Wednesday 13 November 2019

Heathcote Pumping Station Siding & Ferrymead Railway Siding [1]

Recent research has turned up the existence of a siding to the pumping station in Scruttons Road, which is just behind Ferrymead Heritage Park. In fact it is right where the Ferrymead Railway's siding goes off the Main South Line.

The date of when the siding was established is unclear, but the file starts at 1899 when a five year term of renewal was being offered. The pumping station was owned by Lyttelton Borough Council as part of the town water supply. The pipeline itself, as is well known, runs through the Lyttelton railway tunnel, and at times has been cut by train derailments, for example when a locomotive has gone through the safety siding at Heathcote.

The siding came off the MSL Down Main at 2 miles 64 chains 58 links (2.81 decimal miles) which corresponds to just over 4.5 km in metric measurements. Since the actual location is closer to 5 km than 4.5, the zero peg at Lyttelton must have been in a different place in the late 19th century or early 20th century than it is today. This is further confirmed by the position of Heathcote Station from other research, at just over 2 miles (3.2 km), compared with the modern metric measurement of 3.6 km for Heathcote. Maybe the zero peg was on one of the Lyttelton wharves - we'll cover this idea in more detail in our first posting about Lyttelton. At the moment we have decided to finish drawing all of the very extensive Lyttelton trackwork onto the maps before doing our postings. This is a big task - there must have been over 100 sets of points at Lyttelton, with three way turnouts, crossovers and double slips galore, and maintenance of these would have been a big challenge for the track staff in the area.

Maintenance was also the reason why the pumping station siding was taken out. In the mid 1930s preparations were under way to introduce automatic signalling on the Main South Line between Christchurch and Heathcote. This would have required a switchlock installation at the pumping station siding. As the siding was by that stage little used, it was agreed in 1934 that the siding would be removed.

The area was then largely undisturbed for another 30 years until the Ferrymead Railway began to develop in the mid 1960s. This eventually led to the extension of the Railway to a siding that would be able to join to the main line to allow for the transfer of rolling stock. On 1 October 1978 this siding was used for the very first time. A temporary connection was made to the Down Main by cutting and slewing the track for a few hours, and a number of items were transferred, including several steam engines, and Vulcan railcar RM 56, which was the first of the three railcars to arrive at Ferrymead. (The Ferrymead Railway's recent celebration of 40 years of Vulcan Railcars was a year behind schedule)

There were numerous rolling stock transfers via this temporary connection on multiple occasions between 1978 and 1988. On at least one occasion a wagon was transferred by the use of cranes to do a lift from the main line to the siding. The actual connection of track was much more common and some of the times it was used include in 1979 when the other two Vulcan railcars were transferred, late 1983 (September?) when the Diesel Traction Group took delivery of DG 772 and ED 103 was also delivered to the Ferrymead Railway, and in November 1987 when the DTG's two DEs were delivered along with EW 1806, some wagons, and F 13 returning from a trip to Oamaru. However it is notable that many other locomotives at Ferrymead were moved in and out of the site by road, and this included the two English Electric DC locomotives EC 7 and EO 3 which were taken by road and stored alongside the tram barn until the mid 1970s when they were moved onto rail at the Ferrymead end, most of the smaller steam locomotives including C 864 and WD 357 that arrived in the 1960s and early to mid 1970s, as well as practically all of the carriages and wagons that have arrived before the permanent connection was put in.

With the impending Rail 125 celebrations in 1988 a regular connection with a turnout was first installed at that time, and as we all know this saw many locomotives and rolling stock vehicles moved out of Ferrymead for various events including the Diesel Traction Group's locomotives running a mainline excursion to Springfield, carriage A 516 and van F 372 that ran behind W 192 on a series of night trips to Kaiapoi, and the items used in the Cavalcade in the Christchurch railway yard. But the most regular use of the siding at Rail 125 was to run the steam shuttles from Christchurch to Ferrymead, which returned via Lyttelton due to the operational requirements imposed by the siding configuration. These were operated numerous times every single day of the festival with C 864. This was also the first time that any NZR locomotives actually ran on the Ferrymead Railway, as several shunts hauled by DJ locomotives were brought into the Moorhouse yard to move all the items needed for the Cavalcade to Linwood Loco.

After the completion of Rail 125, there was a need to decide whether to make what was a temporary installation, permanent, with proper signalling (principally a switchlock and trap points) to conform with normal NZR standards for private sidings. The cost of doing this was partly paid for by Ferrymead Railway, with more than 50% of it covered by Christchurch City Council on the basis that further opportunities for steam shuttle operations from Ferrymead would be beneficial for tourism in the city. However the potential of such operations has never been realised beyond the 1990 Steam and Rail Festival held at Ferrymead, which to the best of my knowledge is the last time that any such steam shuttle has run, and was a bit of a fizzer because C 864 ran a hotbox on a night service and hasn't operated since. A combination of factors have made it much more difficult to have these types of services running on the main line, including the closure of Christchurch Station and the altered track layout at the current Addington passenger station, and greatly increased mainline running standards and costs that have shut down Ferrymead Railway's local train running that was a feature of the mid-late 1980s Christchurch railway scene. So the siding doesn't get as much use and we have only very occasionally seen any kind of public passenger service come into Ferrymead, such as at Rail 150 when a Silver Fern railcar ran services in from Lyttelton. But it remains quite useful when the Diesel Traction Group want to send one of their locomotives out as they have done more recently with DE 1429 going to Weka Pass and DI 1102 going to Dunedin, or with the National Railway Museum's rolling stock arriving.

Due to the arrangement of the siding connection, rolling stock leaving Ferrymead must either run to Heathcote and then cross over to the Up Main to get to Christchurch, or run wrong-line to Woolston and cross over there. This requires special operating procedures as the line is signalled for unidirectional operation in the Down direction only, which means the section of the line has to be blocked against other Down trains until the locomotive reaches Woolston, and the crossing alarms at Scruttons Road and Chapmans Road will not operate until the train actually reaches the crossing and therefore have to be approached and crossed at 10 km/h and only after the bells and lights have been operating for long enough to allow road vehicles to safely clear the crossing. Rolling stock arriving at Ferrymead must run to Woolston on the correct line (regardless of which direction it is coming from) and then run into the siding from Woolston on the Down Main. In addition, permission must be obtained from Train Control to open the switchlock off the Down Main at the entrance to the siding. In accordance with standard siding design, a set of trap points and a trap points indicator are fitted to the siding and interlocked with the main line points, to guard against rolling stock running away from Ferrymead and endangering the main line.

This map using the 1985 NZR corridor survey shows the pumping station complex at that time.
A view in colour using lower resolution (0.75 metre) photography shot for Ecan in the 2000s.
This aerial photo was taken a couple of days after the February 2011 Lyttelton earthquake and shows the pumping station buildings completely gone as a result of damage sustained in the quakes.

And here is what the site looked like in 2015, which is practically the same today. The pumping station has been replaced with a new one with different buildings.