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....

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