Saturday, 24 July 2010

Early Years of the Weka Pass Railway – Part 10 : 1988 (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.

1988 was a busy year for the Weka Pass Railway. The defining event of 1988 in the railway calendar of New Zealand was the Ferrymead 125 festival in Christchurch which involved rail groups from all around the country in commemorating the 125th anniversary of railways in New Zealand. Consequently a lot of work went into preparing the locomotives and rolling stock of the Society that were used in 125 events and continuing to maintain the railway track to be used for events after the 125 festival, as well as operating public trains during the year.
In regard to the area of track maintenance, a major project during the year was carried out at Antills, near the 4.5 km peg, where problems were experienced with slumping of the formation. 22 tracksets were lifted and the formation reconstructed, the track was then replaced, ballasted and tamped. Track was also lifted in the summit cutting at Waikari to enable a roading contractor who was working on alterations to the main highway to partially fill in the cutting close to the road. At the time the intention was that the widening and filling of the cutting would assist in the Railway's goal of establishing a terminus there in the future. More track was also recovered between Hawarden and Medbury and the telephone poles were removed by a contractor. In September the Society members voted to remove all the assets beyond State Highway 7 at Waikari.
Public train running for most of the year was diesel only after it proved impossible to run JA 1260 at Easter. A boiler inspection found a large number of broken stays and as it was not worthwhile to replace these, the locomotive was instead prepared for returning to Plains. Progress was also made on the Glenmark station and open carriage with both in public use for the first time at Easter. In August the Hudswell Clarke B10 locomotive from Pukeuri was transported to Waipara to be evaluated for possible use. However its restoration was considered uneconomic, due to its limited capabilities, and it was sent back, later becoming a mainstay feature of the Oamaru Steam and Rail Society’s operation.
During the annual winter excursion season when the Otago Excursion Train Trust carriages were brought up to Christchurch, WPR members helped raise funds for the Society by volunteering as staff for the buffet car and train cleaning. This feat was repeated for the smaller 125 excursion programme. The Society's DG locomotives participated in the 125 Cavalcade and its carriages were chartered for use in some of the trips that ran during the festival week. The day after the conclusion of the Festival, the Railway organised a special open day at Waipara running a public excursion up from Christchurch with its locomotives and carriages. At Glenmark, public trips were run up the line with the diesel locomotives and GVR's JA 1250 and its train which was returning to Auckland (Steam Trek 88).
Other events in 1988 included a bus trip for members to Plains and Pleasant Point railways, mid winter and Christmas members' dinners, another Arthurs Pass excursion, maintenance and repainting of DG locomotives, purchase of DG 2376 ex Southern Rail, TR 275 ex Addington Workshops was towed up on its way to Founders Park in Nelson, and the second loop turnout was installed at Glenmark.
From my personal perspective, I was spending more of 1988 working on the Ferrymead Railway to prepare for its major role in the 125 festival and therefore there are fewer pictures of the Weka Pass Railway in this gallery than in some other years.
February 1988. A small work party went to the Waikari road crossing to lift the track in the cutting so that the formation could be filled to a higher level. Further work in 1999 was carried out to reduce the gradient and thereby improve the operational conditions for trains stopping at the terminus. Here are Harold Feather and Gary Kelly.
Early 1988, a passenger train hauled by both DGs and including the open carriage is passing the 4 km point above McCaskeys Dam. Both locomotives were repainted a few months later along with the remaining red cars.
April 1988, a special excursion train is seen at Waipara. This photo shows the extensive changes at the south end, where the loop had been extended and a public siding was the sole remnant of a once extensive yard.
April 1988. A casualty of the Waipara yard changes was the turning triangle. This site is now occupied by the WPR carriage restoration depot.
April (probably Easter) 1988. A passenger train is in the Antills area. Major formation repairs were carried out at this site during the year.
April 1988. Showing the filling in carried out at the Waikari cutting. Clearly visible is slumping of the cutting walls due to the unstable soil, a problem that was to vex the railway for another 11 years.
April 1988. Showing how the cutting at Waikari was completely filled in (using road fill from alterations to the highway). This was a start towards the development of the terminus that is today several metres above the road level, in order to eliminate the unfavourable 1 in 70 downhill gradient.