Thursday 30 April 2020

Wairarapa Line [0II]: Volume 6 Progress Update 35

Good afternoon. As you can see from the lack of updates over the last week we have been somewhat delayed in completing this volume, mainly due to a higher priority given to finishing a part of the Greater Christchurch maps for Christchurch Transport Blog.

The work on completing the last stage of Volume 6 commenced yesterday and so far we have produced the maps from Summit down to Cross Creek and continuing on towards Featherston. We anticipate it should be possible to complete it by the end of the week but are not sure if we will have time to complete all of the planned research posts such as the ones for the Rimutaka Incline that had been expected.

The maps below are for Cross Creek and are from 1943.

Wednesday 29 April 2020

Taieri Gorge Railway unlikely to continue commercially

Last week we blogged about Dunedin Railways being mothballed. Since then various pieces of information have been published. Based on what has been released to date, we see it as unlikely that the Taieri Gorge line can be continued in its present form as a commercial operation between Wingatui and Middlemarch. We have no viewpoint about the rest of Dunedin Railways' services.

The Taieri Gorge Railway consists of the first 64 km of the old Otago Central Branch railway and came into being initially as a train service run on the line when it was part of the NZR network. Otago Excursion Train Trust (OETT) inaugurated the Taieri Gorge Limited back in 1987 as a Dunedin-Pukerangi daily service and was subsequently able to raise sufficient funding to finance 50% of the purchase of the Wingatui-Middlemarch section of the OCB. This was then reformed as Taieri Gorge Railway Ltd in 1990, the other half of the initial capital being matched by funding from Dunedin City Council.

We know very little about the financials of the early years of operation as there was no cruise ship market back then as it did not develop in NZ until more recent times. But it is probably correct to say that the operation at best broke even in the early period of its life. In the mid 1990s additional capital injections were needed and a higher proportion, if not all, came from Dunedin City Council with the net result that they increased their shareholding to 72% reducing OETT's holding to 28%.

It was always going to be a tough ask in the south of New Zealand to be able to run a 64 km tourist railway and although income from cruise ship services and running extra trips to Oamaru and Palmerston as well as charter tours must have helped the finances, this has to be balanced against the ageing of most rolling stock which includes the fleet of diesel locomotives that are now more than 50 years old and the original wooden carriage fleet which in more recent times has been steadily upgraded to more modern steel sheathed designs. 

Some of DRL's operations run over the Kiwirail network and this requires considerable additional expense in certification and maintenance standards as well as direct operational costs which for the excursion train market around NZ has resulted in severe cut backs since the 1980s. We also understand from information released that there is a considerable maintenance backlog on the Taeri Gorge line, which is always going to be more expensive in upkeep, in the shorter term because of the topography (hills and a steeply sided gorge) it passes through, and in the longer term because of the many viaducts in this section which will eventually need a lot of money spent on them. The big floods in the Taieri catchment a couple of years did a great deal of damage to the line which must have cost a lot to repair.

So what could happen in the future for DRL? We have no idea whether the operation can be made viable as a cruise ship tourism operator with the key issue being it could be many years before this business builds up again to where it was last year. The future for the Taieri Gorge Line is, regrettably, likely to be either as an ultralight rail vehicle operation (golf carts or rail bikes) such as we see in other parts of the country. It is possible that the section from North Taieri to Pukerangi or from Pukerangi to Middlemarch could be developed as a heritage railway if enough support can be found in the Dunedin area. 

Here, there are certainly questions; we have noted that OETT has chosen to completely sell out of its 28% shareholding, which seems to indicate a limited future for them as a whole, and even before that, rail heritage in Dunedin in general was struggling. A heritage operator could run cruise ship trains with volunteers (Gisborne City Vintage Railway is one heritage railway that works in that market) but keeping the entire line open to Pukerangi could be a hard ask. A lot depends on Dunedin City Council's attitude, and whether Dunedin Railways as a whole continues to operate. The worst case scenario is to convert the line into an extension of the Otago Central Rail Trail.

Saturday 25 April 2020

North Auckland Line [0E]: Volume 1 Progress Update 5

Good morning. Whilst still working on the last stage of Volume 6, we have been continuing preliminary work on Volume 1 and deciding exactly what the scope of "Basic+" coverage for it will be.

