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Thursday Walkabout on the Main Trunk Line

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I had most of today free so I "went walkabout" to see the snow  and hopefully some trains on the central section of the North Island Main Trunk Line across the Volcanic Plateau. 


Original and replica Climax geared loco cabs outside an engineering workshop in Te Kuiti. Climax was the preferred type of geared "lokie" used on logging lines (Bush Tramways) in the area with a number of locos surviving into preservation. 


The Northern Explorer(Dora)climbs into the hill country above Te Kuiti. The loco is basically the NZ equivalent of the IE 071 Class, the coaches are based on Swiss RHb metre gauge stock. The Northern Explorer is pitched at the tourist market, operates without public subsidy and is quite profitable.



High on the plateau Dora crosses Matatote Viaduct the largest of the steel viaducts on this section of the line. The structure was recently renovated and re-painted after 20+ years of deferred maintenance.


Horipito Motors (Smash Palace)  the largest and only vintage car dismantlers in Australasia a local institution. https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/smash_palace

Originally built a sawmill Bill Cole and his family set up a car dismantling business when the native bush was logged out over 6o years ago




Ruapehu from Horopito Road


A tripple headed diesel hauled northbound freight crosses  Matatote. In 2016 Kiwirail announced that it was intended to discontinue electric traction over the 255 mile central section of the Trunk this decision was reversed following a change of government in 2018 and its intended to refurbish 15 EL BoBoBo electric locomotives for use on the trunk.


I had intended to follow the Northbound but ended up chasing a southbound through to Waiouru the highest station on the trunk and go home via Taupo


Horopito again Smash Palace in background.


Twisty narrow gauge alignment!


9158 crests the grade into Waiouru Ruapehu partially covered in cloud, the track on the left is the headshunt, loop points fitted with heaters to deal with frost.

Waiouru is a classic photo location for southbound trains.



Train was made up of 30 bogie wagons loaded mainly with 20' ISO tank containers and 20' Curtain sided containers for Logistics traffic

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It must be nice to just walk along the track to get the best picture location. :trains:

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Tongariro, Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom & Ruapehu (l-r the three active volcanoes in the Tongariro National Park) viewed from National Park . the conditions in the Rangipo Desert on the opposite (eastern ) side of the mountains was  quote different with cloud cover later inthe afternoon.


Pair of EF (30) Class electric locomotives hauling a North bound freight about 10 years ago. Despite 3 changes of ownership the locos are still running in  NZR "Fruit Salad" paint scheme of the 1980s

The central section of the NIMT was electrified in the late 1980s both to reduce dependence on imported oil and allow heavier fright trains to be operated at a higher speed than with current diesel traction. 

The Bo-Bo-Bo 4000hp electric locomotives were supplied by Brush Traction and similar in design to the Channel Tunnel Shuttle Locos


EF 30249 recently re-painted in the Kiwirail paint scheme c 2010. Until recently the majority of the class has continued to soldier (in increasingly decrepit appearance) on in the original livery until thy become due for major overhaul/rust treatment.

The Government has recently approved programme  (principally an upgrade of the control system) to extend the life of the class a further 10 years.


Double headed steam special descending from the volcanic plateau through typical Central North Island hill country near Taumaranui.


DCP4692 heads the northbound Overlander across a typical timber piled bridge in the Ongarue Valley on a summer atSurday afternoon shortly before the Government bought out the main line rail freight and passenger operator Toll Rail in 2008.

The daily Overlander has been replaced by the tree-times weekly Northern Explorer and the timber bridges replaced by steel and concrete structures.

While Tranz Rail appeared to operate reasonably successfully under Wisconsin Central management following privitisation, both in terms of profitability and significantly increasing passenger and freight traffic, this was largely at the expense of deferring maintenance and renewals of locos stock and infrastructure and an element of asset stripping to pay dividends. Tranz Rail effectively reached breaking point around 2002 with Toll (an Australian Logistics Company) buying out the operating company and the Government taking over responsibility for infrastructure. The Government bought out Toll's railway operations in 2008 for approximately twice the sum sum realized from the privatisation of the railway system approx 15 years earlier.


The Overlander crossing Waiteki Viaduct the most northerly and oldest of the high viaducts on the Main Trunk.

The day was hot and sunny and  Overlander was running a reduced speed (45Km) due to the risk of buckled continuous welded rail arising from deferred maintenance.

The structure was originally erected in the 1880s with 4 wrought iron lattice spans on 3 wrought iron towers with concrete end abutments. The structure was strengthened to accept the higher axle loads with the K Class 4-8-4 locomotives introduced in the 1930s and the viaduct is currently undergoing a major upgrade https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/108196608/new-life-for-129yearold-old-rail-bridge-on-nzs-main-trunk-l

Edited by Mayner
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Those viaducts look a wee bit precarious,  sure a bit of maintenance probably wouldn't hurt !  You certainly get some epic views where you are ! 

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12 hours ago, PorkyP said:

Those viaducts look a wee bit precarious,  sure a bit of maintenance probably wouldn't hurt !  You certainly get some epic views where you are ! 

You should have seen them before we caught up on the deferred maintenance 🙂.  https://nzhistory.govt.nz/media/photo/makatote-viaduct

American style timber and steel trestles look spindly compared to British & Irish practice, but tend to be stronger structurally and have better earthquake resistance compared to a similar stone or brick structure. 

Timber piled construction is quite common for civil construction in America and Australasia, the main reason for replacing timber piles with concrete on the railway is to reduce long term maintenance cost rather than address any specific structural problems.


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Just reminded me a bit of that fillum, the Cassandra crossing, where, if I remember rightly they are hurtling towards a big rickety old wooden bridge !

I'm sure it's way more secure than it looks, specially If you've got earthquakes to contend with too..! Great pictures..👍 

It got me intrigued and looked up the movie out of interest, funny how you remember stuff wrong.. The bridge they used was apparently  an impressive iron viaduct in France made by none other than Monsieur Eiffel ( of tower fame) and they did some major railway modelling to film the crash and disintegrating bridge scenes...

Edited by PorkyP

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Apart from the Broadmeadows Viaduct on the Dublin-Belfast line collapsing into the sea in 2009 Melverely Bridge on the Welsh Borders was probably the best example of a shonky railway bridge in the British isles.

Both the original timber bridge and its steel replacement became unsafe to support a train. During the 1940s a loco would push a train of wagons across from one side for another loco to pick up.

There are similar stories of lines in the states (Chicago Attica & Southern) and locally (Taupo Totora Timber Company) where the bridges were in that bad of condition that the train crew would set the train in motion very slowly before getting off and walking across after the train made safety made it to the other side.1_melverley_bridge_800w-before-colapse.j

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