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The Transport / Rail Blog
The Transport / Rail Blog
Video Of The Month - February 2015 - NZ National Fim Units "Destinations" - 125 Years Of New Zealand Railways From 1988
|Posted on February 1, 2015 at 1:17 AM||comments (454)|
Click on link here to see the Video Of The Month for February 2015
Another special favourate of mine from 1988 is the NZ National Film Unit Documentary to mark the 125 years of New Zealand Railways - Called "Destinations" - it is a good snapshot of how New Zealand Railways were 25 years ago. A lot of changes have ensued over the following 25 years.
|Posted on January 2, 2015 at 4:05 AM||comments (217)|
A special double treat from New Zealand in two parts - Spectacular video of Mainline Steam KA942 excursion from Christchurch to Greymouth and back on the Midland Line 01 and 02 September 2012 - South Island - New Zealand Includes spectacular aerial footage
|Posted on December 1, 2014 at 10:48 AM||comments (130)|
Click on link here to see the Video Of The Month for December 2014.
It is another special favourate of mine from the mid 1980's and is National Geographics "Love Those Trains" a just lovely video documentary of the romance of trains and railways.
|Posted on December 1, 2014 at 8:40 AM||comments (167)|
Click on link here to see the Video Of The Month for November 2014
The video of the month for November 2014 is a favouriate of mine from the early 1980's and is MIchael Palin's "Confessions Of A Train Spotter " a wonderful video documentary.
Video Of The Month - October 2014 - Between Mountains And Sea - Following The Coastal Pacific Train Between Christchurch and Picton - New Zealand
|Posted on December 1, 2014 at 8:34 AM||comments (149)|
Click on link here to see the Video Of The Month for October 2014
Another Wonderful Treat From New Zealand - Following The Coastal Pacific Train from Christchurch to Picton, New Zealand - A unforgettable train journey that takes you from Rails to Whales!
Video Of The Month - September 2014 - "The Wine And Dine Flyer" Hauled By Steam Engine JA1250 "Diana" - Auckland, New Zealand
|Posted on December 1, 2014 at 8:24 AM||comments (329)|
Click on link here to see the Video Of The Month for September 2014
A Special Treat From Downunder - New Zealand Famous Mountain Class Engine JA1250 ("Diana") hauling "The Wine and Dine Flyer" through the greater Auckland region in September 2013 - a wonderful sight and sound to behold!
This lovely story from John B in the LNER Railfan forum from the UK complements this video well and talks about "Diana" as she was on the New Zealand KiwiRail Overlander service in 2006. I traveled behind her five times that year on the Overlander. A unforgettable experience!
See "Diana", the steam engine, on the Overlander (that matches the below story) in the video link here
The Overlander - Memories In Steam
"Saturday dawned dull grey and overcast, with the car fuelled and ready to go we set off northwards to our rendezvous with the steam engine hauling the southbound Overlander, due in at Te Kuiti at approximately 10.35 am. Hunkering down with my camera, at the line-side, I faced north and settled in for what seemed like an interminable wait for the girl to appear.
Then I heard a distant deep-throated whistle, or did I? It was so far away, I could not be certain, then I heard it again and I became more hopeful. The lady in the information centre had said that the steamer would run an hour and forty minutes late, I was disappointed with this information, I wondered how she knew, or was it just surmise? I saw no change in the red railway signals beside the road crossings in Te Kuiti, and then the crossing bells suddenly and stridently announced her imminent arrival. She hove into view going well and gleaming black, her red buffer beam prominent and with her huge headlight to the fore. “She” was “Diana”, a class “Ja” 4-8-2 tender locomotive, built for New Zealand Railways in the Hillside locomotive works of Dunedin in 1949.
Wisps of steam exuded from several definable and indefinable places on the locomotive, the gentle hiss of her valves working as she rolled into the station combined with the exhaust steam, heavily laced with that distinctive smell which all steam engines have, of partially burned coal, at once, an evocation of all steam engines encapsulated in a fusion of raw elemental power, air, fire and water.
Memories flooding back of my youth, when everything that ran on the railways was powered by steam, of “spotting” locomotives whenever I found myself against the railway tracks. The preservation era ensued never dimming my love for the old steamers. There was a special in 1967 from Kings Cross London to Newcastle, hauled by a double tendered 4472 “Flying Scotsman” and visits to Waterloo Station in London in 1967 and 1968 to watch the last few mainline passenger steam engines working on the southern region of British Railways. There was the lovely old Bluebell line, then visits back to my native Yorkshire with trips on the steam hauled trains of the superb North York Moors Railway line and that microcosm of 1960’s railwayana, the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway Line. These trips continued on into adulthood, even my friends in the walking group were enveigled into joining me and were suitably charmed when we incorporated trips on the steam railways, at the beginning or end of our many hill-walking excursions on the North York Moors or the Bronte moors in West Yorkshire.