As noted previously we will put in continuous historical aerial mosaics for the Auckland suburban area, which means all of the following:
  • Westfield to Newmarket (first section of the NAL)
  • Onehunga Branch
  • Newmarket Branch
  • Newmarket to Waimauku
This will only be for one historical era - in most cases 1972 or 1979. Beyond Waimauku we will only include the aerial photos that have already been created in previous work on Volume 1.

In addition, the diagram detail to be included in this edition of Volume 1 will only show that which is visible in the current aerial photography. Whilst we will as mentioned above have the historical mosaics available, we will not be drawing in the historical detail into diagrams for this edition of Volume 1, although the mosaics will be published in the aerial maps. However, details for rural stations previously put into the maps will be retained.

We feel setting these boundaries will help us to keep this release of Volume 1 on track as we do not want to spend a lot of time on and are very keen to keep it to less than a month of production. It is already necessary to redraw all the main lines in the NAL in Auckland from scratch because they were represented with a generic "multi line main" symbology in the previous edition. This has added some unanticipated extra work.

Friday 24 April 2020

Wairarapa Line [0HH]: Volume 6 Progress Update 34

Good evening. We have today completed the second to last step before the maps are ready to be published. We drew all of the historical yard layouts off mosaic tiles, from Cross Creek to Ngawapurua. In the process of doing this we discovered extra detail from 1941 at the Waingawa Freezing Works (siding layout changed) and added an extra set of mosaic tiles for this era at that site.

The remaining work will be completed all at the same time, as the maps are produced for publication. This consists of final labelling in two stages. We use S&I diagrams to identify any sidings that we haven't marked, and we use aerial photos live from the Retrolens site, without making mosaics off them, to check the smaller stations that mosaics haven't been drawn for, to confirm the placement of existing labels and identify any additional features to be labelled at the sites.

At the same time as final labelling is completed in each map view, the maps for that view are then produced, including the diagram and all eras of aerials. After running a script to set the correct sorting order, the maps are then ready to be uploaded for publication.

So that last stage will start tomorrow and it will take several days because every detail has to get one last check and it's not uncommon for issues to crop up at that point that have to be addressed. At the same time a few more research articles will be published. With one more week in the schedule, we are confident of completing this on time and are totally committed to it.

North Auckland Line [0D]: Volume 1 Progress Update 4

Good evening. Due to the near completion of Volume 6, we are currently taking a look at resources for completing Volume 1. The North Auckland Line runs from Westfield Junction via Penrose Junction and Newmarket Junction then turns west to head to the outskirts of the Auckland urban area at Waitakere. From there it carries on north to the boundary of Auckland City and then up into Northland, where traditionally it reached to Opua, about 300 km from Westfield.

Our intention in the development of Volume 1 at this stage is to use the existing aerial mosaics previously developed, without adding to them. This will be a "Basic+" level of development at this time. However as we have no aerial coverage for the Auckland urban area, we will be adding this from Westfield to Waitakere as well as for the Onehunga Branch. It happens that a major aerial survey from Henderson to Westfield was undertaken in 1972 and this will be the basis for the update. Part of the same survey also takes in the line to Onehunga. From Henderson to Waitakere we have the use of the corridor survey taken in 1979. 

Waitakere to Opua and branches is covered with the mosaics that have already been completed. Although the extra mosaics will take a bit of work to assemble, we are fortunate to have had a feature request for Gimp implemented in version 2.10.10 which was released recently. This is the "Readjust" capability of the Unified Transform tool, which makes it much easier and a great deal quicker to adjust the overlays of historical aerial layers at any point instead of just near the edges which the default transform functionality addresses. This will also result in more accurate mosaics than we have been able to produce in the past. Because of this we expect adding the new mosaics will be a relatively quick task, taking maybe 2-3 days only. We do have to check and as necessary update the existing mosaics which has been underway since earlier this week alongside the Volume 6 work and then do the basic corridor alignments as well as drawing station layouts.

So whilst we are still working on Volume 6, once this is completed we won't be catching our breath to push on to Volume 1 and get it together in record time. Maybe 2-3 weeks depending on our outside commitments.

Thursday 23 April 2020

Wairarapa Line [0GG]: Volume 6 Progress Update 33

Good afternoon. Excellent progress continues to be made on the Volume 6 completion, even though the mosaics have had further revisions. When the yard layout was drawn for Featherston Station, it was realised that an older version of this map was also needed for some historical information and so we have added 1957 and 1961 to the mosaics. This has not really slowed things down at all because it does not take very long to draw most of the yard diagrams and so the fact that we are also doing work on other volumes and activities at the same time has not had much impact on progress.

