The next part of Ev's Excellent Adventure was to catch the midday trains, 923 and 920D. They are timetabled to cross at St Andrews (15 minutes drive south of Timaru) at midday, but more often than not they cross in Timaru as 923 is usually held shunting while 920D gets a smoother run from the south. Amicus showed 5245 would be coming south on 923 while 5520 would be providing the power on 920D....DXC's in both directions! Superb!
As I had a meeting with my old music teacher in Waimate timetabled for 1000, my plan was to get to Studholme at around 1100 and catch both trains as they headed through....with a wee bit of time in between to fossick about my old stamping ground.
However! My perfect plan was scuppered even before it had a chance to be put into action. I was driving south around Otaio (find a map if you are unsure) when I spied some headlights through the trees....ARRGGHHHH! Hoping beyond hope that what I had seen was an unscheduled movement (not a reference to all the fruit I had been eating while on holiday, BTW), I rang Train Control from Studholme at around 1115, only to be told by Lena the TCO that 920D was "Long gone" and was now shunting Temuka! Poo, I said! (Well, it was slightly worse, but what can you do in a public blog?)
Studholme (my old haunt!) from the north.
Studholme is now a shadow of how I knew it in the late 80's; All of the infrastructure, such as extra loops, the station building, goods shed and loading banks are now all gone to be replaced by trees. I was hoping to find the old High Level bank in the trees on the left to take a photo from, but no luck....oddly enough, the good shed (built after the Waimate branch closed in 1966 for the potato traffic) now survives as part of Mainline Steams operation at Sockburn.
Traffic through the station now is all for the new diary factory built just outside the station precincts to the west by a complex conglomerate of local farmers and russians (somehow) but I think it is up for sale or reinvestment after the locals got the pip and are now trying to establish their own factory around Morven. All traffic (such as the HLC's with coal shown here) are lifted from the UK's and taken into the factory to be emptied. Empty containers are handled the same way, but there is work underway to lay a siding directly into the factory once a second milk drier comes on line.
I spent a pleasant 20 minutes talking to the roving shunter from Oamaru who comes north to help 920D and 923 shunt.....apparently he's now been given a swipe card for the factory smoko room, so life is definitely more bearable when caught short! I always enjoy catching up with the guys at the coal face. A light in the distance heralded the approach of 923 and after some less-than-standard radio procedure ("Good Evening!" "Yeah, it is a bit dark!") 923 slowed to a halt to begin its shunt. The clouds that had arrived from the south made photography a bit problematic, but with a Snot Bonnet DXC on the point I wasnt going to pass up a chance to get some snaps. Interest was added by 4847 tagged on behind which was picked up as a banker from Timaru
After discussions between the shunter and the LE, the locos cut off their train and pulled across Foley's Rd into the old ratty backshunt to begin the shunt. Nothing quite like standing right beside a DX when it spools up!
To get ready for departure, I walked through the gate and into the paddock shown here in front of the locos to hopefully get a decent pic of 923 leaving the loop and heading south.
I'd only been there maybe 3 minutes when a ute pulls in through the gate and stops beside me. Thinking I was about to get pinged for trespassing by an angry cockie with a loaded shotgun under the seat, I was a tad apprehensive. "Are you from KiwiRail?" he asked....to which I replied in the affirmative. "Are you here to look at that f*&*$%#@#$%ing crossing?" Umm...no? He then proceeded to tell me (in quite colourful language that would have my mothers knitting circle blushing) about how shunting trains are making his life a misery, especially around harvest time when time is everything. Apparently he has complained, but nothing etc etc...
Still, we had a good chat about it, and I managed to get him off onto a story about how he got his leg caught in the potato harvester so I think we parted on amicable terms. I think it bought home to me how at KiwiRail we need to work hard at being good neighbours, especially with the locals in out of the way places like Studholme.
While this was going on 923 departed, followed by a cheery wave from the fleeing shunter (who was probably quite thrilled someone else was getting it in the neck for a change!). Its all part and parcel of being out on the track with the company name on your Hi-Vis I suppose.
So that was the day! Family duties precluded me chasing the evening trains, but a quick look in Amicus confirmed it was just 7199 and 7295 returning home, so I dont think I missed much. But I'm glad I took the chance to get out and get the DXC photos at least, especially as there is a Ferry Sailing tomorrow that we're supposed to be on to return my to the world of work and commuter trains....
Gotta love those Snot-Bonnets!!!