Thursday, 30 December 2010

Fort Nelson Line, British Colombia, Canada

Fort Nelson is the northernmost extremity of BC Rail’s network in British Colombia. The line of roughly 400 km length was opened from Fort St John to Fort Nelson in 1971. There is very little population and therefore industry served by this line except at the two terminii.

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Here is the map of the entire route through sparsely populated British Colombia.

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The Fort Nelson railhead is at Muskwa, south of the Muskwa River. I do not know what industry or traffic sources are in the area, apart from recently closed timber processing plants.

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Near Muskwa is the Fort Nelson River shared single deck combined road and rail bridge.
Here is a Youtube clip of driving across the bridge.
Due to the very long length of this line, the lack of population of the area, the fact it was only built recently and loss of traffic from closed industries, plus recommendation of abandonment in the past, the line’s future must be rather precarious.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Queensland’s Kingaroy, Proston, Windera, Tarong & Nanango Branches (Part 2)

A lot more digging has managed to turn up the names of the Tarong and Nanango Branches which ran out from Kingaroy and these are now shown on the full map (which is now specific to this group or system of lines, rather than being for the whole of Queensland). This is different from the way I have done the NSW line series, the important difference being that features are marked for the Kingaroy branch which is not common with the NSW lines.
Once again I note the different standards which apply for the international maps, compared to NZ. For the most part the lines are using a different colour that is not used in NZ (brown), this implies that the line status is unknown. Features where marked are generally unnamed (they will say “bridge” or “station” but not its name).
However some familiar colours have been used in these maps: aqua for a line that is clearly closed (bridges missing) and green for lines where the route is not completely certain. Thus the Proston line is shown in aqua and the Windera, Tarong and Nanango branches are shown in green (due to it being difficult to be exactly sure of the routes).
It appears the Kingaroy line is to be converted to a rail trail although this is not confirmed at the time of writing.
Here is the full map.

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Here in detail are some features of the lines.

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Theebine Junction with the main line to the right and the branch heading away to the left. As you can see the junction was arranged to give access from both directions. The means by which this is done is pretty unusual (half a balloon loop instead of a wye) and I can only assume the first leg added did not leave room for the second wye leg later. A green line shows a suggested ballast siding location given there is a pit nearby and apparently some formation work remaining.
I don’t know how prevalent combined bridges were in Australia but there aren’t many left today, especially ones that are still used for both modes. The Dickabram bridge is supposed to be pretty weak by rail standards today (assuming it would need major strengthening repairs) but it has been brought up to scratch for road traffic in the last couple of years. It is a mixture of wood and steel and has the rail and one lane of road in parallel on the same deck; there has never been an exact equivalent in NZ.

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Near Nondiga is this substantial truss bridge of over 100 metres length. Just past Oakview is this location which appears to be a small siding (shown green).

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This looks like another truss bridge just past Mouingba. Kilikivan had a wye and nearby one of the few overbridges on the entire line.

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Murgon was the junction of the line to Proston.
In more recent times the line to Proston was cut back to Byee, where there is also the presumed junction of the line to Windera. At the time of publication several rakes of hopper wagons were visible on the Byee line in Google Earth. These have since been removed as part of the process of closing the lines.

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This is presumed to be roughly where the terminus was at Windera. It was a fairly short line (19 km) serving a miniscule population and probably was open less than 40 years.
Proston on the other hand had a few towns along the way including the terminus. The line was roughly 30 km long past Byee.

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Just out of Murgon back on the Kingaroy line is this 150 metre bridge (looks like a truss) – probably the second longest after Dickabram.
The terminus has a wye and two other branches disappearing out of the bottom of this view.

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Another wye at the terminus at Tarong. Possibly Tarong also had a siding near the terminus (ballast?)

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This curve on the Nanango line is one of the more difficult parts to determine exactly and an alternate route is shown.
The Nanango terminus, which at a guess has been built over hence the lack of clues.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Queensland’s Kingaroy, Proston, Windera, Tarong & Nanango Branches (Part 1)

