Saturday, 17 July 2010

Early Years of the Weka Pass Railway – Part 5 : 1985

As noted elsewhere I first visited the Weka Pass Railway in 1985 and these photos show some of the activities that were taking place at that time. Please note that this blog is a personal journal and does not purport to be officially representative of the Weka Pass Railway in any way.
In 1985, the Society had the ability to operate trains in its own right and had taken delivery of rolling stock a year previously for these purposes. It had also purchased sufficient plant and equipment to enable track maintenance to be carried out. However, apart from the track, it possessed little in the way of infrastructure - in terms of buildings, for example, apart from the lineside huts and tool shed in McKenzies Road, and at Frog Rock, which probably were all ex NZR facilities, only the engine shed was then under construction in the Waipara yard. Passenger facilities at McCaskeys Crossing were rudimentary and would clearly need significant improvement within the next few years. Until the engine shed was completed there was no undercover storage for any of the rolling stock least of all A 428 which was awaiting restoration. As noted in the trackwork article, the process at this time of track maintenance and repair was dependent to a large extent on manual physical labour with only a small degree of mechanisation. However, the Railway project was starting to gain momentum. By the end of the year, passenger trains were able to operate to Waikari. Several major projects were commenced the following year.
In 1985 also the Railway Society began to produce its popular newsletter the "Frog Rock Times". Dennis Handley was the first editor of the F.R.T. which took over from previous newsletters produced by Neville Tobin and others. In March the Society ran its first passenger trains in its own right and it also formally commissioned the Wickham inspection car for service. Another successful and profitable excursion train was run to Arthurs Pass on the Midland Line. Training sessions were organised for train running staff. Very close to Christmas a members' picnic train ran to Waikari, which was then open as a passenger destination. Other works included the acquisition of the Price no.198 diesel shunter from Ravensdown Fertiliser, and purchase of the Mina Station building from NZR.

Easter 1985, DG 2232 stands at McKenzies Road at the tail end of the passenger train, a car of which can be seen to the right. As there were no run around facilities at this time, passenger trains were operated with a locomotive at each end, while work trains were usually propelled from the downhill end. Passengers were embarked and disembarked from the train at this location, with road access directly from McCaskeys Crossing; there were no specialised facilities apart from portable steps.
Easter 1985, A 428 standing at McKenzies Road, downhill from the passenger train with other rolling stock.
May 1985, my first day on the Weka Pass Railway. The DG locomotives and the carriages are being turned on the Waipara NZR turning triangle. In the case of the locomotives, this procedure was carried out regularly to exchange locomotives at each end of the passenger train (see notes for the first photo) so as to even out the fuel consumption. In the right foreground is Harold Feather’s truck.
May 1985, first day. A work train, also carrying weedspraying equipment on the leading wagon, has dumped ballast from its YB wagons and is now about to head in the direction of the photographer, “ploughing” ballast with a sleeper under the leading wheels of the wagon. The location is known as “Timpendean”, very near the summit of the Weka Pass. You can see Bob Blaikie on the left, Shane Ward, Peter Gibson, (unknown) and Lindsay May on the right.
May 1985, first day. The work train reaches Waikari. This was something of an achievement because passenger trains were not yet able to run to this location. The removal of the level crossing at Waikari resulted in the heap of dirt being placed at the end of the line and lifted tracksets at left. This train was about to start the weedspraying, with the equipment shown. On the left is the late Charles Davison, with Harry Pawsey, an early Chairman, on the right.
May 1985, first day. The work train is about to pass Frog Rock on its way back down to Waipara. On the left we have Peter Gibson, an early Treasurer, on the right is Harry Pawsey, an early Chairman.
July 1985. The WPR society organised its own passenger excursion to Arthurs’ Pass as an annual fundraiser for several years. At the time, the winter season would see various groups operating the excursions almost every weekend. The train is seen here at Arthurs Pass under the electrified overhead that was installed at the time.
July 1985. The WPR society’s Arthurs Pass excursion is seen here crossing the Waimakariri River bridge with NZR passenger carriages.
September 1985. The track work gang is replacing some sleepers at Herberts Crossing. This location is near the site of a large wooden viaduct that was buried in 1936. This photo illustrates quite well how most of the track maintenance was done at the time, mostly with hand tools except for an electric drill running off a generator. Present in the photo from left are Noel Horsham, (unknown), (unknown), Ken Parker or Charles Davison, Shane Ward, Harold Feather (bent over), John Blaikie, (unknown), Stuart Dow.
September 1985. A different day sees ballasting being graded at the “Whistle Board Cutting”. The Wickham track inspection car can be seen in the background. NZR had two of these cars in operation up to the 1980s. From left we can identify either Keith or John Blaikie, Bob Blaikie, “Peter” (last name unknown) of Redwood, and Lindsay May.
September 1985. Probably the same day as the previous photo, this is the actual “Whistle Board Cutting”. The passenger train is passing through the cutting, so this was a day in which the railway was open to the public.
September 1985. This is the yard at Medbury station. A work party travelled to the area to recover the telephone lines due to the possibility of theft.
September 1985. Same day as the previous photo. The telephone line is being recovered across the Waitohi River bridge, the largest bridge on the Weka Pass Railway’s line, situated between Hawarden and Medbury.
September 1985. A track work party at work somewhere up the line. The DG locomotive in the background was being used to supply air for work tools on this day. People we can see in this photo include (from left) Stuart Dow, John Blaikie, (unknown), (unknown), (unknown), Gary Kelly and Geoff Allen.
December 1985. The engine shed at Waipara was under construction at the time, with the walls and roof put on, and the laying of track inside commenced.
December 1985. Another view of the end of the line at Waikari. At left is some of the the track that was lifted out of the road crossing in 1980. This was the occasion of a members’ end of year picnic. This is the first photo that I have of any passenger train at Waikari but I am unsure exactly when a public train to Waikari was first run.