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International Railroad Discussion > A Casual US Railfan Tours New Zealand: 3 - Trek to Raumiru Spiral


Date: 04/05/17 15:22
A Casual US Railfan Tours New Zealand: 3 - Trek to Raumiru Spiral
Author: hogheaded

Before my wife and I departed from National Park for Wellington on the Northern Explorer, we spent the good part of a day hiking (NZ: trekking) to and back from the Raumiru Spiral, a marvelous bit of early Twentieth Century engineering something akin to a miniature combination of Southern Pacific’s Tehachapi and Likely Loops.

For people in their late sixties, it was a long march for us, but at least one of us thought that it was well worth it (-: The Spiral and the nearby Likely-like loop are accessible by car, which is the preferable method, as we found three distinct hiking hazards, which I’ll discuss in turn.

10) Per a suggestion by boilingman, I shall begin to include a map showing our progress. One thing on the map which I have not discussed is the Forgotten World Adventure’s 142km, two-day railcart ride on mothballed track from Okahukura to Stratford, or vice versa (long blue line). Unfortunately I did not learn of this until we were irretrievably situated on the South Island. This alone guarantees my return to NZ.

11) Our route all the way to Raumiru closely followed the tracks except for the Spiral locale, where the access road strays from the tracks.

12) The walk from National Park to the Spiral is a pleasant one through rolling native bush on a parallel-to-tracks railway service road (photo left). I’m showing you vacant rails here because we did not see train one until we were on the far side of the Spiral. Bummer.

EO

 








Date: 04/05/17 15:23
Re: A Casual US Railfan Tours New Zealand: 3 - Trek to Raumiru Sp
Author: hogheaded

13) The dreaded “high bridge”: We were forewarned about this bridge, which I estimate is about 75 feet above the Piopiotea River. Do NOT walk across this bridge. It was our experience that the electric trains snuck up on us with only fifteen or twenty seconds warning. There is an alternative route: fording the river if the water is not too high. My wife discovered that, about a hundred yards prior to the bridge, a partially overgrown with very prickly bushes (!) road leads up the bank to the right of the tracks and down to the river through many more prickly bushes. You can see the road in the photo as it continues along the far side of the river as a line through the bush roughly bisecting the catenary poles. I considered waiting for a train to photograph, but luckily thought best of this, as the first one was about 1.5 hours away, as it turned out.

14) Down in the hole: To reach mid-Spiral between its two tunnels, we walked down the hill on the railway access road shown in maroon on the map. Here’s an unflattering shot of me pointing to the lower end of the upper tunnel. I also photoed the top end of the lower tunnel there, but who needs another empty tunnel photo… We then returned uphill over the crest of the tracks and down to the lower end of the bottom tunnel. After I photographed that, we had to make a decision. The access road continued on to connect with the Old Main Road, while from our initial vantage point, it appeared that there was not even a towpath alongside the tracks in the direction go Raumiru. Being a very conservative, safety-wise, ex railway guy, I elected to take the road, just as I had elected to turn around at the bridge. My wife again overruled me, and we found ourselves walking in the ballast next to the tracks to stay out of the knee-high weeds.

15) Though there was no towpath, the lay of the land mostly afforded us the opportunity to quickly move a comfortable distance away from the tracks whenever a train called, which was lucky because we encountered our first train on this segment, a work train powered by a Chinese diesel. I’ll discuss these locos in the future. We actually lucked out, since a short time previous, we had walked (quickly) through a cut of “very limited clearance” (see map). Had we met the train in the cut, it minimally would have been a dusty, gritty experience, even if a chunk of ballast from one of the cars had not hit us. If you are touring by car, there’s no need to walk this segment, as it is nothing spectacular to see.








Date: 04/05/17 15:35
Re: A Casual US Railfan Tours New Zealand: 3 - Trek to Raumiru Sp
Author: hogheaded

16) After we followed the (Likely-like) loop around to Raumiru, another southbound train showed up, this time a mixed freight consist pulled by electric locos.

17) In the foreground, Raumiru Station, unused for some time, stands directly below the train’s power on the upper end of the loop. I consider hanging around to wait for the Northern Explorer, but by this time we were very ready to head back. If the Explorer was electric-powered, I would have badgered my wife into hanging around.

18) An aerial recapitulation, looking roughly east. The roadway in the center that extends straight down to the bottom from the railway leads to State Highway 4 (just barely out of the picture), what I would call “the highway of death” for pedestrians. Even if you have “braved” the two main railway hazards, my recommendation is that you not walk along this road. Arrange for somebody to drive you back to National Park - your hotel desk clerk can locate a ride for you. The problem is that, in many places, there is NO shoulder to walk upon, particularly on bridges, where you have to RUN for your life in-between cars doing 100 kph. Note to Yanks: even the traffic lanes on rural Kiwi roads are quite narrow, so if you meet two meeting cars…

 








Date: 04/05/17 15:40
Re: A Casual US Railfan Tours New Zealand: 3 - Trek to Raumiru Sp
Author: hogheaded

19) The last train that we saw, a northbound freight, another electric, happened by us about a mile not of National Park during our return.

It will be interesting to follow the fate of the electrification: supposedly one year, nine months & counting…

Next we’ll take a short look at Wellington.

EO




Date: 04/05/17 18:46
Re: A Casual US Railfan Tours New Zealand: 3 - Trek to Raumiru Sp
Author: snoopy51

WOWEEEE I hope that they don't stop the electric trains and put in the diesel with the pollution etc.
 