At Theebine on the North Coast Railway Line of Queensland, a line branched off to Kingaroy which has closed recently. Partway up the branch at Murgon were further branches to Proston and Windera. At Kingaroy there were two branches running out to Tarong and Nanango. As far as I can tell Windera, Tarong and Nanango closed in the 1960s. Proston was cut back to Byee to serve local industry, later on it was used to store several rakes of hopper wagons. These wagons were moved out mid 2008. The line was formally closed December 2009. Formal closure in Australia, like NZ, is not so common these days as mothballing is more often seen particularly in NSW and latterly in NZ. The closure of this line means the track will be lifted, but there are proposals to convert the Kingaroy route into a rail trail.
One of the classical existing features of the branch is its single deck parallel road and rail bridge near Theebine (Dickabram Bridge). The bridge is about 200 metres in length and is steel trusses with wooden approach spans. Some pictures/video clips of this bridge that I have seen suggest it is in very poor condition. However Wikipedia says it was extensively restored in April 2009, but apparently this was with road traffic in mind. It is my understanding that the bridge is too weak for rail traffic which has helped to close the line. The bridge is 23 metres high, yet in 1898 there was a flood so big that the water was one metre over the decking.
(photo credits: Wikipedia)
Now my good friend Steve (wheel5800 on Flickr and Youtube) has also done some videoing of the line, mostly I believe around May 2008 when QR went into retrieve the rakes of wagons that were stored on the Byee Branch at Murgon. Here are some of his clips:

There are Parts 2 and 3 of this series as well, I haven’t shown them here.

This clip was taken at Theebine. The Queensland 1720 class locomotives are mechanically similar to our DBR class.
This last one comes from another author.
Part 2 will show you some features of the line in Google Maps with an overlay from NZ Rail Maps.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Switzerland’s Glacier Express (Part 6)

In this final part we can visit the Mattertal Line which takes the Glacier Express to its terminus at Zermatt, and I am also going to write about why I decided to publish the article series. The publication of such has been rather drawn out over this past month, to a degree unpredicted when I began writing.

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The final section of the journey of the Glacier Express begins at Brig with the Brig-Visp-Zermatt-Bahn. As you can see with the updates to the map above, it shows how the railway has changed at Brig, the old section on the north side of the river through Naters being closed recently in favour of a direct link on the south side. Brig is also the junction for the Simplon line to Geneva and Lausanne, the Milan-Domodosolla line to Italy via the Simplon Tunnel, and the Lötschberg line to Bern. The latter has been largely supplanted by the recently opened Lötschberg Base Tunnel, like Furka-Basistunnel at a much lower level, but is still operated with hourly express trains. Although the MGB owns both of the Brig-Visp-Zermatt-Bahn and the Furka-Oberhardt-Bahn since the two merged to make the MGB in 2003, the lines are considered to also junction at Brig.
Heading west from Brig the line is on the south side of the Rhone River. The valley is very steep on the north bank but flat on the south to begin with up to a width of 1 km. At Gamsen the valley is narrowing in. After 9 km we are coming to Visp having dropped only 20 metres in that distance. This is also a junction of lines and one of them was opened in 1891 as the Visp-Zermatt-Bahn, sometimes called the Mattertal Line.

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You can see that the BVZ has to make a sharp 90 degree turn at Visp (650 m, 35 km) in order to head south into the Matter Valley (Mattertal) which has the River Vispa at its base. The lines you can see exiting west are the Simplon line and the Neue Eisenbahn-Alpentransversale which is the deviation of the Lötschberg Line via Lötschberg-Basistunnel. The original Lötschberg route is on the north side of the Rhone. As the BVZ heads up the Mattertal the terrain is flat and open at first but very soon begins to climb as the valley narrows. We can understand that the gradients will become rather severe when the line has to ascend some 1000 metres of altitude to Zermatt in a track distance of just 35 km. Naturally this is achieved by means of the Abt rack and the maximum incline is about 1 in 8. As we reach Staldbach we are passing under a bridge that links two A9 motorway tunnels under construction (not shown on Google Earth at the time of writing).

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Soon after Ackersand (698 m, 29 km), the line crosses the Vispa on a concrete bridge and begins the first rack section, climbing quickly to Stalden (799 m, 28 km). The rack continues a little past Stalden and then the line goes on plain track through several tunnels before crossing the Mühlebachviadukt, which is 67 metres long and 43 metres high. There are several more tunnels before reaching Kalpetran (897 m, 24 km).
About 1 km further on is another bridge over the Vispa; the 146 metre Kipfenbrücke, which has had to be rebuilt several times after being destroyed by avalanches. The current bridge is downstream from the location that Google Earth showed at time of writing and was opened 2007. Thereafer another rack section lasts for the Kipfenschlucht section, the most scenic on the line albeit the most susceptible to damage from avalanches and flooding on numerous occasions. At the end the line crosses the Sellibrücke and then enters the widening valley near St Niklaus.

