January 3rd

Tour Day 5

Mainline Steam

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Today started with a visit to Mainline Steam (web site).  This is a company that preserves full scale steam railroad equipment and provides steam excursions on New Zealand mainline rails.  They have two facilities, one here in Auckland, and one in Wellington.  They are working to keep the sound of full size steam locomotives on New Zealand rails.

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Number 1236, a "J" class (4-8-2) locomotive which has been restored to operating condition and used for steam excursions.
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Cab of 1236.  Notice that the steam gauge can be read by both the fireman and the engineer (driver).  Also note that the engineer must read the steam gauge backwards :-)

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An injector that uses exhaust steam to put water into the boiler.  This type of injector is not used in any scale locomotives I've seen but was used on US railroads.

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A main floor full of projects in progress and a busy shop area.

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A "Quartering Machine" used to guarantee that the rod pins on opposite drivers are positioned at exactly 90 degrees to each other.  A hard machine to find these days but one that is essential to maintaining mainline steam locomotives.

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The photo on the left is of a test bench used to maintain the different parts of the air brakes on the cars and locomotives.  I'm not sure if the notice on the right is referring to the full size test bench (left photo) or the miniature version attached to the notice :-)

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More of the various pieces of shop equipment used to maintain mainline steam locomotives.  Also shown in photo six is Ian McKay who works for Mainline Steam.  Ian is also one of the folks traveling with us helping Dave Giles keep us organized on the tour.


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Even the girls got into the action by taking a cab ride in number 552 a 4-8-0 which was steamed today just for us.  Joan is 4th from the right and Elaine is 2nd from the right.

One of the girls (not Joan or Elaine) discovered that they had been sitting on part of the coal bunker which was (of course) covered with coal dust. It left a rather obvious black band across her backside!

While the "boys" were having fun with the locomotive, the "girls" had the option of going to Eden Gardens.  The area was once a garbage pit and an eyesore.  Today it is a beautiful garden with little nooks for sitting quietly and enjoying a bit of nature in the city.  It was a great setting for morning tea (complete with scones and cream).  In route to our next stop at Botany Downs shopping center, we went to a scenic overlook that was once one of the many volcanic calderas that now make-up Auckland.  From this high point, we had a 360 degree view of Auckland and the surrounding area. After some "retail therapy", we rejoined the men at Manukau live steam club.


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Perhaps the high point of the day (at least for me) was that I was given the opportunity to try my hand at the throttle of 552 on a section of yard track ... can't understand why they didn't want us out on the main :-)

She was very responsive and it didn't take long to get used to her throttle and brake characteristics.  Of course, it probably helped that I have had some experience with my 7.5" gauge 4-8-4 as well as running on the 30" gauge line at the Omaha Zoo ... and, no, I didn't slip the drivers!


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Harry Bean from Texas, another member of the tour who tried his hand at the throttle, looks like he's having fun doesn't he ...



Manukau Live Steamers


In the afternoon we visited the Manukau Live Steamers (web site).  This was the second visit for Larry and I but the first for the rest of the tour group.  There was more activity at the facility this time.  As well as having the track in full swing, the local antique car and an IC (internal combustion) engine clubs were out in force.


Antique Auto Club


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Being steam folks, one of the high points of the antique cars in attendance was a fine example of a Locomobile.

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Here I am getting a ride in the Locomobile - don't let anyone tell you that steam cars can't go fast!


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As I understand it this is one of a very few of these cars still in existence but unfortunately I didn't write down its info ...


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Another rare automobile.  When this one drove up in the bright sun I was about blinded!

Some other cars in attendance ...

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IC Engine Club


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Some of the collection of IC engines brought for us to look at.  Several of them were run for us.  True marvels of workmanship.

Most of the engines were scratch built by Allan Roberts.  They include Lycoming, Gipsy Moth, Bentley 9 cylinder radial and a turbo prop 'modern' aircraft engine.


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Of particular interest to me was this working scale turboprop engine, complete with auto start and fuel management system.  It is a true turboprop engine with a 'free turbine' driving the propeller gearbox.  

This engine was also started for us to marvel at.  How can anyone even think of exposing an engine like this to the dangers of flight in an R/C aircraft?



Well, Back To Steam!


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Here's Dave, our coach driver, getting a quick orientation of the cab on Dave Giles' Shay and taking her for a spin ... He enjoyed it, but I don't think he's going to surrender his coach driver's license!


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Something you don't see often in the US (due to liability) is a very close fitting tunnel.  As you can see this chap's head doesn't clear the portal by much.  The reason for the close fit is that the tunnel was built when the largest locomotives and rolling stock was 1" scale (5" gauge).  The tunnel can not be expanded because of Council (city government) restrictions.

The shay clears the sides of the tunnel by mere inches.  I'm not sure what you'd do if it derailed in the tunnel - I don't think that there is room to get off, never mind trying to re-rail her.  When Dave designed the shay he built a wooden frame of the outline to be sure it would fit through the tunnel.

Luckily, I haven't seen any derailments on the bar stock rail used here and the tracks seem to hold their grade and level well.

In New Zealand there is more responsibility placed with the individual to be aware of their surroundings and exercise care.  I think that this results in a less 'sterile' and natural environment.  We have noticed this in many aspects of New Zealand life.

Contrast this with the requirements the Largo Central Railroad (web site) had to meet when they built their new 155 foot long tunnel in Largo, Florida.  It had to have a wood walkway on either side of the track as well as having an internal height high enough that an adult can walk out without bending over in case of a derailment.  They also had to install an emergency lighting system.


Some of the sights and engines at Manukau ...

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The Manukau club also did a superb job of feeding us as well as keeping the tea flowing.  Many of the members shared their locomotives with us and made us feel very much at home.


Next day:  January 4th