Thursday, January 13, 2011

Steam School Textbooks and Buried Locies

This morning I was so excited about getting those Steam School textbooks that I woke up at 7:30am without an alarm (or maybe it was the on-again off-again snoring coming from the Italian guy at the far side of the room). Either way I stayed in bed reading until 8am, then got up and had some breakfast (nutella and toast! So nutritious), and then made my way down Chapel Street and over onto State Highway 6 to Tai Poutini Polytechnic for my 9:30am appointment with Warren Smith. Turns out his new office space has a window that looks out toward Noah's Ark Backpackers, and if I had leant out my window while we were on the phone yesterday we likely could have seen one another! Forget the cell phone, we could have had two tin cans with a string...

Warren had the Steam School textbooks sitting on his desktop; just as I remembered, there were three spiral-bound modules, and then two smaller books, a practical and a theory assessment workbook. We talked for a little bit (I gave him a BCFDC flyer) and he said in selling the books to me he was really only looking to recoup the printing costs, which were a bit higher than might be expected due to the colour photos on a lot of the pages. I was just so happy with the fact that they were going to let me buy the books I wasn't very concerned about price, and $196 later, all five books were mine! Warren said to keep in touch; I think he's hoping if the Forest Museum ever develops some sort of steam school Tai Poutini Polytechnic might be able to assist us in setting it up.

I practically skipped out of the Polytechnic, hugging the books to my chest as I walked back up the street to the hostel: here, in my arms, I had my reason for coming back to Greymouth, and after a few phone calls and a little persuasive conversation I had achieved my goal! As someone who hates approaching people to ask for things, I was quite proud of myself. I went straight into the dining room / lounge, flopped down on the couch, and proceeded to devour the first sixty pages of the first module. Oh, how I want to go home and study Samson now, matching everything up to the diagrams! (I also started correcting the grammar and spelling mistakes. I can't help it, it's compulsive...)

After a brief supermarket visit to pick up some soup, bread rolls, and canned beets for lunch, I spent the afternoon reading and updating my blogs for the Heaphy Track with photos; I now have pictures up for every day except the last one, and I'll try to get those up tomorrow. For the last part of the afternoon I went out and sat and read on the balcony of the hostel, and finally figured I had to blow off some of this excitement about my newest acquisitions to the only type of person who would understand: a fellow steam nut, Ron. I called him up and in the midst of our conversation about my adventures at Shantytown I remembered I have to make a list of some of the redneck Kiwi jokes I have heard ("Maori roast" as a euphemism for "fish and chips" being one of the more politically-incorrect ones).

While I was making dinner my cell phone beeped; it was Craig Campbell, the fireman I met yesterday, asking if I were free this evening. We met for a drink at Speight's Ale House, where we talked trains for about ninety minutes solid, and then he took me just up the road in his car to show me where some locomotives and coal tubs are eroding out of the side of the riverbank; in the 1930s and 1950s, old steam locomotives and the like were piled up against the side of the river to prevent the banks from eroding further and thus endangering the rail line. As it turns out, the river's course has changed, moving it closer to the bank, and while the rail line was moved to safety farther up the side of the mountain, the old "retaining wall" of locomotives and rail trucks has started to erode into the water. Craig told me in 2005 he watched several old locomotives being salvaged from the bottom of the river. He's been surrounded by steam trains his whole life; his dad worked for Mainline Steam, and now he (Mr Campbell) has started his own steam railway project up in Springfield (between Greymouth and Christchurch). We had a nice (if nerdy) evening together, and he said to give him a ring when I'm in Christchurch with my parents (where he lives) and we'll go out and look at Ferrymead Heritage Park's steam train.

Tomorrow I am off to Nelson; I will be staying at a backpacker's for a few days, and I just got an e-mail back from a WWOOFing host up in Nelson saying they can take me on Monday! And get this: they run a miniature world as well as their organic garden, where they do some model railroading. Things seem to be falling into place. :-) Night! (For some reason I feel like ending this entry with "All aboard!" instead. It really has been a day of trains.)


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