Today, this engine was very different from what I was used to, she was made in New Zealand with lots of strange looking pipes, a cattle catcher, an enormous headlight and various other protuberances festooning her boiler and cab, she looked powerful though and was in good fettle.
The men uncoupled the train, sent “Diana” up the line, then back onto the down loop to take the turn-out leading onto the turntable. She balanced nicely on the beautifully refurbished Te Kuiti turntable, two or three burly fella’s turning her easily and she was facing north again, ready for the down Overlander train to Auckland. The fireman raked out the smokebox on the trackside, dropping some fine diamond shaped particles of unburnt coal. The support group from Glenbrook Vintage Railway hoisted several large barrels of shiny black coal into her tender, using a small digger fitted with an hydraulic lifting arm.
The fire brigade arrived too and tapped their hoses into a convenient fire hydrant from which they obligingly topped up the locomotives tender with water. Meanwhile, one of the locomotive men commenced topping up all the brass oil feed cups located round the engine and tender, there were fourteen altogether, each one to be filled to the brim. He then screwed down the grease caps on the motion to ensure plenty of grease was supplied to these vital links in the chain of power transmission from the cylinders to the wheels, sufficient for a trouble free return journey. Everyone who worked on her seemed in no particular hurry, they worked on her methodically, it all seemed to happen at a comfortable and timeless pace, everyone and everything knew its own time and place. Each little piece of the jigsaw dropping neatly into place until, all was finally ready for the return journey.
I asked the driver if I could take a photo of the cab interior, I tried taking the photograph from ground level, then he answered “up! up!” I needed no second invitation. I achieved a small dream in that moment, here I was, a relative newcomer to New Zealand and the only member of the very large crowd gathered there who had managed to get on to the locomotive footplate. I was so happy and excited, that manically grinning from ear to ear, I took the hand the of the somewhat bemused fireman and shook it vigorously, he seemed delighted at my enthusiasm. I was suitably rewarded of course with a firm but black handshake, coal and grease combined on the palm of my hand, the imparting of grime resulting in a desire never to wash that hand again.
It was dark in there, in the cab, there was little room for the four of us and it was warm, there was the low background hum of the living beast about it all, it felt as though blood was coursing through her. There were two thick water gauges set in dull brass, occasionally bubbling, there was a profusion of brass knobs, many of them gleaming with constant use, there were steel levers even more highly polished, particularly those of both the train vacuum and engine brake levers.
There was the regulator, the main controller of all that innate power, with its own locking lever, the reversing lever was set at neutral whilst the locomotive remained at rest. The pressure gauge reading was 120lb per square inch whilst stationary, it’s normal operating pressure being 200lb per square inch. There was the large brass speedometer. Then the water valve was quietly turned on and the injector lever engaged. The water from the tender blasted for some considerable time into the boiler with a loud whoosh. There were crude seats for the crew, then the shiny platform called the footplate on which all the hard work was achieved. There was the shelf on the front of the tender from which all the locomotive’s coal was accessed, the firebox door handle on the backplate and the floor mounted rocker lever activated by the fireman stepping on it, opening the firedoors by compressed air as if by magic. God forgive the fireman who let fly the contents of his shovel towards the firedoors without first having opened them.
The fireman began preparing the engine, opening the firedoors he revealed the heart of the locomotive, the fire, glowing red and orange whilst quietly drawing the fire’s heat through the tubes in the boiler. More coal was hefted deftly and thinly into the corners and centre of the fire grate, just a small spread of new coal, the fire’s bed no more than two inches deep in any one place, the recent black coal contrasting sharply with the partially burnt bright red fuel on the grate. The coal on a steam engine is fed into the firebox “little and often”, rather like the feeding of a horse.
The top, permitted speed for the locomotive is 80kph and Occupational Safety and Health regulations DO apply to old steam engines. I suspect this speed limit is inadequate for the locomotive to maintain its Overlander schedule on time. The driver became very quiet when I asked him what the “official” top speed was, casting a knowing look at his colleague, I left the question in the air. He had been on the railways for forty-eight years. He still proudly wore his NZR engine drivers cap badge. Jokes, stories and banter abounded, this was a friendly knowledgeable crew who enjoyed what they were doing and it showed. A beautiful steam locomotive will always attract these “special” people.
