December 30th

Tour Day 1


Today we started our actual travel by heading towards the north end of the North Island. Since the tour is made up of train enthusiasts from the States, England, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, many of us have never met before.  To mix the group up, our organizers numbered the seats on the bus in a random pattern.  The first day, you could sit anywhere on the bus.  What ever that number was, on each succeeding day you moved to the seat with the next higher number. That way, everyone will have a chance to sit in the front or the back, on the right or the left, and meet different people across the aisle. We'll let you know how that works. 

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On our way north from Auckland to the Bay of Islands area we made a rest stop at this small German style restaurant.  In a pen outside, there were several Alpacas.  Larry was amazed to note that they apparently always 'did their stuff' in a neat pile in one corner of the pen - which Larry skillfully captured on film :-)


Whangarei Society of Model Engineers

(Whangarei is pronounced: Fan-ga-ray)

The first rail club on our journey was the Whangarei Society of Model Engineers.  A nice club and track located on a small hill in the town of Whangarei.  They share grounds with a machinery preservation society. 


A rare chance to see a New Zealand Kiwi up close

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Also located on the rail club grounds is the Native Bird Recovery Center.  The center is caring for 2 kiwis that were caught in 'possum traps.  Each kiwi lost part of its leg in the trap.  Since they would not be able to survive in the wild, the birds are now "show birds" used for education.  Kiwi are an endangered species and the symbol of New Zealand. 

Kiwis are nocturnal birds that forage through the woods and underbrush for earth worms and insects.  One Kiwi has become quite used to its human handlers.  He has his days and nights turned around so that we can see him in the daylight.  He also doesn't mind people petting him.  This was indeed a rare opportunity.

Also at the Recovery Center was "woof-woof" a talking Tui.  A Tui, or parson bird, is a blackish bird with conspicuous white throat feathers. While recovering from injuries, this Tui taught himself to talk and named himself woof-woof--much to the astonishment of his keeper and all who hear him. (Joan has seen many Tuis throughout New Zealand, but none of them say a word, although they have a melodious song).  


The Club Track

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The club has a very nice setting with a view over the countryside


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A shot approaching the loop at one end of the railroad with a yard and the car shed on the left.

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We are finding that one of the characteristics of 7.25" railroads in New Zealand is the use of bar stock steel rail that is approximately 3/8" x 1 1/4" in cross-section welded to steel bars on top of wood or just slotted into wood ties.  In the US, aluminum rail with a prototypical cross-section is the most common.

Another characteristic is the use of a crossover between two end loops of the railroad.  This is done to even out the flange ware on wheels by having the cars travel clockwise half the time and counter-clockwise the other half of the time.

I would have thought that steel bar stock would have been hard on the wheels but they say that any sharp corner on the rail edge is soon worn off and wheel wear does not seem to be a problem even at tracks that haul the public every weekend.

I've included a photo of the switch points at the crossover and a close up of the crossover itself.  Note that it gets quite intricate when you add the third rail to accommodate 5" gauge locomotives and rolling stock.

Dual and even triple gauge is common here.

Some Locomotives

Below are some shots of "Haggis" a nice 2-6-0 built by Jim McLean from Auckland.

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More locos:

PC300203_e.jpg (160199 bytes) Here are three engines that we will see at many of the tracks on our tour in addition to Haggis.  Their owners are traveling with us and allowing us to use their engines at the various tracks.
PC300185_e.jpg (137680 bytes) Number 66 and a small shay passing at the level crossing
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The Zip hot water maker
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Another sight that would become common in our travels across New Zealand.  The ever-present "Zip" hot water maker used to prepare the boiling hot water for tea and coffee.  The small round device on the upper right contains the 'start' switch.  On the front right you can see the glass tube that shows the water level topped with a whistle that blows when the water is done.  When the whistle blows the 'start' switch is automatically shut off.

Larry and I are trying to figure out how we can get one of these in our suitcase and past airport inspections!

Railroad Memorabilia
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The club has several small buildings containing a collection of railroad memorabilia.  One of the many items was these signaling devices used to be sure that there was only one train on a given section of track at a given time.

Steam and Gas stationary engines

Located on the same grounds as the rail club is an impressive collection of steam and gas engines, many of which are operable.  Sorry, too many to name and describe but here is a sampling:

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Clock Museum

Continuing north we stopped at an interesting clock museum (Web site

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Anyone need an alarm clock?  They have 100's !

A collection of steam related clocks:

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Late in the afternoon we arrived at the Beachcomber Resort in the town of Paihia in the Bay of Islands region in the northern section of the North Island. The rooms were very nice with a great view.


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Somewhat unusual was the fact that there was a large crab in our shower.  Upon closer inspection it turned out to be a bath mat, soap, etc.  :-)

In the evening, we ate dinner at a local "Returned Service Mans Club".  This is something similar to our VFW clubs.  All are welcome, the food was good and at a reasonable cost.

Next day:  December 31