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Tuesday Walkabout in the South Waikato

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It looks like I haven't been out on walkabout/train chasing since last September mainly as a result of work & family commitments, but managed to take the afternoon off after a business appointment yesterday and check out operations on the Kinleith Branch in the South Waikato.

The branch was built to serve a large paper and pulp mill in the South Waikato during the early 1950s, the mill was set up to process timber from plantation forests established in an area of the North Island Central Plateau that was then considered unsuitable for pastoral farming (dairy, beef and sheep) because of trace mineral deficiency in the volcanic pumice soil. The branch which then left the  Hamilton-Rotorua line at Putaruru was basically an up-grade to a section of an existing logging line to main line standards to handle the output of the new paper mill, and timber and plywood mills along the route. Forestry and timber processing has become less significant during the past 20 years with mills closing and forestry land converted to pastoral farming with trace element deficiencies addressed through fertiliser  use with dairy products from a new processing plant replacing finished timber and plywood as a traffic source on the Kinleith Branch.

 

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A cut of 10 container flats set out by the Te-Rapa (Hamilton)-Kinleith freight on the reception siding to the Fonterra Litchfield Dairy plant, main line in the foreground.

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Litchfield Plant  Dry and Cold Stores in background siding to plant in middle distance.

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Tokoroa Road Rail Terminal built as a joint venture by KiwiRail, South Waikato District Council and RJL (a logistics business) the terminal was opened in 2016 to stimulate growth and employment opportunities in an area decimated by closures in the timber processing industry. The large timber processing (timber and plywood) processing plants served by the line closed during the last 20 years as NZ exports in finished timber and board products became less competitive.

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Kinleith the terminal of the line is basically a small marshalling yard beside SH1 a few miles south of Kinleith, with a yard office, small loco shed and CTC relay room.

A laden log train awaits collection by an overnight Mt Maunganui (Tauranga Port)-Kinleith service, curtain-sider wagons for paper traffic are in the right background.

I arrived in Kinleith just after the departure of the afternoon log & paper train for Mt Maunganui and the afternoon shunting service to Te Rapa.

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Yard office and wagons with export log traffic. The export log traffic took off after the GFC as the export of finished timber and ply became uneconomic as China and other export countries developed their own processing capability.

 

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Although the main line locos had departed there was still some activity as the yard shunter 3127 propelled a train of empty log wagons towards the Mill Yard.

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Crossing a local road 3127s driver controls the loco by remote control from the rear platform. 

The Mt Maunganui trains are basically "Caboose Workings"  without a caboose, where the Road Locomotive does not carry out any shunting apart from uncoupling running round and coupling up at terminals. The local shunting crew are kept busy moving cut of wagons between Kinleith Yard and Mill and making up trains for departure.

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I had intended to check out a preserved  Ollie Smith "Bush Tractor" a home made diesel loco at  Mamaku on the Rotorua Branch on the may home but caught a glimpse of a Kiwirail loco propelling a rake of wagons into the Litchfield Dry Store so I had to check out.

The white containers are for internal Fonterra traffic between processing plants in the Waikato Region and the companies Te Rapa store where consignments of dairy products are stored and consolidated for export and national distribution. The white containers are "High Cube" and restricted to the Waikato and Bay of Plenty as they foul the loading gauge on other routes.

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9014 had propelled her train back to pick up a cut of flats with shipping containers with export products (most likely cheese) from the store!

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Train made up and ready to depart!, the travelling shunted has completed the brake test and completing his paperwork in the Ute before heading to Morrinsville to meet the train to carry out the next shunt. The 20' containers at the rear are carrying traffic from the Tokoroa Terminal.

Train length 33 wagons approx 1100tonnes gross, Kinleith-Te-Rapa shunting service also serves a Cold Store and the Open Country Dairy plant sidings at Waharoa near Matamata (Hobbiton) but there is no work today.

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9014 approaching Hutchison Road level crossing Kaimai Ranges in the background. I framed the train between two power pylons so the rear of the train is out of sight.

I had hoped to get some shots of 9014 and her train on the attractive un-fenced roadside sections of line between Litchfield and Waharoa but could not get ahead of the train because of roadworks

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The train just about fits into the yard at Morrinsville clear of the trap points.

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9014 & the "Hi Cubes" have uncoupled from the rear of the train and is about to propel back and couple to the  flats with "Curtain Sider" containers on the left.

The Curtain Side containers are from Fonterra plants in the Morrinsville area and have been left by the Te-Rapa-Morrinsville-Waitoa-Hautapu Shunting services which serves Morrinsville and two light axle branchlines in the area. Morrinsville had its own shunting loco and crew to serve Morrinsville and the Waitoa Branch until several years ago when the Morrinsville and Te Rapa-Hautapu shunting services were merged and main line locos used on the shunt with a lot of light engine movements between yards and plants.