The time came for the engine to move off and prepare for the long ride home, more coal was fed into the grate in an effort to raise the steam pressure gauge. Then the call came, the line near the turntable was cleared and the great 110 ton engine lumbered north and back onto the mainline. Steam pressure built up along with the expectations of the waiting crowds of passengers and enthusiasts. The Overlander train arrived and the steamer was unceremoniously hitched backwards onto the front of the Overlander’s diesel locomotive .
The whistle blew and with the regulator opened the locomotive began to pick up speed, slowly at first but with an ever increasing exhaust beat she was soon going hard, getting the train away in quick good order.
I watched as she drew away, sending an increasingly high plume of smoke and steam skywards. The exhaust beat gaining in intensity as the regulator was fully opened. Everyone in Te Kuiti was left in no doubt that they had played host that day to a powerful steam engine. Gathering speed she became smaller and smaller as she headed down the line, until she was just a speck in the distance, the exhaust beat now firm, very fast and pulsing.
The emotion she drew from within me was palpable, a departure such as this will always be a regrettable thing. All our human frailties, hopes, dreams and fears ride along with the steam train, loved ones leave, sometimes never to be seen again - a memory, a moment in time and timeless. So it was with the locomotive.
That Saturday afternoon, I spent a very happy four hours of my life, lost in the presence of a noble gracious lady, “Diana” a mystery, an enigma, with all of this and more besides, just a simple steam engine.
JEB © 08/08/2006"
|Posted on August 30, 2014 at 3:25 PM||comments (183)|
Well Kiwi Rail have announced their 2014 annual result (see here and here) and what a result. It is not good and to be fair they acknowledge this - it is their "Annus Horribilis" as the beloved Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain once said.
This is totally expected. I have said for some time now that their current strategy will not make them financially sustainable and at last they seem to be coming to the same conclusion.
It is good that the Business is at last doing its "Back to Basics" work and the Strategic Review underway is looking at and realises the following:
But this has taken too long for this realisation. I was saying this on this blog back in late 2011 - over two and half years ago. I am frustrated it has taken them so long to see the innevitiable. Even now I don't believe they fully see it. But see it they must. Rail will always be a economic case in New Zealand - not just a financial business case.
Some initial points I make are:
First point - Stop Blaming the Past and Privatisation - this is getting very tiring. The network has been funded by the Government now for over 10 years. Yes that's right - it is over ten years since the Government started pumping money into the network revitilsation started by Ontrack in 2004. That is more time than the time the whole network was in private hands. Anyone still blaming privatisation for Rails woes is woefully misguided and uninformed - yes it contributed to some of the run down but it should be clear to all by now that Rails troubles in New Zealand go much deeper than anything privatisation brought and go much further back. I may have further to say on this at a later date. There is strong evidence that the NZ Government Treasury were actively trying to close the whole railway network down in 1988 and 1989 and deliberately were trying to set the company on a course to do so. It was the strength and the many concessions of the managment team at that time that saved the day!
Second point - Get Your Facts Right - How can they print rubbish in official press releases like saying it is 35 years since new locomotives were last bought in NZ. The EF new locos were of which there were 22 were bought in 1987 - they were commissioned in 1988. The first DL's locos were bought in 2010 - by my count that is 22 years between new locos being delivered not 35. Even if they are talking diesel locos - the last of the new DF locos bought entered service in 1981 - which is a 30 year gap at most. How bad is that - again trying to shft blame onto the past by exagerating the facts!
Third point - Costs go up while revenue goes down - yes I understand the Aratere issue but clearly costs increases are much greater than that cause. Increased maintenance rather than capex on infrastructure - sounds like labour capitalisation policy. If they don't spend the capex they should turn off the labour - period. Anyway with the amount of infrastructure capex spent over the last ten years - infrastructure maintenance costs should be falling by now not increasing!
Fourth point - Rule in Railways - Don't Buy Revenue - there seems to be evidence that increased volumes have not covered / contributed that much to fixed costs or may be not even exceeded the marginal / variable costs particularly when the increased capex to serve that new business for new wagons, containers, Aratere refurbishment etc is taken into account. That is not good and value destructive. It is not about volume at all costs it is about increasing financially performance - unless of course they are paid to shift volume below rails costs for some other reason such as economic wider benefits like getting freight off the road - if this is the case then say so!
