Blessed, yet again, by the Weather Gods a full busload of Society Members departed MOTAT2 on Sunday 2nd of May in glorious sunshine.
Spirits were high and exceeded only by expectations of a fun day ahead filled with Smoke, Steam, Coal and Steel. We were not to be disappointed.
The nice thing about the Industrial Heritage world is that, like the Olympic Rings, there are many overlaps. Thus, we knew we would be enjoying the company of old friends and new acquaintances down at The Bush Tramway Club who are based at Pukemiro Junction on the Glen Afton Line.
Originally opened on the 20th of December 1915, the railway was conceived to carry coal from the Pukemiro and Rotowaro mines out to the Main Trunk Line in Huntly. (Rotowaro – Coal Lake. Pukemiro – Hill with Miro trees.)
The line was extended in 1924 by the NZCDC to supply the boilers at the dairy factory in Glen Afton. The Pukemiro Mine closed in 1967 and the Glen Afton Mine followed suit in 1973.
Originally headquartered at MOTAT itself and forming the core of the Rail Section, the Bush Tramway Club were able to lease the Pukemiro Line from NZ Railways and thus focus their attention on locomotives unique to the haulage of logs and coal through the winding valleys of New Zealand's bush. An unusual feature of such machinery is that it is often 'gear-driven' to maximise traction hauling large loads on rough tracks at slow speeds. One such example can be seen at MOTAT on occasion when on-loan periodically. This is the popular Price Cb117 built by A&G Price at Thames in 1927.
Unlike many heritage rail collections the Bush Tramway features smaller loco's and jiggers, powered by steam, diesel, petrol and even batteries. (Climate Change enthusiasts please note.)
We were fortunate to be able to ride the rails behind the BTC’s 1923 Peckett steam loco Number 1630 (1) (similar to that at the Whangarei Steam Railway which we visited earlier this year). It is proudly still running on the line to which it was delivered between the wars.
Talk about Chalk & Cheese - A second train operating for our visit was pulled by a Drewry Diesel shunter (2) supplied new to Meremere Power Station in 1957. There is something sonorous about the lovely lazy Gardner 8LW diesel in these loco’s.
The day was like stepping back in time with informality and a genuine friendliness coupled with home-made hospitality in the Tea Room. Lovely savouries, sandwiches and copious cups of char. Thank you ladies.
We enjoyed a tour of the workshops, wandering amongst the projects and ephemera. Our guide was the ever enthusiastic Theresa B. Our visit was over all too early and we boarded the bus for home about 3.30pm. The consensus was that this will become an annual visit. The enjoyment was plain to see on the faces of attendees.
There was the ubiquitous Chairman’s Quiz contested keenly as we crested the Bombay Hills and members were offered a souvenir CD of Country & Railway songs (clearly an acquired taste - not all offers were taken up).
If you can't wait a full 12 months for our return please take a run down to Huntly, any time, for a fun day. The BTC is open on the first Sunday of every month (wet or dry). (3)
One project locomotive in need of support is the unusual 1903 Heisler #1082 (4) with its V-Twin steam cylinder configuration and shaft-driven crownwheel & pinion bogies.
Our thanks go to the staff and members of the Bush Tramway Club for a wonderfully smoky, steamy and sunny day-out. We'll be back!
- Article and Photos by John Tutchen