We are confident the yard layouts will all be drawn by the start of the weekend and the task of publishing the rest of the maps will go ahead rapidly from there.

Mauriceville. The main line was straightened at the south end.

Featherston, showing the ballast siding. The yard itself still has multiple tracks in place except for the part that went through the goods shed.

Between Featherston and Speedys Crossing was another ballast siding that was still connected up in 1937, as was the one at Silverstream Bridge. Wartime conditions probably forced the tracks to be lifted in many of these seldom used pits.

Greytown station in 1943. We really need a yard layout diagram to work from. The goods shed still stands today.


Wednesday 22 April 2020

Wairarapa Line [0FF]: Volume 6 Progress Update 32

Good afternoon. We are pleased to report that all mosaics needed to complete Volume 6 have now been created, and are being exported into tiles for Qgis today. This will enable us to resume a much speeded up rate of completion for the maps to be pushed forward with station and other layouts drawn from Cross Creek to Ngawapurua, encompassing a total distance of around 130 km of track. This in total is around three quarters of the total length of the corridor. So far, work on this volume has taken approximately 10 weeks to complete and we hope one more week or slightly more will see the volume completed. We are extremely keen to see this happen and will be pulling out the stops to ensure it does not take any longer than necessary to accomplish.

We are also working on a submission for Christchurch Transport Blog regarding the Green Party's proposal for commuter rail development especially as encompasses Christchurch. This will naturally take time away from the NZ Rail Maps project. However we will be ensuring that this time detraction is minimal in the rest of the time needed to complete Volume 6 so that that task is not impeded in any way.

Our latest station layout to be completed is Masterton (see below). Although this is out of sequence, we are pushing ahead with Cross Creek today and will bring forth the remaining layouts over the coming days as we push out the maps sequentially. Cross Creek will have to be a mixture of tracing and using a schematic layout for reference as we do not have an exact plan of the yard and the aerial photo taken in 1943 is not sharp enough to be completely sure of being able to trace accurately. 

Masterton (above: 1972, below: 2017) with the diagram map at the bottom. There are still a few details to be added of the station building etc. We are unsure of the uses of various buildings and sidings at this stage.

Tuesday 21 April 2020

Wairarapa Line [0EE]: Volume 6 Progress Update 31

Good morning. We have been making good progress with the Wairarapa Line maps since our last update and have completed aligning the corridor for the entire route. This means now all we need to do is draw in a few stations and then produce the remaining maps (currently produced up to Summit). 

To get these stations in place to draw means completing our mosaics for Featherston and beyond. We are currently completing these mosaics and have exported them so far just for Masterton, which does let us draw that yard whilst waiting for the mosaics to be ready for the rest of the northern section of the line.

The rest of the stations and other areas that have to be drawn are:
  • Cross Creek
  • Pigeon Bush
  • Rimutaka Loop
  • Featherston
  • Woodside
  • Greytown
  • Carterton
  • Booths Siding
  • Taratahi Siding
  • Waingawa
  • Solway
  • Renall Street
  • Masterton
  • Opaki (Bridge only)
  • Mauriceville
  • Eketahuna
  • Pahiatua
  • Mangatainoka
  • Ngawapurua (including Bridge)

We expect these layouts will generally only take a day or two to complete, so the work of finishing this volume can be pushed ahead fairly rapidly. The other remaining work is to confirm the alignment of the Hutt Park Railway and to produce the maps for it, as well as those for the Gracefield Branch, Greytown Branch, and the Rimutaka Incline Section beyond Summit. We are therefore still quite confident of completing Volume 6 by the end of this month. 

3431 Service Siding, about 1.8 km south of Featherston, was the official name for the junction of the old and new Wairarapa Lines from Upper Hutt, as it appeared in the S&I diagram between 1955 and 1957. During the construction of the Rimutaka Deviation this gave a rail connection to the northern end of the new route.

After the deviation came into use in November 1955, it was used to access the Rimutaka Incline Section up to Cross Creek for closure and demolition purposes.
The level crossing is known as "Speedys Crossing" and this name is referred to also in accounts of the period. The junction points were removed in 1957 following the lifting of the Rimutaka Incline Section.

