Thursday, September 30, 2010

Motat's "Big Ben", and other tram stuff

Last Sunday, they inaugurated "Big Ben" on the Western Springs Tramway. Email invitations were sent out to annual pass holders, wee flyers distributed, and there was a small crowd gathered at 11 am.

Here's the tram shed.

On the way to the site outside the tram barn, I not only stopped by at the 1908 rail carriage, but also these items.

For coastal searchlight fans out there, this is a 1939 90cm HCD MK3 searchlight, and Fortress projector MK5, 190,000 candle power.

While this is also World War II vintage: a Fargo Pump Hose Layer, built by the Colonial Motor Company, with Colomoco fire pump.

Okay -- come 11 am, instead of allowing some of us to have a clearer view of the main proceedings, that is, the double-decker 1906 tram coming out of the shed, young ladies in tight-fitting corporate clothing shepherded us on the wrong side. The side closest to people giving speeches on a rostrum. So when Big Ben made its entrance, this is the kind of shot I got.

Ah well ... this one was better.

So -- speeches, lots of back slapping, "haven't we done well", thanks to Auckland ratepayers for funding the decade-long restoration project, etc. Some bloke from Australia representing COTMA (Council of Tramway Museums of Australasia) had a bit of a speech as well. Then, the announcement to us ratepayers -- thanks for coming to the speeches, but now the dignitaries and Australians with bright yellow tags around their necks get the first ride on the track. We Auckland ratepayers had to wait until 1pm. So sorry, but ...

Just my opinion, but -- if Motat want to give their mates from across the Tasman and some VIPs first crack, that's okay -- but don't angle the publicity giving the ratepaying public and annual pass holders the impression that Big Ben was going to be available to everyone from 11 am or soon after. One mother I spoke to was disappointed. Her kiddies wanted a ride, but she wasn't able to hang around until 1 pm.

The look of the thing was -- we members of the public were just there to make the dignitaries look good. Motat staff kept apologising, but, hey ...

So, they were all ready to board their first ride. A second tram pulled up at the rear, bearing the orchestra to seranade them as they went along. Very nice. More "Sorry, this ride is only for yellow pass wearers ..."

I wasn't really doing all that much, so I decided to hang about, have a bit of food, see the sights, and wait for 1 pm when we could get a chance to have a ride.

The other tram came back in, unloaded the musicians ...

And Big Ben was parked while the volunteers went off to have lunch.

Special double-decker or no, there was no way I was riding up top. Getting up might have been okay, but as for getting back down? When I did get a ride, from Motat 2 back to Motat 1, I stayed in the saloon.

Another promised feature was a "parade of trams". Well, no -- logistics prevented them having all eleven of their working trams on the line at one time (they might have blown a whopping great fuse), so they said they'd get them on the line gradually as the afternoon wore on. I got seven out of the eleven (I think) on camera, so that was enough for me. I headed for home.

Below are some movies shot with the camera of a few of Motat's trams that day. Click to go to the Photobucket site.




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.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Mainline Steam, Parnell

This year, there was an open day at Mainline Steam on the 25th September, in conjunction with the Auckland Heritage Festival, and this year I was thankfully able to get there.

Ja1275, which was the commemorative engine for the reopening of the Onehunga branch line. Dates frrom 1951.

Ba552 next to it is an old timer from 1912.

Main attraction of the open day were the rides behind the 1932 Bagnall Tank Shunter (which has a double life as a Thomas the Tank Engine impersonator). A video can be fiound here.

What to do with old bogies? Turn 'em into sculpture.

And what to do with old freight wagons? Turn 'em into sheds (I wish I had one out back of my place!)

Inside the workshops. These were originally workshops for diesel engines, built in 1956 by New Zealand Rail. The buildings, with railway cutbacks, have been leased to Mainline Steam Trust from 1990.

Reminded me very much of Meccano sets I used to muck about with in younger days.

Ja1267 seems to have been purchased in 2008 from the NZ Railway and Locomotive Society in Waikato, one of the series built at the Hillside workshops between 1946-1956, according to an auction notice found online.

Garratt englines from South Africa.

Outside and at back -- a world of rust and graffiti. Here is the largest folded airplane I've ever seen.

Where old boilers hang around.

This bit above dates from 1877, constructed in Manchester, according to its casing.

This seems to be part of a turntable, an essential in the days of steam. Pleasant Point Railway still use one, I know.