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International Railroad Discussion > From the Before Time: New Zealand 2019 North Island Edition


Date: 03/13/21 14:43
From the Before Time: New Zealand 2019 North Island Edition
Author: NMlurker

In April 2019, which is fall in New Zealand, I embarked on an effort to ride every train that I could in a three-week period all over New Zealand. This included the three long-distance trains, Northern Explorer, Coastal Pacific, and TranzAlpine; commuter systems in Auckland and Wellington, the Weka Pass heritage railway, the trolley system in Christchurch, the Taieri Gorge railway, and a special tour on otherwise freight-only trackage via a Silver Fern railcar between Christchurch and Invercargill and return. It was great fun in a beautiful country full of nice people.

A tiny bit of incomplete history: For the longest time all the trains in New Zealand were under the government-owned New Zealand Railways (NZR). In the early 1990s, New Zealand dabbled in privatization of the rail network and Tranz Rail (TR) was born. In 2003, Australia-based Toll Holdings acquired Tranz Rail. And in 2008, the government bought the railway back from Toll creating Kiwi Rail, the current operator of freight and long-distance passenger trains. A variety of previous paint schemes can still be seen.

Arrival in Auckland was early in the morning and well before lunchtime I had procured my Auckland Transport ‘Hop’ card and set off to ride as far south as I could on the Auckland train network which is Pukekohe. All of the Auckland commuter trains are now modern EMUs with the exception of the non-electrified trackage between Papakura and Pukekohe which uses [older] DMUs.

1. My first stop was Otahuhu Station which is the station closest to Kiwi Rail’s Westfield Terminal (yard and locomotive depot) which I at least wanted to see and investigate any possible photographic access.

2. Just north of Otahuhu Station, a southbound EMU set rolls into the station while a northbound EMU set in the background is making its stop at the station. The EMUs are Spanish-built AM-class. The electrified two-track commuter line is separate from the parallel two-track freight mainline seen to the right.

3. Another northbound EMU set at the Otahuhu platform heading for the main Auckland Britomart Station via the Southern Line. On my return trip north, I transferred at Otahuhu to an Eastern Line train that takes a different route to Britomart.








Date: 03/13/21 14:45
Re: From the Before Time: New Zealand 2019 North Island Edition
Author: NMlurker

4. An overall view of the Westfield Terminal looking northward. Locomotive servicing is at the left, the sparsely-populated yard is in the center rear, the freight mains are at the center foreground, and the commuter lines are at the right. The pedestrian bridge in the distance above the locomotive and string of containers is fenced off on the ‘public’ side and not in use.

5. At the end of electrified operations on the Southern Line at Papakura, one does a cross-platform transfer to a two-unit set of DMUs. My set, 860/810, Australian-built ADL/ADC-class, was still labeled ‘MAXX” which was an earlier incarnation of rail transit in Auckland. It is seen here starting its return (northward) journey from Pukekohe to Papakura.

6. The station sign at Pukekohe.








Date: 03/13/21 14:47
Re: From the Before Time: New Zealand 2019 North Island Edition
Author: NMlurker

7. Back on the platform at Otahuhu, now in the afternoon, this northbound container train rolled by behind two Chinese-built DL-class locomotives, the newest locomotives on Kiwi Rail and all are on the north island.

8. The best views of the Westfield Terminal were obtained from passing trains in the morning. Here, DC-class #4041 does some switching with a ‘tank-on-flat-car’ and empty container flats.

9. An overview of locomotives at Westfield, from left-to-right, DH-class shunter #2868, DC-class #4058 and [likely] #4692, and DFB-class #7049 and #7199.








Date: 03/13/21 14:49
Re: From the Before Time: New Zealand 2019 North Island Edition
Author: NMlurker

10. DL-class #9170.

11. Two old (stored?) shunters:  Both TR-class but of different designs, #459 and #1026.






Date: 03/13/21 14:51
Re: From the Before Time: New Zealand 2019 North Island Edition
Author: NMlurker

12. Pre-dawn, the Northern Explorer loads at Strand Station which consists of a 20’ repurposed container. The historic Auckland Station sits nearby unused by any trains. The train is led by DFB-class #7186. The Northern Explorer makes a day-long trip down to Wellington three days a week in season. The operational highlight is the Raurimu Spiral on the climb to the National Park station. There are also some epic bridges and gorges.

13. Each of the three Great Journeys of New Zealand trains carry an open viewing car like this one. Unfortunately, during my time in New Zealand, these cars were off limits due to problems with people misbehaving, which I believe meant leaning out from the open windows.

14. Another view of the Northern Explorer as it makes its stop at Hamilton. Note that there is once again electrification as the line is electrified between Hamilton and Palmerston North over the central mountain chain. I saw some electric freight locomotives (30 EF-class) sitting in the yard at Hamilton and some ‘dead’ ones (no pantographs) in Palmerston North, but none in operation.








Date: 03/13/21 14:53
Re: From the Before Time: New Zealand 2019 North Island Edition
Author: NMlurker

High on my list for trains to ride in Wellington was the former interurban Johnsonville line. While it now uses modern EMUs (Korean-built FP/FT-class), it still features steep grades, sharp curves, and seven tunnels. For just NZ$10 I acquired a three-zone day pass on Metlink that allowed unlimited rides on the Johnsonville line.

15. An FP/FT-class EMU set arrives at the platform at Johnsonville under a vintage catenary pole.

16. Two FP/FT-class EMU sets in Johnsonville service rest at the main Wellington train station.

17. Wellington also has a noted funicular that they refer to as cable cars. The funicular connects the city center at sea level up to the beautiful botanic gardens and hilltop neighborhoods.








Date: 03/13/21 14:55
Re: From the Before Time: New Zealand 2019 North Island Edition
Author: NMlurker

Since I had arrived in Wellington in darkness, I wanted to ride the Wellington Metlink commuter service back northward to retrace the scenic coastal section of trackage. This time it took a NZ$20 ten-zone day pass. This service also uses FP/FT-class EMUs. Unfortunately, the rest of the transit system was shutdown for maintenance over the Easter weekend so I could not ride the lines into the Hutt Valley or the locomotive-hauled train to Masterton through the famous Rimutaka tunnel, the longest in NZ.

18. One of the heritage operations in New Zealand is Steam Incorporated located in Paekakariki. When I passed through here in the morning, one of their restored diesels, Da-class EMD G12 (either 1410 or 1431), in NZR red, was out and about. When I returned after lunch, it was nowhere to be seen, just these four stored DBR-class GM8s. There is #1226 in the MAXX scheme, #1282 in the ‘fruit salad’ NZR scheme with large numbers, #1199 in the MAXX scheme, and #1267 in the current Kiwi Rail scheme. Despite where they are stored, they are not listed as part of Steam Incorporated’s roster.




Date: 03/15/21 10:06
Re: From the Before Time: New Zealand 2019 North Island Edition
Author: WP17

NMlurker Wrote in part:
-------------------------------------------------------
> 12. Pre-dawn, the Northern Explorer loads at
> Strand Station which consists of a 20’
> repurposed container. The historic Auckland
> Station sits nearby unused by any trains. 


I was totally impressed with the historic station both the facade and interior. I thought I would share a couple of photos. Well worth a visit:-)

WP17








Date: 03/15/21 10:21
Re: From the Before Time: New Zealand 2019 North Island Edition
Author: SP4360

 pic 4. "A bumper, now this is a bumper."
Nice looking station too.



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