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9014 has coupled on to the curtain siders and cleared the middle road for the arrival of 9521 with a Te-Rapa Mt Maungauni freight

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9521 appears to be mainly carrying Fonterra traffic in reefer containers, the shunter prepares to set the road for 9014s departure before driving to the opposite end of the yard to attach the cut of wagons with ISO containers to the east bound freight.

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9014 departs Morrinsville with a solid block of Fonterra containers. 

It was getting late and did not stay around to watch the departure of the 9521 and her freight.

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10 hours ago, Galteemore said:

Great stuff. What the Lough Swilly might have looked like today...

Interesting comparison with the Swilly the overall distance between Hamilton & Kinleith and Derry & Burtonport are similar though the slightly wider gauge allows higher far higher speeds and heavier loads than those achievable on "heavy rail" Irish 3' gauge systems like the Swilly and Donegal.

Although freight only the Kinleith Branch has a line limit of 100km or 60mph, another big difference is that Ireland has moved on from a commodities based to a high value manufacturing and service based economy with little need to move high volume low value freight from its factories to the ports.

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11 hours ago, Galteemore said:

Great stuff. What the Lough Swilly might have looked like today...

Wow! One of THOSE going over Owencarrow viaduct!

Only last night I was wondering what might have happened had the CDR survived, with the three "F" class diesels, four West Clare railcars, three new trailer coaches, and the rebuilt C & L coach No. 1L all kicking about.

You'd probably have had steam until maybe 1965, and then the three "F"s (no, not Isaac Butt's ones) would manage all the goods, with steam as spare. Donegal railcars 15, 18, 19 and 20, and the four Clare ones would have kept the passenger side going potentially into the 1980s.

And maybe 1965 would have seen the CDR take over the closed GNR line into Derry!

So, Derry - Killybegs and Strabane to Letterkenny-hi by railcars in the 1960s and 70s....there's a layout idea which actually began to inspire a long defunct 009 layout when I was in my 20s.......

Had it survived today, it would have Luas-type things on it, or slimmed down 2600s, and goods would be a memory. But at least there would be three preserved Class 5 tank engines, and hopefully half a dozen of the old coaches.

The Kiwi loco above would need "Iarnród Donegal Hi!" on its sides, hi.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 11/3/2021 at 10:13 AM, jhb171achill said:

Wow! One of THOSE going over Owencarrow viaduct!

Only last night I was wondering what might have happened had the CDR survived, with the three "F" class diesels, four West Clare railcars, three new trailer coaches, and the rebuilt C & L coach No. 1L all kicking about.

You'd probably have had steam until maybe 1965, and then the three "F"s (no, not Isaac Butt's ones) would manage all the goods, with steam as spare. Donegal railcars 15, 18, 19 and 20, and the four Clare ones would have kept the passenger side going potentially into the 1980s.

And maybe 1965 would have seen the CDR take over the closed GNR line into Derry!

So, Derry - Killybegs and Strabane to Letterkenny-hi by railcars in the 1960s and 70s....there's a layout idea which actually began to inspire a long defunct 009 layout when I was in my 20s.......

Had it survived today, it would have Luas-type things on it, or slimmed down 2600s, and goods would be a memory. But at least there would be three preserved Class 5 tank engines, and hopefully half a dozen of the old coaches.

The Kiwi loco above would need "Iarnród Donegal Hi!" on its sides, hi.

One intriguing possibility would have been the Derry Road continuing in operation at least as far as Strabane in order to maintain a rail link to County Donegal, either with the Irish Government sub-sidising UTA/NIR continued operation of the line or CIE or possibly the CDR taking over responsibility for operation and maintenance of the line.

Interestingly CIEs operating losses increased significantly in 1965 after it took over responsibility from the UTA for cross border freight operations to Belfast and Donegal presumably paying the UTA for trackage rights in Northern Ireland and providing motive power and crews for the Derry Vacuum between Lisburn & Waterside.

A 3' gauge A1A A1A version of the 121 Class would have been ideal for working Strabane-Letterkenny and Strabane-Killybegs goods traffic. The Letterkenny line carried relatively heavy traffic requiring two steam goods daily in its final years & Killybegs generated enough fish traffic to support a weekly Sligo-Waterford Bell-Liner in the 70s and 80s.

General motors built a basic 3' gauge B-B version of the 121 (GL8) that ran on standard American freight trucks (bogies) and built a 3'3" & 3'6" gauge A1A A1A versions for East Pakistan & Taiwan during the 1960s. The Australians built a less powerful  6 cylinder 3'6" gauge Bo Bo version of the 121 with similar power output to a C Class.

2 locos would have covered CDRs power requirements with perhaps a 3rd as a spare, they could have followed the Australian option of using the locos on both narrow and standard gauge by swapping bogies.

The Chinese built Kiwirail DL locomotoives are similar weight (108 tons) to the Irish Rail 201 Class and have a slightly higher power output than the Irish locos at 3600hp

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