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Here we see the 75 metre Sellibrücke at the top of the frame and towards the bottom the Jungbachgalerie, a kind of tunnel. The description in Wikipedia for the Blattbachtunnel appears to be more appropriate for the Jungbachgalerie which is not mentioned at all.

Another rack section after St Niklaus (1126 m, 19 km) takes the line up through the
Blattbachtunnel which according to Wikipedia is an avalanche protection structure that replaced a bridge. You can understand easily the potential for avalanches with the extremely steep valley side which rises 1000 metres very rapidly.

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After the Blattbachtunnel comes the 31 metre Mattwaldbrücke taking us back across the Vispa. At Mattsand (1230 m, 15 km) the line passes a hydropower reservoir.
Past Breitmatten the line is deviated to go around the Randa landslide, which in 1991 buried 250 metres of the track causing it to be closed for 105 days. In order to traverse the deviation a fourth section of rack is required. The line then reaches Randa (1405 m, 10 km).

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After passing Täsch (1437 m, 6 km) the line crosses the Täschsandbrücke bridge just in advance of which the final section of Abt rack starts. Due to being prone to damage from natural events a high level of track protection structures cover the remaining length.
The rack ends at Kalter Boden (1539 m, 3 km) from which we can deduce the average grade on this last rack section is around 1 in 10. The crossing loop is sandwiched between two avalanche protection shelters (or Galerie).

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At the approach to Zermatt the line passes through the Lugelwang-Galerie and then the short Spissfluhtunnel takes it under the heliport.
Finally on the outskirts of Zermatt the line is taken through the Schafgrabengalerie; the sidings next to it cannot be used much in winter since they are not covered. Then the terminus is reached at 1605 metres altitude.

And that is a very extensive series of articles, the most extensive description I have ever given of 291 km of railway line.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Switzerland’s Glacier Express (Part 5)

In Part 5 we are going to look at the line as it goes from Oberwald to Brig, still running on the Matterhorn-Gotthard-Bahn. Oberwald is where the Furka-Basistunnel deviation of 1982 joins with the original line over Furkapass which is now operated as a steam heritage railway, Dampfbahn Furka-Bergstrecke. Their full opening to Oberwald was completed recently, August 2010.

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This journey is taking place entirely within the narrow steep sided Rhone valley. Leaving Oberwald the line is for some distance following a channelised river which is eventually allowed to resume more traditional banks. The line is somewhat lacking in geographical challenges until getting past Selkingen when a tunnel is encountered. After Niederwald the valley narrows still more. There is a steady, easy descent to Fürgangen after which two sweeping horseshoe curves are employed to get the line down the final 100 metres declination into Fiesch.

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From Fiesch the route is continuing in the valley and just past Lax it is hugging the side of the river gorge with a curved bridge needed to get it across a ravine. Grades are steepening at this point and it appears the rack is used as the line continues descending and encountering a spiral Kerhtunnel section on the approach to  Ze Brigge. A viaduct is located at the foot of this tunnel.

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Just out of Betten Dorf another viaduct is crossed with its central arch bridging the highway and river. The valley then becomes very narrow with barely room for the road and the railway track. Progress from here is somewhat unspectacular until reaching Brig, which is the junction of various lines (including the famed Simplon Tunnel) and has a large marshalling yard on the south side of the river. The Furka-Oberalp-Bahn used to pass this yard on the north bank before it turned through 180 degrees to enter Brig at the south/west end after crossing the river and passing under the main lines. At the time of writing this, the Google Earth coverage was dated 1997 and still shows this route (now closed). However since the merging of the FOB with the Brig-Visp-Zermatt-Bahn that formed the MGB, the line in 2007 was taken into Brig directly from the north/east eliminating the level crossings in the north bank section and making Brig into a through station rather than a terminus.

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Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Cromwell & Lowburn Bridge Dives

The construction of the Clyde Dam and filling of Lake Dunstan in 1993 raised the water level in the Cromwell Gorge some 60 metres and submerged the old road bridges at Cromwell and Lowburn. The structures of both bridges were left in place, although stripped down, rather than being demolished. The clip above shows a dive on both bridges and was released on Youtube earlier this year. An old car which was left on the Lowburn Bridge before the lake filled is also shown. The two bridges are popular dive sites in the Otago Region.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Switzerland’s Glacier Express (Part 4)

The final piece of the Dampfbahn Furka-Bergstrecke heritage steam railway over the Furka Pass is the section between Gletsch and Oberwald which was opened only four months ago. Due to the Alpine winter it is currently closed until the line is reopened in the springtime.

