Saturday, 24 July 2010

Early Years of the Weka Pass Railway – Part 14 : 1990-91

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 year of the New Zealand Sesquicentennial (150th anniversary), 1990 offered special opportunities to community groups to receive government funding for commemorative events. The railfan community was just as quick to seize the moment as any other, and the year saw the Canterbury Steam and Rail Festival organised by Ferrymead Historic Park as the first inter-society event of its kind since Ferrymead 125 two years before. Another group at Ferrymead organised a Vulcan Railcar tour of the South Island; this had an unexpected outcome when railcar RM 51 broke down at Waipara on its way north and the organisers made use of the Weka Pass Railway's facilities to ready the car for towing back to Christchurch. June 1990 saw steam locomotive W 192 operated on the line during the Queens Birthday weekend. During 1991 the Railway also began to develop its Japanese tour train operation and the first trains ran towards the end of that year.
Track refurbishment continued and at Easter 1990 the line was open to the 6.5 km peg. By December 1991 this had been extended to 9.5 km, past Frog Rock where a temporary platform was built. An NZR tamper and ballast regulator worked along the major relay site at Antills in May 1990. Track in the whistle board cutting was lifted in May 1991 and the trackbed was dug out by a scraper and the fill used to form an embankment for a proposed siding. The track was then replaced, ballasted and tamped by the Society's 04 tamper, probably the last occasion it was operated successfully on the line. Recovery work continued between Waikari and Hawarden. During 1990 scrap metal contractor Railbase Systems assisted in the recovery of surplus rail in this section. The work was finally concluded in August 1991 and enabled the track workers to focus their efforts solely on the operating railway. Progress after 1991 was however slow and it took another eight years to complete the last 3.5 kilometres to the Waikari Corner terminus. A major milestone came towards the end of 1990 when repayment of the NZR track purchase loan was completed. Following the completion of recovery from Medbury the road metal/ballast pit was extended right across the former station site. The backshunt at Glenmark station was aligned with the help of the crane and the loop points were completed.
Major restoration work was carried out on the Weka Pass Railway car-van during 1990 and 1991. As NZ Rail had changed its colour scheme to blue, the WPR's blue carriages were repainted red during the period. Bogies were also changed on the 50 foot guard's van. Battery boxes were removed from the carriages as the batteries were not in use and acid leakage posed a maintenance problem. A KP wagon was purchased as a dangerous goods store. The WPR purchased a 3 wheel hand trolley, WW 198. Work continued on A 428 with a replacement smokebox manufactured and the boiler almost completed. DG 791 was fitted with a new set of batteries, while TR 275 was trucked to Nelson by its owners. DSA 822 was sent up to Waipara for trials and as these proved successful it was later purchased by the railway.
Other events during 1990 - 1991 included the Easter 1990 Waipara Fair, demolition of the Waipara station (a part of which was recycled as a carriage workshop and shelter), purchase and transport of the Hundalee Station to Waikari, a bus trip to Waiau looking at some of the remains of the branch line, relocation of the gangers hut from Bentleys Road crossing near Hawarden, repairs to the social hall, purchase of land in the Waipara yard, purchase of six Tyers Train Tablet machines, purchase of a new diesel powered air compressor, commissioning new train control huts along the line, installation of a shower in the social hall, a members day in February 1990, purchase of sleepers from Addington Workshops, painting of Glenmark Station, and purchase of the Waipara trolley shed.
1991 was the last year that I worked personally on the Railway, as I no longer had the free time to travel to the site and work on Sundays, the main work days. I also allowed my membership of the Society to lapse after this time. Over the succeeding years until about 2003 I continued to take an interest by attending the biennial Waipara Vintage Festivals. However due to having severed my participation in the local railfan community in the last few years, I have not maintained contact since that time.
August 1990. This is the Gemmells Road level crossing just south of Hawarden. There was still some track in place at that time.
August 1990. Track had recently been removed just west of the Waikari level crossing at this time. This section of the formation is now a walkway.

August 1990. The cutting at Waikari which was partly filled several years before is seen, very overgrown and waterlogged. The overbridge No.2 can just be seen in the background.

August 1990. This is the former station building at Rotherham. It was owned by the WPR and intended to be used at Waikari, but was assessed about this time to be unsuitable for restoration due to its deteriorating condition. This caused the society to purchase the Hundalee station instead and the Rotherham building was then sold.

May 1991. The whistle board cutting before removal of the track.

May 1991. A contractor lifts the track in the whistle board cutting.
May 1991. Formation at the whistle board cutting after the track was removed.
May 1991. A road scraper starts work on lowering the formation at the whistle board cutting.

May 1991. The formation being scraped at the whistle board cutting.

May 1991. Just south of the whistle board cutting, the scraper is dumping earth at the site of a proposed siding. At the time it was considered desirable to have an intermediate crossing point in the Weka Pass for use on busy days.
May 1991. After the earthworks are completed, the track is lifted back in by Gray and Lewis’s excavator.
1991. A work train ballasts the relaid track in the whistle board cutting.
1991. The track gang at work at 8.5 km, just below Frog Rock. The terminus reached Frog Rock soon after, and then advanced very slowly towards Waikari; the last 4 km took some seven years to complete.
1991. The Plasser 04 tamper at work at the whistle board cutting. Probably this is the last time it was successfully operated on the railway.
1991. A closeup of the front of the Plasser 04 tamper working in the whistle board cutting with Shane Ward checking the operation.