Got called out for an extra shift the other day to run the late 52 shunt, and then bring 523 down to Stratford from New Plymouth.
First mission was to head out to Kapuni in the ute and relieve the morning crew who had run out there earlier on with empty gas wagons for loading.
To be fair, its not actually at Kapuni per se but rather Palmer Road where the S.T.O.S gas plant is located. It is however located inside the modern day "Kapuni" station limits and for all intents and purposes, the real Kapuni is located another 2 km west of here.
I always thought that the gas plant was located on the site of the well that supplies gas to the plant (and the nation) but in fact the plant is in the middle of a feild of several wells that supply the natural gas plant. As well as the natural gas, oil condensate is also treated onsite and then piped to the Moturoa tank farms in New Plymouth.
A lineside view of part of the natural gas plant at Palmer Road.
Waiting at the gate.
Palmer Road station.
For some strange reason S.T.O.S are pretty anal about people just prowling about their worksite willy nilly, so once the wagons were pushed inside the loading facility, we were kicked out and the gate was shut. With the prospect of having nothing to do for the next 3 hours or so, I wandered off for a poke about in the places that I was allowed to be.
Mmmm duck egg blue!
I spent some time examining the interior of the Palmer Road station building. This hut used to manned by a shunter based out here untill the mid 90's when some changes were made and shunt crews from stratford started running out here.
Once filled with all the mod-cons such as a desk, fax, chair and hotplate, the hut now sadly reflects the years its stood unoccupied. Pleasingly all the windows are still intact and its well off the beaten path so the only trespassers around to violate it have been railway workers and the occasional disgruntled gas pumper.
Lying on the floor are dozens of old railway booking forms, partial train lists and "Dangerous Goods" cards. Sifting through the old T15's was interesting to a throwback like me, most of which were dated 1994 but were sadly missing the real juicy bits like what locos were on the shunt and train consists. There was the odd page of "attach" wagons for trains and one I found showed DC4507 and a whole lot of L wagons being attached to a southbound freight train......
They use this beast of a thing to shift wagons around the siding when the shunt is not there.
The onsite maintenance shed - not used any more.
For some inane reason I have a real "thing" for round roof buildings such as the maintenance building located at the other end of the gas siding, or the former loco shed at Cross Creek etc.
This shed was once used to perform regular maintenance on the UCG wagons and other gas containers "back in the day" by the specialized staff needed to do such work. As times changed the work was moved off site and now the neat looking building is nothing more than a big garage for the behemoth of a tractor that they use to shift wagons around when the shunt is not onsite.
The weather cleared some more and another hour or so on our gas wagons were finally ready to pulled from the siding. We pull out two UCG's, each loaded with 42,000 liters of LPG (!!) and a UK with two 20' gas pods, lock up the siding, get a warrant and make our way back to Te Roti...
Trundling along the branch at the prescribed 30km/h, the rhythmic "clickty clack" of wheels over the old school short rail length joints causes my mind to wander.
The hum of the 645 barely ticking over makes me wish I had been around to see the branch line in action in earlier days, when it was worked by Db's, Da's and later on when DBR's 1239 and 1267, which were based out of the Stratford loco depot would run #2 shunt out here....
1239 at Stratford loco depot in the late 80's
Anyway... back to the story...
We get off the branch and back onto the MNPL at Te Roti. Once the wagons are clear of the junction the throttle goes round to N8 and we sit back for the climb to Eltham.
We enter the loop from the south end and pull up alongside the portacom so my shunter can talk to TranzLink dude (who drives the Tr, the forklift and the local container truck) and see what he wants done.
We head up the north end, leave the gas on the loop and head into the yard, eventually lifting 6 loaded container wagons.
After putting our train together and doing the brakes we head for Stratford.
At Stratford a quick shunt soon has the wagons in the correct marshaling order and we run the DC down to the south end ready to be picked up by 523.
With my work done at this end I extract a company fleet car from the new razorwire ringed vehicle compound and make my merry way to New Plymouth.
At New Plymouth the weather was utter crap, so while my DXB was waking up (5120) I bailed out and bagged a couple of quick'n'dirty snaps of the track evaluation car. With only 2 axles it is without doubt the single most uncomfortable machine I have ever had the pleasure to drive on the rail network. This thing almost quite literally shakes the S**T out of you.
Dont be fooled by the the EM80 on the front, as its only allowed to do 60km/h when recording, so in essence is only an EM60....
My day finishes with a slow trip back to Stratford on 523. The weather has made the rails extra greasy and poor ol 5120 struggled to keep her feet and keep the 600 odd ton train rolling.
Back at Stratford we shunt the yard, lift the DC and all the wagons we bought in on the shunt earlier, put the train back together and do a brake test.
The driver for 523 wont book on for another couple of hours so everything is shut down and tied down, to appease the disgruntled neighbors, (who chose to live beside a railway yard!!) and I call it a day....
Was a nice break from the norm shuffling milk tanks around all day.