For the diehards here are two Youtube video clips of operations soon after opening (steam).

Here is a map of the first part of the section.

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You can see a spiral turn a little below Gletsch. This being entirely in tunnel is known as a turn-tunnel, helical tunnel or Kehrtunnel. The line continues down the Rhone valley

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Eventually we can see that the Furka Base line is coming in from the right. Here I’ll talk a little bit about what happens on this line. From Realp at 59 km, the line runs into the tunnel and about 6 km in there is a crossing loop, Rotondo. After another 6 km is another crossing loop, Geren. After exiting at the Oberalp end there are two bridges crossed and then directly from the end of the second bridge the line enters the Oberalp deviation tunnel, in which it curves around through 90 degrees passing directly under the old route. Oberwald is reached at 41 km.

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Here is Oberwald with the old route now on the right, the routes having crossed over as mentioned above.

Next time we will be continuing on the MGB to Brig. And the final part after that will cover the Mattertal Line where the route finally goes up the spur on the mountain to reach its terminus.

Switzerland’s Glacier Express (Part 3)

In this part we are going to look at the line over and under the Furka Pass. The original line over was bypassed by the Furka Base Tunnel under in 1982. The old line is  now a heritage railway. It is operated by the Furka Cogwheel Steam Railway and is a rack operation.

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We start for today at Andermatt, a railway town through and through. Apart from the east-west bisection of the MGB (our line), Andermatt also has the Schöllenenbahn rack railway heading north to join the Gotthard line at Göschenen, where the north portal of the Gotthard rail tunnel is near, and the tunnel passes beneath Andermatt. Heading west, the Matterhorn Gotthard Barn is in the steep sided, narrow valley Ursental. A little west of Hospental is a short curved viaduct. Past Zumdorf the line is right next to the road and straight for a few hundred metres until it reaches the tunnel on the outskirts of Realp. After passing through the station the junction of the old and new routes is met just next to the portal of the Furka Base Tunnel.

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Here you can see the old route over the top at the left and the current MGB line to the right as it enters the tunnel. Since we cannot see any features of the tunnelled line in Google Earth, the following description will be of application to the Furka Pass line, the original route of the Furka-Oberalp-Bahn for 70 years from 1911 to 1981. After leaving Realp the line climbs steadily and crosses a short viaduct taking it from the north to the south side of the Furkareusse. After passing through three tunnels the legendary Steffenbachbrücke folding bridge is reached. The legend is that this bridge was made to be foldable in order to protect it from the severe winter conditions such as avalanches. How did the conditions become anticipated in order to know when to fold the bridge? Well, the line was closed totally for the winter and reopened in the springtime. It was even necessary in the latter times when the line was electrified for the overhead electric wires to be removed in order that they should be protected from the severe snowfalls and such. Passing through Tiefenbach to Steinstafel the eponymous viaduct is reached. Furka Station is at 2160 metres, a climb of more than 600 metres since Realp. It was the terminal station of the Dampfbahn Furka-Bergstrecke (Furka Cogwheel Steam Railway) until 1999.

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The train now leaves the station and runs 150 metres to the 1874-metre length Furka Summit Tunnel, passing under the Blauberg. There is a slight drop through the tunnel until Muttbach-Belvédère station is reached at 2118 metres. After almost 20 years abandonment the tunnel was reopened in 2000, the geological conditions that had dogged its original construction were in force again during the hiatus and transfer to the DFB resulting in much work being needed to get it into operation once more.  As the line heads west it becomes necessary to cross the main road, formerly with danger for two wheeled traffic due to the rack rail in this section. The DFB has altered the position of the line slightly so as to make it truly a “level crossing” so that the rack can be discontinued for the part of the line in the road. Finally, Gletsch is reached at 1757 metres being some 400 metres lower than Furka.

From 2000 this was the DFB terminus. The line to Oberwald was reopened just in August this year and will be covered in a bit more detail in Part 4 along with the Furka Base Tunnel route.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Pike River Mine goes into receivership

It’s been announced today that Pike River Coal Ltd has been placed into receivership. Unfortunately this has been on the cards ever since the explosion due to the fact that the mine operation was already in considerable debt and has not been able to earn significant income since that time, and has been faced with ongoing expenses and the prospect of being closed for a considerable period.