Note the two mileages shown, the first being the mileage from the opening of the Rimutaka Deviation, and the second being the mileage for the old route over the Rimutaka Incline. This reflects that the Rimutaka Incline Section added about nine miles to the length of the Wairarapa Line. North of this location, the original mileages were retained all the way to Woodville until the advent of metrication in 1974, at which time the entire corridor was remeasured from Wellington for the half and full kilometre pegs to be put in.

The upper view is the location as seen in 1957, and the lower as in 2017.

Taieri Gorge Railway mothballed; OETT selling out its shareholding

It's been reported in the ODT today that Dunedin Railways is to mothball its operations due to the COVID-19 caused economic recession. 80% of their business comes from overseas tourism, notably cruise ship visits to NZ, which is naturally hugely affected by COVID-19, and it is difficult to run the trips under current lockdown conditions which also curtail domestic tourism.

In addition, the company chairman is quoted in the news reports as saying the company has high running costs and its operations are financially challenging with there being $10 million of deferred maintenance costs on the Taieri Gorge Railway.

At the same time as the mothballing has been announced, Otago Excursion Train Trust (OETT), the joint founder of Dunedin Railways (which started as Taieri Gorge Railway Ltd in 1990) has decided to sell its 28% shareholding in Dunedin Railways to Dunedin City Holdings Ltd (DHCL) which owns the other 72% of Dunedin Railways currently. DCHL is in turn 100% owned by Dunedin City Council (DCC).

OETT originally held a 50% shareholding in DRL/TGRL but this has been reduced over the past 30 years to 28% due to the need for further capital investment into DRL that has been met largely by DCHL. It is well known that since it became a minority shareholder there has been much angst at OETT over their reduced influence on the operations of DRL. However it is not known exactly why OETT has decided to sell out at this stage and we will try to find out if they are willing to comment about this. One possible issue, however, can be found in a statement on OETT's news page that further capital investment in DRL is needed in rolling stock and track maintenance. Shareholders are normally expected to be able to finance the businesses they own and it may well be the case that OETT would not be in a position to finance any additional capital themselves. 

This means that the era of DRL being in rail heritage ownership has come to an end and we don't like the implications of that. Local government entities have a penchant for running their infrastructure assets into the ground, or appropriating them for other unrelated projects. There has been a change in emphasis on DRL since the new board chairman was elected who has stated that they expect DRL to produce a financial return. This is due to the politicians demanding more income and dividends from all of DHCL's trading enterprises. The earlier proposal to mothball the line from Pukerangi to Middlemarch is an example because the most obvious solution is to rip the line up and sell the land to raise money. Under a profit focused DHCL this is exactly what could happen.

Monday 20 April 2020

Wairarapa Line [0DD]: Volume 6 Progress Update 30

Good afternoon. Work is resuming on Volume 6 after a couple of days looking at some maps in Volume 1. We are certain of completing Volume 6 in about 2 weeks and are looking forward to it so we can finish that task and move onto working on another volume.

One of the issues that does arise with our revised production schedule is holding resources for the different production stages of volumes. For example the big downloads from Linz of their current tiles for use in producing mosaics. Simply due to the limitation of their user interface and the inconvenient facts that rail corridors usually don't run straight up, down, or sideways (e.g. at 0, 90, 180 or 270 degrees), we generally have to do big downloads to get a relatively small number of tiles extracted from each download. This has become a lot easier now that we don't have to download all of the aerial imagery for an entire corridor and can just limit our downloads to stations. But we can still have a lot of gigabytes of tiles downloaded whilst working on map production. A key advantage of sequential production is only having to retain downloads for the current volume, but this gets more difficult with the new schedule of sequencing through different levels. So we will have to take a look at the levels to ensure we are not needing to hold resources that may be needed at multiple levels.

Today we are finishing the mosaics needed for the rest of the maps for Volume 6. We are keen to get this done as well as the basic alignments we are currently fixing for the main line corridor. Getting both of these tasks done, which should take a day or two, will let us get on with producing maps, which hasn't been done for a few weeks, and that means we are definitively pushing on towards completion and can see the end in sight for Volume 6. 

We now expect Volume 1 to be the next volume completed in the maps after Volume 6. Volume 1 has had some mosaics completed previously for it, and checking these mosaics has been a key task for the last few days. However we have pushed on with the basic corridor alignment for Volume 6 as well during this time.

