Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Steam Train, Day Fourteen: Hamilton to Whangarei

Today was a long travel day, but I swear I am going to keep this post short. No, really... I am becoming very sick with a sore throat and I need to sleep.

We left Hamilton this morning and made directly for Auckland, about 120km to the north. When Alan and I arrived, dropped off by the J's Backpackers van, the mainline steam representative spotted me and asked, "Hey, do you want to play again today? You can come ride in Ja 1275 again if you want". Of course, I am never one to turn down a cab ride, so both Alan and I went up and rode all the way from Hamilton to Westfield, a station in the suburbs outside of Auckland. While we were up there I got to fire again, and even drive the train! It feels kind of surreal, to know I drove a steam train on a main line. Sure, it was the train in the middle, not the front locie, so technically I didn't have to work any brakes or anything, and the train was just steamed up enough to pull its own weight, but it was still driving!

Yes, even the engineer gets to take pictures!

Amusingly, my parents called me on my cell phone when I was on the locie, prompting me to answer it and say, "Hello, I'm on the engine, you'll have to call me back!" and then hanging up on them. I called them back once I was riding in the carriages again, and got caught up with the news back home, and them caught up with the news here.

Platform warnings at Westfield. This reminded
me of the MTR in Hong Kong.

We bid adieu to J 1211 at Westfield, as it is going to be serviced in Auckland, and Alan and I headed back into the passenger cars after almost two hours in the cab. After making it through Auckland in record time (according to Michael), we entered into the Northlands, and finally had a few photo stops; the first at Wharepapa Road, and then Helensville Station.

A locie on display at Helensville Station

The cab of the aforementioned locie

The beautifully restored Helensville Station

The third was at Hoteo Quarry, where I scrambled up a cliff face (! twice!) to take pictures of the locie rounding the corner. One man was so impressed with the vantage point I was able to reach he asked for a copy of the photos I managed to take, and gave me his e-mail address!

The crowd of photographers in Hoteo Quarry
as seen from my mountain-goat vantage point

Ja 1275 steaming into Hoteo Quarry

I think I may have used more of my theoretical carbon
credits up riding steam trains than on the plane coming here!

The third stop was at the town of Wellsford for servicing (a water stop), and I wandered up into the town to purchase Halls (called "Throaties" down here) for my rapidly deteriorating throat.

Logs waiting to ship by rail at Wellsford

Wellsford Station, now boarded up

A creative (if inappropriate) use of thumbtacks in an old tie

I found this decapitated plastic figure in the
garden at the station. Maude promptly stomped
on it about two seconds after I took this picture!

The fourth and fifth photo stops were at Topuni and Maungaturoto, respectively, but in my opinion weren't particularly spectacular after the Hoteo Quarry, although I took pictures anyway.

Supports for the old Otamatea rail bridge

I passed the afternoon on the train with Maude and Alan, doing the sudoku and cryptic crossword puzzles in the paper (I'm rubbish at crosswords, but great at sudoku). We've become like something of a slightly dysfunctional family on the train; it's going to be sad to leave all of these people tomorrow.

Rail joint bearing an engraving of its laying date

An old loading station

Ja 1275 at Maungaturoto

We got into Whangarei at 7:15pm, and after checking into the YHA, Jean, Gary, Claude, John, Alan, and myself went down to McMorrissey's Irish Pub and Eatery for dinner. There was a live Irish jam band, a loose group of twelve or so musicians who call themselves "Trad SessĂșn" and get together every Tuesday night to play Irish music. They were fantastic! I wanted to sing along so badly with some of the songs they played (such as "Tell My Ma"), but with my throat as it is I can barely croak out words, let alone a melody. I'm sure the pint of Guinness I had didn't help, either...

Anyway, I am off to bed... we aren't leaving Whangarei until tomorrow afternoon, but I still want to get as much sleep as possible.


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