It is likely the mine cannot re-open until the Royal Commission has ruled which is many months away – a year or more. It therefore remains to be seen what options the receivers will have for the mine – whether they try to sell it at a rock bottom price, or scrap the existing assets (which would realise far less money than their construction cost), or wait until the outcomes are more certain to enable a better market price for the mining operation.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Backshunts and Headshunts (North Taieri Sidings Example)

Backshunts and headshunts are dead end pieces of track which are commonly connected to other shunting tracks and loops to facilitate train shunting operations. Whilst they superficially resemble each other and may be easily confused they are used differently and their names represents these differences.
The difference in naming relates primarily to whether the end of the headshunt or backshunt is entered by the head or back of the train, hence the names. I’ll use this map of part of the North Taieri rail sidings to illustrate this. Note that the map may be incorrect, however photos appear to confirm the main siding leg alongside Stedmans Road is single ended, with main line points at the south end only at the time of writing. In the working of such a siding, since the locomotive cannot be run around the train, the locomotive will have to be put onto the correct end of the train at Wingatui before the shunt goes up to North Taieri. The shunt will be propelled in one direction across two level crossings in the area.
N.B. The North Taieri sidings contain various loops so it would appear they are not actually worked as described here, and there may not be any propelling of shunts across three level crossings – Stedman Road, Factory Road and Gladstone Road North. However it is illustrative, and applies to many other siding layouts where single dead ended sidings are common.

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Looking at this map you can see the shunting leg alongside the main line starting from Silver Stream Bridge at the south end and going up to Dukes Road North at the north end. The main sidings being at the north and south boundaries of the industrial site to the left (Fonterra’s new stores).
The way the piece of dead end track at the north end of the shunting leg is used is as follows:
  • To service the south end sidings, the locomotive is put onto the north end of the rake and it heads north up from Wingatui. The locomotive heads the rake into the dead end track so it is functioning as a headshunt. The rake is then backed into the siding and wagons are added or removed. The headshunt is then used again as the locomotive heads out of the siding into the dead end. The train is then reversed onto the mainline and propelled back to Wingatui.
  • To service the north end sidings , the locomotive is put onto the south end of the rake and it is propelled up from Wingatui. If necessary the train at some stage is backed into the dead end track which functions as a backshunt. An example would be to uncouple part of the train or the locomotive while leaving the rest of the train in the backshunt. The locomotive or rest of the train then is put into the north end siding and when it comes out again the rear part of the train can be recoupled before the whole train heads south back to Wingatui.
A typical place you can see a headshunt used is in conjunction with a run around loop at a terminal station. The locomotive is taken off the train and goes forward into the headshunt, which is a short dead end section beyond the main line to loop points. The points are reversed and the locomotive then goes back into the loop and runs to the other end of the train on the main line. Whereas a backshunt is a proper description of a single ended siding into a site where the locomotive that works the siding is not kept in the site. The train is only ever backed into the dead end because the locomotive has to be put at the other end so that it can leave the site at the end of the shunt.
On a zig zag or switchback railway, dead end sections are found at the ends of the switches which function as either headshunts or backshunts depending on the direction of travel.
In former times, sidings such as North Taieri would have been worked in a more flexible fashion than is possible today by using fly or slip shunting, where wagons were allowed to be detached from a train while the train was in motion. This was standard practice at most railway shunting yards throughout the country. However the practice is quite dangerous as it requires rail operators to cross the tracks between moving wagons or to ride on the wagons themselves, and it has been phased out for a number of years, so that whenever the train is in motion, all wagons remain coupled and the train must be stopped completely before any wagons are attached or detached.
FOOTNOTES: North Taieri appears to be a bit more sophisticated than a lot of private sidings – it is apparently rated for mainline locomotives and must have one or more loops within the complex. It suggests that the site is expected to handle a high volume of rail traffic in the future.

Fonterra’s North Taieri Sidings

In recent years the NZ major dairy company Fonterra has become a major rail customer and are building up their extent of rail traffic as they construct new facilities which have rail sidings in them. One of the recent developments in 2010 is a new facility on Taieri Industrial Estate at North Taieri near Wingatui. It is served by the Taieri Industrial Line, which is the first 3.5 km of the former Otago Central Railway from Wingatui on the Main South Line. The siding begins at about 2.5 km, just north-west of the Silver Stream Bridge, where it branches from the TIL. The northern end of the siding ends in a backshunt at the Dukes Road North level crossing.