North Auckland Line [0C]: Volume 1 Progress Update 3

Good afternoon. The work on updating Volume 1 of the NZ Rail Maps project, which deals with the North Auckland Line and its branches, is to resume in a few weeks once work on Volume 6 currently under production has been completed.

We last worked on Volume 1 less than a year ago, before we adopted our definite production schedule for the maps in general, of ensuring one volume would be completed before moving onto another volume, so that each volume would be completed sequentially instead of concurrently. This has resulted in other volumes taking preference in that schedule. The schedule has also been revised, as documented elsewhere, to ensure Basic levels are completed for all volumes first.

However, when we go over to Volume 1, we will be completing it as a "Basic+" level. At this level, we are producing maps using existing previously completed historical aerial photography. Normally the user wouldn't see these maps included at a Basic level. In this case because we have a set of aerial mosaics for a number of stations along the route, we will add these to the maps by default. This means historical yard layouts can be provided for a number of stations, as well as current layouts.

No additional aerial photos will be added into the maps because the aim of Basic completion is to get it done as quickly as possible. There are a number of stations we don't have historical coverage of at present, especially east of Waitakere. These can be added later when we come back to finish the volume at the Intermediate level, which could easily happen by the end of this year.

Saturday 18 April 2020

Wairarapa Line [0CC]: Volume 6 Progress Update 29

Good evening. Work is continuing at a steady pace on Volume 6 with the alignment of our maps to the current base imagery reaching down to the 119 km peg just south of Eketahuna at present. This has slowed a little due to some work on another volume but is still continuing and we expect some more progress over the next couple of days.

After another 12 GB download from the LDS site we are getting the rest of the tiles together to complete the mosaics for everything we are covering north of Featherston, the locations being the ones outlined in our previous post. There could still be one or two additional stations added in.

Also welcome to everyone who reads these posts via our Facebook page. We regret that due to a Facebook issue about a month's worth of posts haven't been syndicated onto the page. These posts are all in the blog and can be read by browsing it directly. This is obviously more important with the cessation of our Facebook group in that everyone using Facebook has to read the page, and we trust the feed will resume with this post.

As you know, this project in the Intermediate and Comprehensive levels of maps makes heavy use of Retrolens as a source for these historical aerial images. Whilst we are big fans of the site and have made lots of maps with their images, one annoyance is that it is impossible to find any way to contact them in order to resolve any issues with the site. As noted with Survey 570 the only resolution is to get hold of the original scans from Linz. However there is considerable inconvenience in this as found with 570.

Friday 17 April 2020

Wairarapa Line [0BB]: Volume 6 Progress Update 28

Good morning. Following from last time we are working on mosaics for Booth's Siding at Carterton, the fertiliser depot near Carterton, Tui Dairy Factory at Pahiatua, Mauriceville, Ngawaparua Bridge and the ballast siding there, and a several extra stations like Eketahuna and Mangatainoka. At the moment, LDS does not have a download limit; probably because of the COVID-19 lockdown, we were able to download 12 GB in one go to get the layers we needed for parts of the mosaics. Usually there is a 3.5 GB limit on downloads and anything as big as 12 GB would have to be couriered out for a fee.

We did also mention Wright Stephenson's siding at Pahiatua as shown on the Quail Atlas. Mainly because there is not any historical aerial imagery at present before 1974 for this area, we have been unable to confirm the details of that siding, and it will not be shown on the maps. There was a quarry nearby but it is unlikely this has any relationship to WS. Wrightsons took over WFCA so it is possible that this siding was originally put in for WFCA.

Some way back we talked about the use of Survey 570 which is from 1951 and contains additional detail in a number of historical areas to do with the Wairarapa Line. There has been a delay in getting hold of these images due to the COVID-19 situation and lockdown. Whilst NZ is easing towards a lower level of restriction, it is entirely possible that Linz may have to curtail or freeze some of its activities due to the economic impact which means we may not be able to gain access to that survey for the present. Therefore the situation we put in place of using other images to fill in especially up the Western Hutt section, seems to be the best option for the present to get the maps in that area completed.

The remaining mosaics should take only a couple of days more to complete and we will then have everything we need to complete the maps. We are presently working south from Eketahuna back to Cross Creek fixing the alignments of the various elements of the base maps, before we start drawing in the details of all the stations and sidings from Cross Creek to Woodville, which is basically what is needed to complete the rest of the maps, and which as describe previously, we hope to have completed for release at the end of this month.

