking for you....."
"whatever!?? (im getting a bit grumpy and puzzled)
"Nah... just joking!"

(laughter from down the phone)
Its my charming mate in rosters......

"What do you want??"
"Come to work please bro, starting at 6(am)???"
(the cheek of it!! lol)

"doin what?"
"work train"

Hmmmm christmas is coming... bills to pay....

"Uhhh ok..."
"Awesome, thank you bro.... taxi is on its way - go to stratford and take Rob with you to New Plymouth...."

And that is how my day started today!
After a very relaxing trip to New Plymouth in the local taxi company's 2 week old Ford Teritory (good times for taxis eh?) we arrived at Smart Road to find our train already together and ready to go courtesy of the driver off 520.
DC4507 will be our companion for the next 10 hours or so.

The track gang were milling about sorting out the welded rail wagons, preparing the machines and unchaining the rail.
Following a brief chat with the head ganger, a brake test and a long conversation with train control (we had to speak slowly so she could understand our intentions) we got lights out of the yard and trundled round the corner to our first discharge point.
For the uninitiated, unloading and picking up welded rail is a time consuming task. Each EWR wagon has a small crane fitted to the center of the wagon, powered by a small Honda engine, which does the lifting and lowering.
Each crane needs its own operator, and as a standard rake of EWR consists of 6 wagons, 6 lackeys are required to operate all the cranes to get one length of welded rail off the wagon.
This procedure is conducted in operatic fashion by the head ganger, as each man needs to liift, luff and drop at the same time. 
Once the rail is on the ground, the grabs are undone off the rail and the process repeats. 
So in orderly fashion, two lengths of rail would be off loaded, we would move forward one train length, and another two more lengths would be dropped off.... and so on and so forth. Once we reached Henwood Road, the gang bailed off, tied down the remaining rails and told us to meet them at Manutahi, where we would be dropping off some more.........

Manutahi!!!! Good grief - this was going to be a long day!

After checking the gang was clear, we got the ok and headed out to Lepperton, where we would have to wait for 526.
7049 and 4185 blow past on 526.
And wait we did... a good 45 minutes in fact. Not too bad though as we were kept amused by the goings on over on the back road...
Turns out that this tamper machine had packed a real sad and had decided it was not going to turn another wheel... quite literally in fact!
We watched with amusement as a big crane lifted the ungainly looking machine onto a truck for transport back to Palmerston North for repairs.
(again, apparently)

The bloke who travels around the country with this particular machine was quite eager to give it away, putting on the hard sell, saying it really would make a fantastic mooring or boat anchor.....

We watched the disgraced tamper drive off into the sunrise before we too headed south after the arrival of 526 - next stop, Manutahi.
(via stratford and whareroa).
After successfully dodging 545 and 542, we are greeted at Manutahi by the same cartel of gangers that did the unloading in New Plymouth.
We rolled through Manutahi and discharged the last of the new rail around the curves before setting back to the north side of Manutahi where the gang wanted to pick up all the extra lengths of rail lying there.

Once the train was positioned we had nothing to do but sit back and watch and wait as the symphony of the cranes was conducted many times over.
A perfect chance to take a walk, grab a couple of shots and have a nosey at the surroundings.
New loop at Manutahi waiting for the official opening ceremony.
All loading and unloading completed we waved farewell to the gang and trundled on south to Patea where we would run around our train and head back to Whareroa.
Looking back on our train tiptoing across the somewhat unhealthy Manawapo viaduct.
Back at Whareroa we tied our train down and headed for home. It was a busy day in ways, and slow in others, but all of a sudden, 10 1/2 hours had gone past and we were boardering on busting our hours.
They wanted us to run the train back to Stratford, but due to all the delays today, that just wasnt gonna happen.
We will leave todays broadcast with a quick snap of 547's power gleaming in the late afternoon light. 5080 was sent to the South Island not long ago, but promptly blew up and was sent back for repairs. It has since found its way onto the milk circuit, but for how long, who knows.....

Well, its been a week of getting out of bed at 3am, and now its Friday afternoon I am just a bit cross eyed lol (probably to be expected.)
They say that no two days are ever the same with the railways, and true to form this week has provided a variety of things to keep me busy.

