Thursday, September 30, 2010

AA1068: a step back to 1908

I was at Motat last Sunday to gaze fondly at trams -- but I found this along the way. The engine is, quoting the information sign: "a small industrial steam locomotive of the 'Haig' type." 'Haig' is one of the narrow guage types built by Kerr Stuart in Stoke-on-Trent, England, named after this bloke -- Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig (1861-1928). This engine was built in 1926, two years before Haig died. Its career in New Zealand was with Kempthorne & Prosser, shunting wagons from the NZR sidings to the company's warehouse in Westfield here in Auckland. Motat received it by donation from the company in 1966 where it steamed until the license ran out. Storage was its fate until 1987 when it was leased to McDonalds (of the golden arches fame).

The carriage, however, is the main topic of this post: AA1068, built in 1908 for the brand new Auckland-Wellington North Island Main Trunk Line open the same year. It was built at the Petone Railway Workshops as a second class smokers carriage, seating 46 passengers, with a toilet in the centre (relocated 1931). It featured electric lighting, steam heating and emergency braking for extra safety. It saw service on Auckland's suburban railway lines until withdrawn in the late 1970s. It was then destined for the Auckland Railway Yard, where they removed it from the wheels, set it up on blocks, and used it as a store and workshop. It was purchased by a private individual and donated to Motat in 1984 -- and used as a store for three years before it was leased, with the 'Haig' engine, to McDonalds. Both returned to Motat in 2008. The carriage was restored by Gulf Motor Bodies Ltd, and once more shows its original NZR livery.

I stepped inside.

A theodolite and other surveying gear. This was placed in here in reference to the surveying completed for the Main Trunk Line from the 1870s.

Foot-warmers. Here's what the info panel says:

"Foot-warmers such as these were used on the first train to travel the newly completed North Island Main Trunk Line. Its prestigious passengers [my note: they were mainly politicians from Wellington, heading up to Auckland to catch a peek at the American Great White Fleet] were provided with foot-warmers to keep them from freezing in the chilly central North Island plateau. Even so, the Evening Post reported on August 10th 1908 that 'our breath was like smoke and any finger or foot outside rugs grew numb. The panes indide were coated with frost and outside was white.'

"Filled with hot water and acetate of soda, foot warmers were hired at a small cost from various stations along the line ...[They were] filled with boiling hot soda and placed on a special trolley on the platform just prior to the arrival of a train. When the train arrived, station staff quickly exchanged cold foot warmers with piping hot ones. Between stations, passengers could also reactivate some of the heat by simply shaking the foot warmer, which restarted the chemical reaction."

A lovely NZR tea service. Towels 6d, enquire at the office.

 This notice caught my eye.

No expectorating, please, in the interests of public health.

And none of this carrying on, either! I hope those politicians and dignitaries, wrapping their feet around the foot-warmers, didn't get up to such behaviour.


  1. I remember foot warmers. Once I was disappointed when I boarded a train and the warmer was cold but with the rocking of the train, the chemical reaction soon warmed it up.

  2. They must have been a long-lasting feature of the rail scene over your way then, Andrew. The info sign said they were just used from the 1890s-1920s. The sign might have been wrong, though.

  3. Early 1970s. I think they were used until air con trains appeared in perhaps the late seventies, although hot areas of Australia had airconditioned trains in the 1950s I think.

  4. Thanks for that, Andrew. Bits of info like that are always useful. Cheers!