This Volume 6 development process has been a bit more drawn out than was originally planned and we are certainly keen to get to the next volume. As previously outlined with the change in schedule, Volume 4 at Basic level will be the next volume to be worked on, and as it was nearly complete when it was last being worked on a year or two back, it shouldn't take more than a week or two to finish the Basic maps and produce them.

As noted above we are expecting the Retrolens project may well end up being paused for a while as it is likely to become a reduced priority in the economic situation for New Zealand and this could have an impact on the development of the maps to Intermediate and Comprehensive levels but we shall have to see what is happening when we come back to that level of development later this year and on into 2021 and 2022 according to our expected schedule.

Thursday 16 April 2020

Wairarapa Line [0AA]: Volume 6 Progress Update 27

Good morning. We have just finished creating more mosaics for this volume. There is now a full set of 1943 coverage all the way from Upper Hutt to Featherston, including the current route, as we have added some aerial photos of that era for Rimutaka Loop up to Featherston to make an interesting comparison with the deviation that was opened in 1955, of what the country up into Lucena's gully looked like before there was a railway there.

The mosaics for Rimutaka Loop to Masterton and the Greytown Branch have just been completed as well, including R Loop, Featherston, Carterton, Waingawa, Solway and Masterton. Waingawa was the location of Borthwick's Freezing Works for many years but it closed down quite a long time ago now and there is a sawmill at the site presently. 

We are aware that there have been a number of other sidings along this section of the route and further north. Among them are Booth's Siding at Carterton, East Coast Farmers Fertiliser between Carterton and Waingawa, the dairy factory at Pahiatua, Wright Stephenson at Pahiatua, Ngawaparua Ballast Pit and combined bridge. There may also have been a private siding at Mauriceville. For this reason we are uncertain whether more mosaics need to be done, as originally it was not planned to do any more beyond Masterton. This will be investigated over the next couple of days. 

Monday 13 April 2020

Wairarapa Line [0Z]: Volume 6 Progress Update 26

Good morning. Things have slowed a little in the past week and we are a bit behind on getting the maps completed to Featherston. In actuality the main line corridor has been checked to the outskirts of that township, but we still have to draw yard layouts for three previous stations: Cross Creek, Pigeon Bush and Rimutaka Loop. Aerial mosaics for these areas are being completed as well as those for other sections of the line up to Masterton. We now anticipate completion of this volume will be in about two weeks, or close to the end of April. A further delay is not such an issue when the rest of the volumes are going to be completed this year at a Basic level according to our revised programme for 2020. However we are still very keen to see this volume completed as it has been such a long drawn out process.

Summit yard was drawn and a map produced last week. We became aware that one more detail was needed, the location of the signalbox, and this has been added to the map.

The decision has been made that the project will have only a Facebook page, not a group. This eliminates the need to oversee and maintain a Facebook group that has only minimal activity, whilst allowing Facebook users to continue to follow project activity via the page. Key group members have been invited to transfer to our email list. This change will not have any impact on the project as all the FB content is posts that are automatically syndicated off this blog.

Sunday 12 April 2020

[OFFTOPIC] Kells Transport Museum, Blossomgrove, Cork, Ireland

These Google Earth images are the notorious Kells Transport Museum in Blossomgrove, Cork, Ireland, a large collection of buses owned by one Michael Grimes. This fellow has apparently had a few run ins with the law as well as with lots of other people and his bus collection allegedly numbered over 400 at its peak (we estimate about 200 buses visible in the aerials, so whether other buses were stored at different sites seems possible). 

He also has a website called "Railway International" which still operates (unlike the KTM website whose domain registration expired last year), the RI site covers visits to the railway systems of many countries, NZ included. We were previously familiar with the site for its coverage of the Ecuadorian rail system. It is uncertain at this time if this website will continue operating as Mr Grimes has apparently been made bankrupt in Ireland, the domain registration expires at the end of next month. We assume both sites will be available from Web Archive but in any case the RI site seems to be missing many photos so it is only partly useful.

It is rumoured that the bus storage site in Blossomgrove was cleared late last year as a result of the bankruptcy proceedings but we have not been able to confirm this, however these may well be historical images. There is also an independent Flickr photo set resulting from someone's personal visit to the site if you want to see what it looked like close up on the ground. This Youtube video also appears to be shot at the same site and is more recent, showing significantly greater damage and decay to the bus collection in later years. As the aerials show, the bus collection was well hidden off the main road in a field with an access road 1.5 km in length.