I have managed to snap a few shots this week, so below there is a fairly unimaginative photo "round up" of proceedings.
526 in the loop at Waitotara.
Monday : 
I got to work and ended up helping the Stratford shunter shunt 520. It was a huge 890m long and along with the 27 wagons we had to reduce, we also had to wrangle a DC out of 520's consist, and then down to the other end of the yard to put on the front of 543. As the DC (4398) was facing south, we just slapped it on the nut of 543 and I set sail. I ran 543 down to Waitotara and got on to 526, with its now rostered gaggle of 3 DC's. Todays train had 4507, 4191 and 4225. After the initial burst of mayhem the day turned into a fairly easy and straight forward morning, I ended up getting off at Stratford. Day done.

4191 in the middle of the 526 consist.
543 at Easttown (Wanganui)
Tuesday: Tuesday started much like Monday - chaos trying to shunt a huge 520 and get the DC out of the consist and onto 543. Why? Cos that what "Loco Control" have decreed must happen. 520 Comes up with one big loco and two DC's, one coming off at Whareroa with a "return to sender" (543) and the other comes off at Stratford to run 52 Shunt. 
Shunt completed and I am on my way..... south.... and south I went!!!

More trackwork netted this sweet shot while waiting for gangs to clear!
Auckland DC's 4565 and 4260 pass by on the Wanganui shunt.
526 at Marton.
In fact I went so far south I ended up in Marton to get a VERY late 526. 
Not that I am one to complain, but this train was big, long and an utter PIG to drive! One of the hazards of being blessed with a herd of worn out DC's is the fact that very few of them actually have working dynamic brakes, and today, NONE of my locos had working dynamic brakes. Not too much of a drama between Marton and Wanganui, but makes running the roller coaster between Wanganui and Waitotara hard work, especially when the "destress" gang is working 2/3 of the way down the Waitotara bank, they have the track held together with the bare minimum of fastenings and they want you to tiptoe over their work site at 10km/h!!! (OMG!!) Certainly tested the skills a tad there easing a 700m, 900t monster over that sans the help of dynamics!!!
All that aside,  the romance of running trains "old school" style with a trio of naturally aspirated 12 cylinder 645's certainly brings out the best of a bad situation... lol. 
I didnt get back to Whareroa untill after midday, where I was relieved. Day done.

542 at Whareroa
Wednesday: Wednesday was probably the closest thing to a "normal" day on day shift, and I spent my hours puddling around the yard (after running 543 and coming back on 526) contemplating the future and thinking of ways to change the world and save the planet, create world peace etc.
For a change, 542 only had 12 oms, which were shepherded by a nice shiney bright pair of DFT's. I have not seen 7132 since its release into service from overhaul, and I must admit, her half life rebuild has dramatically improved cab comfort and reduced vibrations. Fabulous!

mmmm shiney!
"funny new points boards"
Thursday: Another mission south with 543, and returning on 526. 

These funny new points boards have been popping up all over the place like the mushrooms in my lawn! There is one at each end of Waverly identifying the points they stand beside, and one has been erected at Hawera too alongside the last remaining mainline point there, even though the "loop" points have been removed cutting off access to the siding...

talking of loops...
Talking of loops... the new loop at Manutahi is all but finished now. The gangs have packed up and gone home, and new station boards have been erected on the outer extremities. The union had done a big haka drawing a line in the sand demanding that the loop be properly automated like the others on the line, with points motors and indicators and such, but the evidence clearly suggests that the demands have fallen on deaf ears. 
It will be interesting to see what procedures will be put in place for the crossing of trains here - should a milky actually fit in the loop in question....
Thursdays 545 ready to go...
Snot Rockets!
And just to throw everything left field somewhat, 542 rocks up with a pair of snot rockets on the front - with a coal motor four stroke to boot!! Wow! 
Getting one green loco on a train is a rare thing round here these days, let alone two! 
5431 has had some work done to the radiator fan and drive, and is on loan to the milk circuit while she proves her reliability and suitability to head back to the coal route.
4500 horsepower ready to pounce baby....
Friday: A swap with my offsider saw me run 526 through to New Plymouth today.
The usual gaggle of old chooks strapped to the front did a sterling job of keeping track speed, but not so flash slowing down. No drama though as the grades between Whareroa and New Plymouth are far less severe than those due south.

Down at the deepot
And the bush whacker has recently laid waste to the huge lineside gorse reserve on the strip of land between the yard and the fertiliser siding, now allowing unhindered views into their plant....
And that was my week..... fun and games on the job!
I will finish off with the below picture of a couple of old US wagons, stored "out the back", "out of sight out of mind" slowly rusting away, their usefullness all but done....


The end of the line.