Actually I could go on and on but I wont as most of it I have covered before but I will relink my recent blog on this issue as well as things I pointed out back in early 2012 - it needs to be said.
See our Blog posts from 7th June 2014 on NZ's rails future sustainability here
See our Blog post from 14th Janaury 2012 on NZ's rails future here
|Posted on June 7, 2014 at 1:18 AM||comments (283)|
Just four short years after the review that resulted in the KiwiRail Turnaround Plan being formulated in 2010, KiwiRail are to undertake another major Strategic Review of their business.
What? Another major Strategic Review. Surely not.
Well - I have to say I am not at all surprised by this and I believe it is well overdue. Whilst the Turanound Plan ("TAP") has not yet "failed" in the classic sense it has had some material execution issues that have resulted in below par financial performance for KiwiRail. KiwiRail for its part bravely acknowledges this.
Let's be frank here - KiwiRail has invested close to a Billion dollars in the TAP since 2014 with very mixed results. It seems the only reason not used for non financial performance against the plan are pestilence and famine and you could hardly say "famine" with the huge amount of Government money pumped in.
Yes, Earthquakes have had an effect, as have storms, floods, mining disasters (Pike River tonnage loss) and coal volumes collapsing but given the money invested in the freight business the results have been quite below what one would commercially expect. If you go back to the Tranz Rail (Youtube Link here) era, and the then business, had that amount of capital been invested in that business then goodness knows what could have achieved. Maybe a lot more than KiwiRail in its current form!
Whilst recognising the privatisation of the rail network did have some very resultant significant issues (mostly shareholder related) - generally what limited capital was pumped into the business was spent a lot more wisely and targeted at real commercial opportunities. Yes the infrastructure was run down under private ownership, and in part we are still paying the price for it, but overall the commercial business was run with a lot more flair, creativity and innovation than it is now and money was spent wiser. Like it or not the Tranz Rail era (especially the early years 1993-1999 was a period of significant innovation in the NZ Rail sector). We now seem to be paying the price of Government ownership with lack of commercial entrepreneurship and understanding from the owners.
Lets be frank again - the railway should not have been fully renationalised. Yes the Government should own and invest in the track (just like they do with the roads) - that's what Ontrack was for. Even the unions knew this to be true - their campaign was "Take Back the Track" - not the Operator. Of course they didn't object to it when the Government did take back the Rail Operations. The reality is the Government of the time couldn't swallow the private Operator running the business due to their political ideology more than what was right for the business. Maybe they could have been partial owners of the Operater business like in the Air New Zealand ownership model but still owned 100% of the track and network - that is one business model.
Look at the comments at the bottom of this blog from KiwiRail. You have to admire ;-) how they try to put a brave face on what the Government is telling them. Lets be honest though - The Government is "hacked off" with the KiwRail investment. They just haven't returned the financial results expected of them and without major change to the way they look at the business model they likely never will - and I mean never. This is not necessarily the individuals fault running the business - let's be fair there - but it is the buisness model and probably the ownership structure. I have said this before - see blog here. Look at the below news report as reported by TV3.
Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee has launched into KiwiRail, saying the state-owned company is "fundamentally dead" despite the Government pouring more than a billion dollars into it.
"There's no doubt the previous government bought an absolute lemon when they bought back KiwiRail," he told Parliament today.
"There's no question about that. This Government has poured over a billion dollars into a recapitalisation programme trying to make the thing work. Sometimes it's hard to kick life into something that's fundamentally dead." Mr Brownlee was facing questions from NZ First leader Winston Peters over the problems KiwiRail is having with its Interisland ferries.
Mr Peters said the Aratere was stuck in dry dock in Singapore and its replacement, the Stena Alegra, was out of action after crashing into a wharf on Tuesday.He reeled off a list of previous problems with the ferries, and asked Mr Brownlee whether he still had confidence in KiwiRail's management.
Mr Brownlee said the company's management was "dealing with recent incidents affecting the Aratere and the Stena Alegra appropriately".Mr Peters asked him whether "anything short of a sinking" would cause him to lose confidence in KiwiRail's management, and it was at that point Mr Brownlee ripped into KiwiRail.
He said Mr Peters, who was part of the previous Government, had supported the decision to buy the company bac
Having a look at the main routes - Right now the following lines are most likely uneconomic :
Other problem lines include the historic poor returns from Solid Energy or the "Coal Route" from the West Coast. Sure they have enough tonnage but do they get enough revenue yield per tonne to cover their total operating and ongoing capital costs. This line should commercially work very well with the West Coast export coal, Westland Dairy tonnage, the Gold Slurry and the world famous Tranz Alpine passenger train. If it doesn't commercially work then that is surely a issue the way the business (or business model) is run or setup.