The Taieri Industrial Estate has been developed over many years and is adjacent to and incorporating part of the Taieri Aerodrome site. The airfield was first developed in the 1920s and the first rail sidings were completed in 1943 when the Royal New Zealand Air Force established its station at the aerodrome. The main airport at Dunedin was developed at Momona, further south, in 1962 resulting in a downgrade of the airfield which now serves light aircraft and also houses the local rescue helicopter service. The Taieri Aerodrome sidings were used regularly until 1958 for passenger trains and freight which included aviation fuel deliveries. The industrial estate has been served for a number of years by the former aerodrome sidings which were re-opened for service in 1978. The major occupier at North Taieri in recent years has been Fisher and Paykel, which purchased it in 1986, who have at some stage used the siding to rail in raw materials such as steel. In 2008 F&P announced that the manufacturing plant would be closed down and moved to Mexico.

Immediately to the west of the Fonterra site is the former Silver Fern Farms (PPCS) Silverstream plant now owned by Scales Group, while on the southern boundary beside the original railway siding is the premises of Odlins, who at some time used it to rail in logs. The Silver Fern Farms site was originally developed by Fortex as a freezing works in 1990. It was sold to PPCS in 1994. In 2008 SFF sold it to Scales Group, the owner of Polarcold. SFF continue to lease part of the site for meat processing while Polarcold have taken over operation of the coolstores there. In the days of Fortex they used the rail siding to send out export containers of meat. The private Otago Business Park is being developed on the north side of Dukes Road North opposite Polarcold/SFF and is likely to incorporate several of Fonterra’s suppliers which are finding it convenient to relocate adjacently. In recent years there has been extensive residential development along the south boundary of the Taieri Estate/Aerodrome (Silver Stream) towards Mosgiel and this is ongoing with the Silver Springs subdivision in Wingatui Road.

In October 2008 F&P and Fonterra announced that they had reached agreement on the sale of the North Taieri factory complex, including the rail siding and an adjacent undeveloped site. Fisher and Paykel completed the closure of its facilities at North Taieri in March 2009, continuing to lease the site for another four months. Fonterra was compelled to relocate to this site when their premises at Awatea Street, Dunedin, were required to make way for the city stadium development.

The rail sidings have been developed in recent months and incorporate a siding alongside the main line in Stedmans Road up to Dukes Road North and two new spurs crossing Stedmans Road along the northern boundary of the site. The original rail siding remains at the south boundary and may be extended to service a container yard development, and further extensions to the factory buildings are also planned. It is expected that the first stage of development will require four shunts per day from the Edendale dairy factory in Southland. These services will be fitted around the Taieri Gorge Railway’s usage of the Taieri Industrial Line, which has a junction with the TGR at the 3.5 km peg just north of the Dukes Road North level crossing, and will result in a significant increase in industrial rail traffic on the Main South Line and associated routes around Dunedin. The sidings came into operation in October 2010 with the first shunt service taking several containers of milk powder to Port Chalmers for export loading. Fonterra has suggested further development of the area as an “inland port” which will act as a container transport hub for Port Chalmers.

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The map shows the general area with some of the past and present development. The red line running north-south at a slight angle is the Taieri Industrial Line which used to be the Otago Central Railway. Towards the north edge of the map the lower of two green arrows shows the junction of the Taieri Gorge Railway which continues as the purple line to Middlemarch.  The upper green arrow is where the original junction of the two lines was planned in 1990. The white circle next to it is the location of the Taieri Gorge Railway’s North Taieri station. Just north of Dukes Road North the white star and green line indicate the approximate location and route of the former Taieri Ballast Pit siding which was opened in 1886 and used to construct the line as far as Pukerangi. Continuing south across Dukes Road and coming alongside the Fonterra complex another white circle indicates the original Taieri Aerodrome siding. The white square further south indicates the location of the Silver Stream Rail Bridge, which in the time of the Otago Central Railway was numbered as Bridge No.1 and is 65 metres long and 3 metres high.

Turning our attention now to the complex and associated developments we can see the three sidings coming off the Taieri Industrial Line and crossing Stedman Road. A single ended siding has been laid alongside the Taieri Industrial Line next to Stedman Road and the three siding spurs are connected to it (blue lines). The original aerodrome siding is at the south end of the site and it has a spur still in place which curves around to run between the Silver Fern Farms/Polarcold site and Fonterra’s site, while two new sidings run into the Fonterra premises at the north end. The adjacent green lines show hypothesised siding sites which are based on aerial examination of ground features. Whilst Fortex used the siding shown in white alongside their plant, it is purely speculative to show a green line suggesting there might have been further sidings inside the plant boundaries or into what may been a loading shelter. A white i on the north side of Dukes Road North shows where the Otago Business Park is sited. In the south western corner of the map we can see recent and ongoing residential development of the area with a white i indicating the Silver Springs subdivision.

