After tripping down memory lane at Rapahoe, I made my way back to Stilwater, stopping by the old station at Runanga along the way.
For those in the dark, Runanga was the junction point for the line to Rewanui and its famous incline. Once a busy place, its now a a mere shadow of its former hey-days. The branch to Rewanui is long gone, though the right of way is still very visible, and I think there is even a walking trail up the line to the old Rewanui yard.
Back in 2005, the old Runanga station was home to an eclectic group of blokes and a loosly run model railway club, which built a modular layout of the rewanui incline.
Good to see the old station is being looked after.....
Passing through Taylorville on the way to Stillwater I was rather taken by all the old buildings around, and just HAD to get a photo of this old house which looks like it hasnt seen any paint in 50 years. It even had a mk2 Zephyr hiding in the long grass! From what I can tell it was till inhabited!
Coming into Stillwater I was greeted by the sight of an empty coal train stopped at the 196.34 signal (I'll explain it one day) getting a track warrant. Sans scanner I didnt know which way it was going, so I paused for a moment to see if it went north or south. North it went, so the thunderbus was urged into life and haste was made north too. This time I was determined to get a good photo, so with dim memories of what was around I made a bee line straight for the old Ngahere railway yard, and to my delight there was might pile of ballast conveniently placed for me to ascend and get my photos.....
Joy! A semi decent photo of a coal train! Certainly not one of those jaw dropping Bond-esque coal train masterpieces, but a clear and concise record of events all the same.
Ngahere was a busy yard back in the black and white days too, and the junction point for the Blackball branch, which also had a center rail fell type incline similar to the Rewanui and Rimutaka inclines. Sadly very little remains to see of the infrastructure that was once here, and there is no visual evidence of the branch to Blackball any more thanks to constant changing landscapes and industrial workings in the area.
Ngahere was also famous for its sawmill and bush tramways in the hills to the east, and once home to an amazing fleet of geared steam engines.
I drifted once again back to Stillwater where I rang 0800 FOAMER ( many thanks Ev :-) ) to see if there were any more trains in the area..... short answer - no!
So, I decided I would take some time to explore the nearby Brunnerhistorical mining site.
DOC have spent a truckload of money on the place in the last few years protecting the industrial ruins, building information centers and recreating some of the infrastructure that was once onsite. There was also a brickworks onsite, and coking ovens, under the big red roof.
Brunner was once a very busy coal mine, and coal was loaded into wagons and pushed across a mighty suspension bridge that spanned across the Grey River to the railway yard on the other side for shipping to Greymouth by train.
It was also the site of the worst mining disaster in New Zealand where 65 men and boys died down the mine!
( see http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~ourstuff/BrunnerDisaster.htm for more about this )
Replica (non working) wagon turntable and info center.
River bridge. Used to be tracks across it.
Display area on other side. Main line to Greymouth in between the fences.
Restored Q coal wagon on display.
Overview of the bridge looking back to the west side of the river.
Overlooking the site there is also a Miners memorial to honor those who have died in mining accidents around the country, and those miners who fell during wars.
There is also a very sobering plaque on the wall from a disaster that hit the region very hard recently.....
After some time prowling around the site, a work colleague rang to let me know he was home, and keen to catch up, so without further ado I toddled round to his place and spentthe rest of the afternoon in the backyard yarning away and looking over old train photos..... nice!!
In the final installment, we head across the Southern Alps and have a run-in with some keas!!