Friday 10 April 2020

Wairarapa Line [7B]: Rimutaka Incline Section [3]: Kaitoke-Summit

This is the third in a series of five research posts about the Rimutaka Incline section of the Wairarapa Line. This section was bypassed by the Rimutaka Deviation in October 1955 and the track was lifted within months.

The Remutaka Rail Trail is currently the major feature of this part of the Rimutaka Incline Section and starts at Kaitoke, continuing through to Cross Creek on the eastern side of the Remutaka Hill. This did not open until 1984 and for the first 29 years it was just an access road into what has become a pine forestry plantation.

In this section we can see the location of what is believed to be a staff house alongside the track in an isolated area. This was not uncommon in the earlier era of railways and such a house would have had no road access and the staff concerned were probably track staff responsible for that length of track. If they had children then they would probably be transported either by train or motor trolley to Kaitoke for their schooling.

Once upon a time there was a quarry siding about 3 miles east of Kaitoke, so perhaps somewhere in the view of this map. We could not trace that, but a location marked by the letter D in this diagram is where there were possibly 4 huts lined up alongside the track, probably used to store trolleys for track maintenance. The Pakuratahi Tunnel is upper right, one of three places where the original and new routes crossed over each other.

This is Ladle Bend where the railway crossed a well known bridge that still exists today. There was another house alongside the track inside the bend. Once upon a time there was also a ballast siding near Ladle Bend but we again have not been able to trace it.

General overview of Summit. 

West end of Summit. The turntable was used for turning the engines that took the train from here to Upper Hutt as the Fell engines were never turned. The original curve closed in 1903 was diverted to allow the yard to be made longer with more room for wagons in sidings. 

East end of Summit. The engine shed is the only building we have marked. The buildings on the hillside above were mainly houses for the few staff that were based there. Although Summit was not considered a "service station" closed to public traffic, in practice the freight was mainly for railway staff and coal for steam engines, and passenger traffic would have practically all been for the staff as well. Probably any children would have travelled by train to Cross Creek to be educated at the school there, and returned later in the day. The main function of Summit was to change from the Fell engines to regular engines, or vice versa, which generally took a bit of time to implement. Fell vans also had to be put on or taken off, as like the H engines they were only used on the Incline.

Next article will look at the incline itself through to Cross Creek and we will have a track diagram of that station, as well. The incline itself is of note having three tunnels and a number of other points of interest.

Wairarapa Line [0Y]: Volume 6 Progress Update 25

Welcome to Volume 6 Progress Update 25. Work this week has been pretty slow in completing the section from Kaitoke to Summit. We have drawn a reasonable yard layout for Summit and then set about to produce the maps from Kaitoke to there. Unfortunately these had to be revised three times and reissued accordingly and we hope not to have anything like the same difficulty going further on.

Last week when we added 1957 maps for the Western Hutt section we also added the same coverage for the Hutt Valley route. As a result we are able to quickly add a 1957 map of Taita to the existing map series, following the discovery this week of a turntable at Taita, which was in place for a very short period of time from 1947 to 1954. This is another area which would be covered by the missing 1951 survey we still hope to obtain in the future.

We are also considering the future worth of Facebook to the project. It's no secret that we have never been big fans of Facebook as a whole, and there are still many in our community who have shunned the platform. Since much of our content is already hosted off FB it would not be a big difficulty to reduce our current use of the platform. Probably by the time Update 26 is sent out, decisions will have been made and implemented.

Maps of Taita showing where the turntable was. The aerials from 1957 and 2017.

Monday 6 April 2020

Wairarapa Line [0X]: Volume 6 Progress Update 24

Welcome to another progress update for Volume 6. In the last week we produced maps for the Western Hutt Section and the second part of the five sections we have divided the Rimutaka Incline Section into, for the purpose of a series of five research posts. Currently we are working on the Rimutaka Incline Section at Summit which will produce the 3rd research article.

The main work for the next day or so is to draw the yard layouts at both Summit and Cross Creek, and the main line between. After that it will be relatively straightforward and quick to head on down to Pigeon Bush and then Featherston.

