Saturday, 24 July 2010

Early Years of the Weka Pass Railway – Part 8 : 1987 (A)

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.
As the calendar rolled over at the beginning of 1987, the Society was facing something of a watershed. On the one hand, it had achieved much during 1986; on the other hand, the achievement of being able to run trains to Waikari was short-lived. A great deal of work would be needed to rehabilitate the track and ultimately 13 years was needed to complete this task. With the track only open to the 5 km peg that year, the Railway's ability to attract the paying public was limited. However to counter this, at Easter, steam returned to the Weka Pass for the first time in three years when JA 1260 was used to haul passenger trains up the line. The train operation was highly successful and again proved the soundness of the original tourist steam railway proposition. During the year the Society made significant progress in raising funds to complete its track purchase from NZR, and over 600 sleepers were replaced in the track.
Another major event of the year was the completion of track recovery beyond Medbury. This work, started in May 1986, was completed in July. Because the membership had approved the removal of track back to Hawarden the previous November, the Society held an open day at Hawarden with trolley rides available to Medbury across the 550 foot Waitohi River Bridge and seven smaller bridges. Track removal continued and by the end of the year the rails were being lifted across the Waitohi bridge. In 1987 the Railway continued to run bus trips and social events for members. A trip to Plains and Pleasant Point railway museums was held in January, a historical jaunt along the old Oxford branch by bus ran in March, and the annual Christmas dinner took place in December.
Some other events of 1987 included the Mina Station being erected on its new foundations, the boiler of A 428 stripped and inspected, major trackwork at the engine depot and a new mainline connection following NZR's rearrangement of the Waipara yard, tenders called for removal of the Waikari goods shed, the second Wickham car delivered to Waipara, the purchase and demolition of the Heathcote station building, and another exhibition at the Christchurch A&P Show.
Early 1987. The track is seen at the Whistle Board cutting. At this time the line had only been closed a few months.
March 1987. A 428 was towed out of the shed to have the boiler lagging removed as Allan Campbell got its overhaul under way. It is seen here with one of the open carriages.
March 1987. The Shantytown carriage is seen at left, off-track. In the foreground is a newly laid siding alongside the engine shed.
Easter 1987. JA 1260 roars up the grade passing the 4 km peg with McCaskeys Dam in the background. The locomotive was operated over several days of the holiday weekend and was very popular.
Easter 1987. The JA was operated only to the 5 km point at Antills. As can be seen, at this time one of the carriages had been repainted into a short-lived blue and gold colour scheme. The red colour seen on the other two cars was reverted to several years later when NZ Rail Ltd changed their colours to blue.
June 1987. Little more than a year after the laying of the engine shed track, NZR resurveyed the Waipara yard for extensive alterations, including an extension of the crossing loop, and in so doing required a new location for the connecting siding to the Weka Pass Railway. This resulted in the engine shed sidings being disconnected while the track connecting them to the rest of the Railway was lifted and relaid on a new alignment. At far right is the old Waipara social hall which was taken over from NZR during the year and became the “Staffroom”.
June 1987. Track lifting in the closed section of the line had by this time almost reached back to Medbury. This is the long straight just north of the station showing the ballast remaining after sleeper removal.
June 1987. Members are working on the straight just north of Medbury station removing track. On this particular day the sleepers were loaded straight onto carriers’ trucks to fulfil a sale.
June 1987. With the lifting of the line between Hawarden and Medbury imminent, the Railway operated special public motor trolley trips from the Hawarden station yard. One of these is seen crossing the Waitohi River bridge.
June 1987. On the occasion of the special operating weekend at Hawarden the trolleys are seen at left ready for another trip to Medbury.
June 1987. While the trolley trips were operating, work was going on to lift the track through the Medbury yard. Consequently the trolley rides ended at the road crossing just south of the yard. Here we have (from left) Paul Markholm, Gary Kelly, John Bennetts, Ken Parker and Noel Horsham at work.
June 1987. Late in the day at the end of the public running weekend, the trolleys are loaded up at Hawarden for the trip by road back to Waipara.