Monday, 27 October 2008

Christchurch Rail Workers’ Memorial

One aspect of the old central city railway station that’s often missed is this memorial to railway workers, tucked away in a corner of the old shunting yards.
Closeup of the plaque:
Map of the area, the location is shown as a red placemark. Some other points of interest of the old station area are also shown.

View Larger Map

Shunting was one of the most dangerous operations on the railways, involving as it did the movement of heavy railway wagons by workers who moved around the yards on foot. A shunter had to keep his wits about him at all times, making split second decisions, racing up and down the yard on foot to change the points, climbing onto and off moving wagons, which were often given a push by the engine and left to coast down the various roads of the yards until the shunter applied the handbrake or the wagon bumped into another. These days that kind of operation doesn’t happen – not only because of the damage caused to freight by the impacts, but because it’s simply considered too dangerous. What shunting that does occur generally involves the wagons being moved while all coupled together, and the shunter now rides on a safe platform built into the end of the locomotive, rather than on a narrow step between wagons. Some shunting is also carried out using remote control packs where the locomotive is moved by a shunter carrying a hand held controller on the ground.
Since the memorial is dated 1996, I have no idea what existed before that date, because deaths certainly occurred on the railways before then. The memorial is attended by a ceremony every year.