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International Railroad Discussion > From the Before Time: New Zealand 2019 Southern Rail Tour Part I


Date: 03/21/21 19:57
From the Before Time: New Zealand 2019 Southern Rail Tour Part I
Author: NMlurker

The anchor of my New Zealand trip was the opportunity to ride the freight-only trackage from Christchurch to Invercargill and return on a vintage and historic rail motor known by the name Silver Fern. There are three of these Japanese-built in 1972, two-car sets. In early 2019, Dunedin Railways was still leasing the operable one from Kiwi Rail, RM-class #24. While I was on the South Island, a second set, RM 30, was being hauled around by a Kiwi Rail locomotive for a different charter tour operation. The third one, RM 18, was stored at the Kiwi Rail shops in Dunedin, sadly heavily graffitied. The tour was called the Southern Rail Tour and is apparently no longer offered. Immediately after my trip, Kiwi Rail did not allow renewal of the lease and took RM 24 back for their use on charters out of Christchurch along with the other two Silver Ferns. I now feel very fortunate to have ridden it when I did.

One unexpected benefit of riding the Silver Fern was that when traveling south, one had access to the front of the train, behind the driver, allowing photography of track, signals, and meets. I always greatly enjoy the forward view from a train.

This set of photographs will be a mixture of shots of the Silver Fern, shots from the Silver Fern, and train shots taken while on the tour of the south end of the South Island.

1. Back at Addington Station in Christchurch for the mid-morning boarding of the Silver Fern RM 24 on April 26, 2019.

2. The nameplate on the Silver Fern. To the upper right you can just see the start of the large “Dunedin Silver Fern” lettering that I could never get a shot of because the train was always at covered platforms and disappeared for servicing after we detrained.

3. This was one of my favorite things at the Addington Station - the sign for the Southerner that had not run in 17 years at that point.








Date: 03/21/21 19:59
Re: From the Before Time: New Zealand 2019 Southern Rail Tour Pa
Author: NMlurker

4. Underway south of Christchurch we were rolling right along at 106 kph.

5. A similar view to image 1 but this is the lunch break at Timaru where we ate at the cafe in the station. Most meals were had off the train, otherwise on-board was limited to boxed lunches and tea and coffee.

6. The first meet of the day at St. Andrews (STA) where we took the siding for a northbound loaded coal train using open-top 20” containers. The lead unit is DXB-class #5080. I believe the second unit is a DFT-class (7000 number series).








Date: 03/21/21 20:01
Re: From the Before Time: New Zealand 2019 Southern Rail Tour Pa
Author: NMlurker

7. This view gives a clear picture of the terrain which is decidedly not flat.

8. It is still my belief that we were operating under track warrants, but this looks a lot like centralized traffic control (CTC). We have a yellow-over-green to take the siding at Herbert (HBT).

9. And now a red-over-yellow into the siding that clearly has a remotely operated switch.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/21/21 20:09 by NMlurker.








Date: 03/21/21 20:07
Re: From the Before Time: New Zealand 2019 Southern Rail Tour Pa
Author: NMlurker

10. In the siding at Herbert awaiting a meet with full sunshine and perfect lighting.

11. The ‘train’ turns out to be a light engine move with DFB-class #7239 and DFT-class #7051.

12. And then our green signal to depart from the siding.

The first day's destination was Dunedin and Part II will cover Dunedin-to-Invercargill and the northward return trip.








Date: 03/22/21 02:24
Re: From the Before Time: New Zealand 2019 Southern Rail Tour Pa
Author: Hartington

I've never worked out precisely how the Kiwirail loco numbering works. RM24 - there were only 3 of them. As I understand it Rm24 is acually RM2, the 4 is a check digit.



Date: 03/22/21 08:15
Re: From the Before Time: New Zealand 2019 Southern Rail Tour Pa
Author: King_Coal

Thanks for sharing these. I really like photo 7.  Must be an adventure!

What is left of regular freight operations on the Southern Rail network? Daily? How far south?

I suppose all those dramatic steam-era photos of the NZ trains always gave me a unrealistic view of activity.



Date: 03/22/21 11:33
Re: From the Before Time: New Zealand 2019 Southern Rail Tour Pa
Author: NMlurker

Hartington Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I've never worked out precisely how the Kiwirail
> loco numbering works. RM24 - there were only 3 of
> them. As I understand it Rm24 is acually RM2, the
> 4 is a check digit.

You get the gold star of the day for that insight. I had not really paid that much attention to their numbering, but I did not understand why, for example, the newest locos, the DL-class, acquired in blocks of 20, 20, and 8 (prior to a subsequent 15) were numbered from 9008 to 9515, but it makes perfect sense when one omits the fourth digit. For some reason there is no 905X, 924X, 939X, or 943X.



Date: 03/22/21 11:46
Re: From the Before Time: New Zealand 2019 Southern Rail Tour Pa
Author: NMlurker

King_Coal Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> What is left of regular freight operations on the
> Southern Rail network? Daily? How far south?

We would tend to meet two to three opposing trains per [partial] day south of Christchurch. I would assume most trains are at least five days a week. My impression was that the trains tended to be industry specific (and generally quite short). For example, there was a 'daily' train into Dunedin from the dairy to the south with export powdered milk (in containers) for China. Or there was an export meat train from the packing plant to a container port. The international container trains would run longer distances, city to city, and often there seemed to be an arrival and a departure of containers overnight.

Tracks go all the way down to Bluff, where there is a container terminal, and northwest from Invercargill to Morley where there is at least one active coal mine. There is a very detailed railway atlas of New Zealand. I have the 4th edition from 1993. "New Zealand Railway Atlas and Tramway Atlas."

I hope to have Part II posted later today.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 03/22/21 14:00 by NMlurker.



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