The map is incomplete as regards the actual degree of railway development at North Taieri until such time as either a detailed site plan is available or Google Earth coverage is updated.


HISTORICAL FOOTNOTES / RESEARCH TOPICS: Who owned the North Taieri complex before Fisher and Paykel? Possible candidates could include defunct whiteware manufacturers Shacklock and Champion. However this is pure speculation on my part and I have no evidence whatsover to date to confirm this hypothesis.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Vintage Aircraft Nuts [3]: Bristol Freighters

This post is exclusively about Bristol Frightners. Here in NZ we have about the last taxiiable Frightner as far as I know in the world. As we know, Safe Air was still operating them in NZ into the mid 80s. There were a few more commercial operations after that, including several in Canada where they were flying them into mining strips in the remote outback of British Columbia. From this company, Hawkair, the last flight of a Bristol Freighter in the world took place in about 2005 when they flew their sole survivor to a Canadian museum. The Poms had a go at preserving one in flying order, but they pranged it at an airshow and that was the end of it unfortunately.

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This is a map of the Bronson Creek airstrip which served the nearby Snip Mine which was a goldmine in British Columbia. It closed down in 1999. The mine camp and the airstrip are still used for recreation in the area and a proposal for a new mine called Bronson Slope is under consideration. Hawkair and its predecessor Trans Provincial Airways were obviously low cost operators with just a few aircraft, old piston engined planes that were cheap to buy and run, important to contain the costs of a mining operation where everything and everyone had to be flown in or out.

Here are a couple of promo clips for DVDs that hardcore enthusiasts can buy:

In particular note in the second clip the colours of the first aircraft shown, which are the Safe Air colours obviously with the name painted out. This particular aircraft had been flown to Canada from New Zealand when Safe Air closed up its Bristol operations here.

Now going forward to recent years, there are several Freighters preserved in NZ, one of which is at Omaka Aerodrome. About two years ago an effort was made to restore the engines to working order and it has since been taxiied at one or two airshows and the like. Here are some clips of it.

This is one of their first taxi runs. The means of turning the propellers by hand on the engines was done in order to check there was no hydraulic lock in any of the cylinders. As mentioned in my previous post, all inverted engines (the lower cylinders on a radial, inline engines which are inverted such as the Gypsy Queen on the Tiger Moth) are susceptible to fluid (generally lube oil) draining into the inverted cylinders after the engine is shut down. This ends up collecting in the combustion space where it can create a hydraulic lock situation (“hydraulicing”) when the engine is turned over for start up, because fluid is not compressible this would severely damage the engine. The procedure for starting such engines therefore encompassed either the hand turning shown, or turning several revolutions on the starter with the ignition off to ensure there was no lock.

This clip shows engine start and adjustment. Like the Rolls Royce Merlin, Bristol Hercules engines were comparatively noisy and were not popular on passenger aircraft. However the Hercules was a good solid engine that had one of the highest production levels of all time in the UK – over 57,000 of them were produced, many for WW2, and there were even some fitted to the mighty Lancaster bomber. It was really the peak of Bristol’s sleeve-valve technology – the later more powerful engines such as the Centaurus were not so numerous because of the development of turbine engines was so rapid after the war.

Another engine run, one of the better quality clips out there.

To finish off here is a clip of a preserved Hercules engine mounted on a trailer for operational display in the UK. This engine has quite a different exhaust system from the Freighter helping to account for the different engine sound.

Vintage Aircraft Nuts [2]

Engine runs of a DC-6 in Columbia.

Wright R-3350 engine run, supposedly on a test stand, this engine has no PRTs so it must be an earlier series engine.

Three P-47 fighters starting up.

DC-6 performing at an airshow.

L1049 Constellation starting its engines and taking off. The large volume of smoke from the startup of radial engines is very typical because lube oil tends to drain into the lower cylinders when the engine is stopped and gets burned off at startup, this also contributes to a higher rate of oil consumption. Because the accumulation in the lower cylinders carried the risk of causing hydraulic lock, the typical startup procedure for large radial engines involves turning through at least a couple of revolutions with the ignition off to check that the pistons move freely. Most radial engines are dry-sump which means the oil is pumped in from tanks rather than being kept in a sump at the bottom of the engine.


A clip of the Blackburn Beverley, a large UK military freighter with four Bristol Centaurus sleeve-valve radial engines.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

GAG in action

Here’s one of several videos released by NZ Police showing the GAG unit in action at Pike River Mine.