Featherston is being mapped from 1943, as are the rest of the stations, as well as at a larger scale from the 1970s, and at Featherston the army camp siding is to be mapped out along with details of the WW1 camp that was there, and then the next work after that is the Greytown Branch, followed by Carterton and Masterton stations.

At this stage we see no reason that Masterton cannot be completed by the end of the week as planned. We also have been busy over the past week tidying up a few details of the route with extra detail from the Valley Signals site and other sources, and have reissued a few maps, which has slowed things down a little, but not enough to affect the overall schedule. So right now the overall release timetable for April 21 still looks reliable.

Wairarapa Line [7B]: Rimutaka Incline Section [2]: Tunnel Gully - Kaitoke

For the second part of the research series on the Rimutaka Incline Section we are covering the area known as Tunnel Gully, along with the Kaitoke station precinct and the section now used as public access to the Remutaka Incline Rail Trail. We have at this time been marking out the route through to Cross Creek. When we get to that station we will have to draw a track layout of the Cross Creek yard before pushing out to Pigeon Bush and eventually Featherston. 

Tunnel Gully is mainly known as a recreational area, and has many trails unrelated to the Rimutaka Incline Section, but it does incorporate all of the formation from the south side of Mangaroa Tunnel to the south end of Kaitoke Station. Apart from the tunnel itself, there is relatively little in the way of historical features of the route apart from the occasional cutting. However several of these have been bypassed by the rail trail, which follows a logging track that occasionally deviates from the historic corridor. Part of the corridor now forms the public access road into the Tunnel Gully carpark.

A typical view of the relatively featureless landscape through Tunnel Gully Reserve when the line was open in 1943. The cutting around the horseshoe curve to the right has been partly bypassed for the Tunnel Gully rail trail.

North end of Tunnel Gully showing the trail bypassing another cutting.

Tunnel Gully apart from the road off Plateau Road from Te Marua, is also accessible by cyclists or walkers from two points at either end of the reserve. From the south there is a track up from Maymorn near the Remutaka Tunnel entrance that climbs up to reach the south end of Mangaroa Tunnel. The northern entrance can be reached by another track from Kaitoke Loop Road. The Kaitoke station site formerly incorporated a number of former railway station buildings; in the intervening 65 years, all of these have faded away and there is practically no trace to be found in the site today (off Station Drive) relating to its former history. Kaitoke had a separate freight yard, the access road into which is still partly visible.

Kaitoke station site as seen in 1943, 1963 and 2016. The 1963 view is the clearest in relation to the NZR buildings, whilst 2016 view shows the complete change in the modern use of the site, with no NZR buildings now on site.

Goods siding just north of the main station yard. Note the overbridge to the right. Originally carrying the main road, it was kept in use for private property access for the entire time that the railway was in operation, but is shown to have been removed sometime between 1957 and 1963.

The last part of this section forms part of Incline Road, the public access into the Remutaka Rail Trail entrance at Kaitoke. The road itself yields little evidence of its former role, although the long sweeping curves through numerous cuttings have considerable historical interest in themselves.

Thursday 2 April 2020

Wairarapa Line [3A]: Melling Branch / Western Hutt Section

"Western Hutt Section" covers the original route of the Wairarapa Line from Petone to Haywards on the west bank of the Hutt River. This is where the line was first opened in 1875. It remained the main line until 1954 when the Hutt Valley branch on the eastern side was extended through to Haywards and became the deviation from the original route, which was closed between Melling and Haywards, in 1954. There were various reasons for changing the route that included fewer maintenance problems (the original route was close to the Hutt River and subject to erosion from the water), more room available for stations and double tracking, and the greater population in the eastern side of the valley as new housing developments were made in the 1930s and 1940s that were more conveniently served by the new line on the same side of the river.

The original route was still able to be traced for a number of years after it closed but in about the 1970s, State Highway 2 was pushed through on the west bank and took over practically all of the rail corridor. Any that wasn't built on was landscaped out of existence. In reality the only segment that can be distinguished is a short piece at Haywards which is part of Benmore Crescent. At the same time as the line beyond Melling closed, Melling station was relocated to be more convenient to the new Melling Bridge which was part of river straightening works that would leave the old suspension bridge high and dry.

Current Melling station site in 1939. The ballast siding can be seen to the right.

Original Melling station site seen in 1957 with the platform and building still in place.

The junction at Haywards, with aerials from 1941, 1957 and 1970.