Axver (axver) wrote,

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Railway ramblings!

How to know you're a hyper-generork #171: when you read a comment on Wikipedia that if usage levels remain at their current levels, the world's coal reserves will be exhausted by 2267, you instantly think "OH NO! WHAT ABOUT THE STEAM TRAINS?"

In fact, I really can't think of much else in relation to that tidbit, especially as a world without steam locomotives isn't a delightful subject for a person like me. I was rather excited to discover during recent forays in the wilds of the Internet that a number of old New Zealand steam locomotives that were dumped in rivers have now been recovered and are being restored back to operational condition. New Zealand Rail (NZR) used to have this practice where, when an engine had reached the end of its useful life and was written off, it would be dumped in a river to help prevent erosion and improve the riverbank's stability. That means that instead of being long gone memories that have been cut up and melted down at scrapworks, significant numbers of old New Zealand locomotives are actually lying buried around the country. Importantly, these include the remains of engines representing classes of locomotives of which no members are currently preserved. It's one thing to bring an Ab or a Ka class locomotive back into working order - we already have examples of them preserved and the class lives on for future generations to witness. But to discover a Rogers K class of 1878? Now that's quite a feat. A member of the Rogers K class (as opposed to the more famous K class of 1932) was the subject of the first river retrieval when K 88 was dug out of the Oreti River in 1974 and restored to full operational condition in 1981. Another Rogers K, K 92, was subsequently also restored, and the same applies for members of various other classes.

Two discoveries I read about recently simply knocked my socks off, though.

1. History first: due to delays by the government in building a railway line up the North Island's west coast from Wellington to Palmerston North, a group of businessmen took matters into their own hands and built the Wellington and Manawatu Railway (WMR). The WMR proved to be a progressive and efficient railway, and in 1891, it ordered two identical locomotives (incidentally similar to NZR's N class of 1885) that were known as No.'s 9 and 10 on the WMR. In 1892, No. 10 was to achieve great fame when it hit a speed of 103.6km/h (64.4mph) on a speed trial across the flat land between Levin and Shannon. The speed may not sound impressive now, but at the time, it was the world record for the 3'6" (1067mm) gauge. When the WMR was purchased by NZR in 1908, all of its locomotives passed into NZR's hands and No.'s 9 and 10 joined their N class relatives. Sadly, not only was No. 10 not preserved, but not one other WMR locomotive survived to be preserved. Every single one was dumped. So I was just blown away when I discovered the worn remains of No. 9 have not only been found, but removed from their resting place and now being restored with the aim of returning it to full operating condition. I really hope that this is achieved in time for the centennary celebrations of the North Island Main Trunk - the line from Wellington to Auckland, including the WMR's trackage, was fully opened in 1908. I believe I've read that the search is on for the record-setting No. 10 ... it would be a true delight if they found that!

2. This isn't a story of a train rescued from a river, but it still amazed me. New Zealand ran several classes of railcar - essentially a self-propelled passenger wagon - and because NZR inconveniently classified all types as RM, we have to refer to different classes by other names. Three major classes ran in 1955: the Wairarapa, Standard, and Vulcan classes. That year, New Zealand's most prolific class, known as Fiats or 88-seaters, was introduced. These railcars consisted of two wagons and ran many services to secondary cities in New Zealand - or in the case of the specially modified Blue Streak units, a premier service between Auckland and Wellington. At the end of their working lives, some were converted to ordinary passenger wagons and hauled by diesel locomotives - their green paint scheme earnt them the nickname of "grass grubs". Sadly, despite the active preservation movement at the time of the withdrawal of the Fiats, not a single one was preserved and the class was gone for good ... or so I thought. One Fiat unit was given to the Auckland international airport rescue services to use for some purpose or another, and it was recently acquired by the Pahiatua Railcar Society, the folks in possession of the only remaining Wairarapa railcar. This particular Fiat was converted to a grass grub, and although one end can be salvaged for full restoration, the conversion combined with other impacts has left the other end potentially unusable - and somehow they actually uncovered half of another Fiat! This one wasn't converted into a grass grub, and the existing half miraculously corresponds with the unusable half of the full unit! Quite amazing. If they manage to fully restore a Fiat, I will make it a priority to ride it as soon as I can. I've actually never ridden in a diesel railcar - I need to track down one of the four preserved Standard railcars as it was a particularly handsome class. It amazes me that two thirds of the Standard railcar class still exists!

Can you tell I'm in a bit of a railways mood? Because I totally haven't made that obvious these past few days! My work on Wikipedia continues, and I'm quite satisfied with the progress I've made. I've only really just begun, but at least the information on New Zealand's railways is expanding, and there's a whole lot more online than there was just a few days ago!

Have a good one, everybody! Be a generork. It's fun and you learn all kinds of fascinating things.
Tags: new zealand, railways, train preservation, trains

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