While this earlier clip showed the explosion which is believed to have set the mine on fire.

Switzerland’s Glacier Express (Part 2)

In part 1 we looked at the route from Sankt Moritz to Thusis, the part of the route that is the Albula Railway. At Thusis the line follows the Hinterrhein northward and eventually turns east for Chur. From here the train reverses and heads back the way it came to the junction of the Furka Oberalp Bahn at Reichenau. From there the line climbs to the Oberalp Pass at 2023 metres and then drops down to Andermatt at 1447 metres.

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Junction of lines at Reichenau. Just west of Trin the line is running at the foot of huge cliffs - perhaps as much as 200 metres high.

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Even bigger cliffs a little further on – 300 metres?

At Bugnei the line crosses the eponymous viaduct. Bugnei is also noted for an industrial siding with overhead wiring, tunnel and viaduct of its own.

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Oberalppass station with Oberalp Lake to its west. The railway up to here went under many avalanche shelters. Between the station at Nätschen and Andermatt (Junction) the line must lose about 400 metres of height and it does so by way of the zigzag shown with its five horseshoe curves and three tunnels. The road has a similar tortuous path and is actually crossed over four times. The railway is a rack section.

So that’s Part 2. Part 3 will cover the Furka Section which since 1982 includes the Furka Base Tunnel. Before the tunnel opened the line over the Furka Pass had to be closed in winter due to heavy snowfalls. The old line over the top has been turned into the Furka Cogwheel Steam Railway.

Switzerland’s Glacier Express (Part 1)

The Glacier Express is a 291 km train journey between the two mountain resorts of St Moritz and Zermatt, which respectively serve Piz Bernina and the Matterhorn, in the Swiss Alps. The train ride takes almost 8 hours and en route it crosses some 291 bridges and passes through 91 tunnels. The service was first operated in 1930 and is marketed as a tourist attraction carrying more than 250,000 passengers each year. It is particularly notable for numerous spiral sections including turn tunnels, high bridges and viaducts, some very long tunnels (including the 15 km Furka Base Tunnel), large sections of rack railway and the crossing of the Oberalp Pass at 2033 metres altitude. A section of the original route at the Furka Pass, which was bypassed in 1982, is operated as a steam heritage railway. The entire route of the Glacier Express over several separate railways is on metre gauge lines. It rates as one of the world’s great train journeys.

Here is a map showing the entire route. This first part of this series covers the journey on the Albula Railway from Sankt Moritz to Thusis which is the first 60 km of the trip.

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Here is the journey in more detail with a series of maps. In order to help fill in the details I recommend the Map SwitzerlandMobility online topos. These have much better detail than Google Maps which contains many glaring inaccuracies and I would never have been able to fill in much of the detail without the topos.

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The journey begins at Sankt Moritz at 1775 metres altitude on the shore of Lake Sankt Moritz. Sankt Moritz is known as the home of the Winter Olympics of 1928/1948 and many subsequent sporting championships. This line is called the Albula Railway.

Heading north some 7 km the line turns west at Bever (a junction), climbing to Spinas where it encounters the 5.8 km Albula Tunnel, dropping down to exit at Preda. The gradient is about 1 in 31, comparable to our Otira Tunnel.

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Between Preda and Muot the line drops 203 metres in a track distance of 6 km. In order to help achieve this there are two complete spirals in this section, the first of which is a spectacular double spiral. In all, there are 5 tunnels and 4 major viaducts in the section.

A similar rate of descent is needed between Muot and Bergün/Bravuogn which is partly accomplished by this spectacular series of horseshoe curves with the track crossing under itself in a tunnel. The Val Tisch is a 100 metre viaduct in this section.

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The descent continues to Filisur where another spiral is encountered and the train passes through 13 tunnels.

Shortly after the railway junction at Filisur the line passes through the Landwasser Tunnel exiting onto the spectacular curved Landwasser Viaduct, a 136 metre long limestone structure which is 65 metres high and is on a radius of 100 metres.

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Just outside Solis the train crosses the 164 metre Solis Viaduct which is also of limestone and is 89 metres high.

Between Solis and Thusis the route traverses 10 tunnels in 8 km. Just outside Thusis is the 228 metre Hinterrhein viaduct (shown). On reaching Thusis the train has descended to altitude 697 metres having lost almost 400 metres since Filisur. The line in between has grades of up to 1 in 26 (about the same as the Roa or Rewanui inclines in NZ).

Well that’s Part 1. The next part covers the Oberalp section with the eponymous pass at 2033 metres.