Date: 04/05/17 20:34
Re: A Casual US Railfan Tours New Zealand: 3 - Trek to Raumiru Sp
Author: hogheaded

snoopy51 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> WOWEEEE I hope that they don't stop the electric
> trains and put in the diesel with the pollution
> etc.


Your thoughts seem to be shared by Kiwirail operating employees. They don't care for the new Chinese diesels, I'm told.

EO



Date: 04/06/17 11:57
Re: A Casual US Railfan Tours New Zealand: 3 - Trek to Raumiru Sp
Author: CPRR

Why would you take out a perfectly run electric operation? Great photos.



Date: 04/06/17 14:25
Re: A Casual US Railfan Tours New Zealand: 3 - Trek to Raumiru Sp
Author: hogheaded

CPRR Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Why would you take out a perfectly run electric
> operation? Great photos.

The electric locos are about 30 years old, and according to KiwiRail, worn out. The choice for them seems to be either rebuild or buy new electric locos, PLUS extend the electrification from Hamilton to Auckland, OR dieselize the electric section. KiwiRail claims that the change of power in Hamilton is expensive, and also time consuming for time-sensitive freight. The national government (owners of KiwiRail) has a history of radically changing its mind regarding railroads, and KiwiRail plans to keep the juice on the wires after the electrics quit, so things don't seem to be totally cut and dried.

EO



Date: 04/06/17 14:47
Re: A Casual US Railfan Tours New Zealand: 3 - Trek to Raumiru Sp
Author: darkcloud

 



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/13/17 14:50 by darkcloud.



Date: 04/07/17 00:06
Re: A Casual US Railfan Tours New Zealand: 3 - Trek to Raumiru Sp
Author: Hartington

The main line and Auckland electrifications both use 25kv AC.   Wellington area is 1500v DC.   Therefore you need dual voltage locos to be able to run all the way from Auckland to Wellington,

In theory it would have been possible to change the Wellington voltage I suppose but with new EMUs for Wellington in the last few years their conversion to 25kv would add even more to the cost.



Date: 04/07/17 10:08
Re: A Casual US Railfan Tours New Zealand: 3 - Trek to Raumiru Sp
Author: CPRR

hogheaded Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> CPRR Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > Why would you take out a perfectly run electric
> > operation? Great photos.
>
> The electric locos are about 30 years old, and
> according to KiwiRail, worn out. The choice for
> them seems to be either rebuild or buy new
> electric locos, PLUS extend the electrification
> from Hamilton to Auckland, OR dieselize the
> electric section. KiwiRail claims that the change
> of power in Hamilton is expensive, and also time
> consuming for time-sensitive freight. The national
> government (owners of KiwiRail) has a history of
> radically changing its mind regarding railroads,
> and KiwiRail plans to keep the juice on the wires
> after the electrics quit, so things don't seem to
> be totally cut and dried.
>
> EO

I can not think that changing out power would be "expensive"?. If there is a crew change the train has to stop. How many minutes does it take to change head end power? Hell, the Milwaukee RR ran electrics that where almost 60 years old. Dang young people.....



Date: 04/07/17 11:58
Re: A Casual US Railfan Tours New Zealand: 3 - Trek to Raumiru Sp
Author: hogheaded

CPRR Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> I can not think that changing out power would be
> "expensive"?. If there is a crew change the train
> has to stop. How many minutes does it take to
> change head end power? Hell, the Milwaukee RR ran
> electrics that where almost 60 years old. Dang
> young people.....

I have no idea why the electrics are "worn out" and having an increased failure rate. But, now that darkcloud and Hartington have clued us in on an electric gap above North Palmerston and the voltage difference issue, KiwiRail's decision does make more sense. The North Island Main Trunk between Wellington and Auckland is 682 Kilometers (424 miles) long. That is not a very long run to require two locomotive change-outs. In terms of locomotive utilization alone, it should be evident that one locomotive traversing the entire distance is more efficient than three, because what are the other two locomotives doing after their changeouts? Sitting, waiting for other trains. That possibly would be the biggest argument against them, although personnel costs, the cost of maintaining separate diesel and electric parts inventories and especially maintenace of the overhead all must figure into this. Extending the electrification at both ends would make sense, but that would be a heavy capitol expense that the taxpayers might not want to bear, unless it could be shown to greatly reduce operating costs. New Zealand only has 4.5 million people, so enlarging the electrification would be a significant expense in the antional budget.

I'm not trying to clobber you on the head, here.  In fact, I'm still disgusted that Milwaukee turned off the juice two months before I was able to make it to the Bitteroots in 1974. Sigh.

EO



Date: 04/08/17 11:17
Re: A Casual US Railfan Tours New Zealand: 3 - Trek to Raumiru Sp
Author: BoilingMan

Cool stuff-  thanks for the maps!
SR

I stumbled across the MILW in the Summer of '74.  I'd heard about the electric operation, but knew very little about it.  I was at a substation near a tunnel portal.  It looked like an interesting spot for a photo, so I made myself a sandwich and got comfortable...   this I gotta see!
After a while someone came out of the substation to ask me what I was doing.  He broke the sad news that the last electric train had passed a few weeks earlier- I was a bit too late.
BTW: The power was still on to keep the locals from swiping the copper-  it was turned off in sections as it was removed.



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