The route to/from the Taranaki is probably also sustainable providing Fontera underwrite them (and stick with them) and they probably should. Is the central NIMT commercially viable? Well it might be if Fontera keep volumes on there from the Taranaki. What goes from Hawera to New Plymouth now? Not much I suspect as it all seems to head down to Marton and the NIMT or Napier. The recent National Freight Demand Study shows traffic on this line has increased a lot in recent years with changes in shipping patterns for dairy exports.
As stated above the whole NIMT and MNL (Picton to Christchurch) needs very close analysis to see if Interisland Rail is viable in its current form (including rail decked ferries) and whether the cross use of the NIMT with ex Taranaki tonnage for Fontera is also commercially viable and not vulnerable to the whim of future Fontera port changes.
My gut feeling is the NIMT could possibly be viable within itself but can it do so without South Island bound traffic? This needs very close analysis and I will be looking for that in the report when it comes out. I think that as a National Strategic call the route should be maintained but the Government needs to recognise this and simply look after it once it done its own economic report if it supports that conclusion. For the long term good of the business these questions must be answered. Afterall is KiwiRail a full national network business long term or a collection of lines with traffic flows from hinterlands to ports that happen (almost accidentally) fall into a network shape.
The line to Napier seems to have been given a boost due to changes in Fontera export dairy flows ex Taranaki and Winstone Pulp in the central North Island to Napier port flows that used to go to Wellington port. But are these companies simply using the rail option here as a bolster to their own returns and trade off the ports or shipping lines against each other at the expense of fundamental rail commercial viability. Is the rail business getting a adequate return on these changes in traffic flows? Again I await to see the answer.
Probably what is commercially viable currently is the Golden Triangle/Waikato/BoP lines in the Tauranga / Hamilton / Auckland area. This includes Auckland - Hamilton, Coal lines, the Steel Mill line to Glenbrook, the Fonterra spurs, the Forestry lines to Kinleith and Kawerau and the ECMT itself to Tauranga. I also believe the Main South lines South of Christchurch to Invercargill and Bluff with Ohai line thrown in for good measure may be commercially viable especailly with all the primary produce eminating down there.
The metro rail passenger networks in both Auckland and Wellington don't come into this analysis as they are funded by Local and Central Government partnerships which seems to be, for now at least, a sustainable mechanism for their perpetual existence.
I hate to say but I think it is time to have another critical look at the David Heatly report from 2009 and even the Luke Malpass report from around the same time. They can be found at the links here:
These reports don't make happy reading for the rail fraternity and most wouldn't like to see their recommedations necessarily acted on but the issues they raise should be addressed to silence the critics. Rail is a stratgeic investment for the nation as much as it is a simple commercial one afterall but the economic case should be proven as much as it can be anyway. There will always be differing views on the broader economic returns for the railway - that is to be expected but lets get the information out there.
Don't get me wrong I would love to see the total National Rail network continue to its current extent but as stated above it needs to be understood what the benefits and costs truly are and accepted that not all of it may be commercially viable and that some may require broader strategic economic support or simply be run in a different business model. Other bits may have to be let go or at least "rail banked" for future potential development.
Have a read of the below blurb from KwiRail and make up your own mind where it's heading.
There is one thing for sure - KiwRail needs some serious help and it needs it soon or else the financial umbilical cord from the Government will be cut.
We are now four years into our turnaround plan and it is time to look to the future.
We’ve achieved a lot in those four years. We’ve made major investments in rolling stock and infrastructure. We’ve consolidated and improved the network. Changed the way we do business. Independent reviews have endorsed our approach and we’ve strengthened customer confidence and engagement. We’ve grown the business but we’ve also suffered some serious setbacks. In the last 18 months,
This has impacted on our performance and slowed our progress towards achieving financial sustainability. That inevitably influences the perceptions of our shareholder. It is logical and reasonable for the Government to question the utility and future viability of its investment in KiwiRail. Equally, it is dependent on us to answer those questions and build a compelling case for rail. To do that convincingly, we need to build a long-term view of the wider benefits rail will bring to NZ Inc.
That is what Project 2045 is about — it’s about building a 30 year view of the company. To do that, we’ve established a dedicated team with representatives drawn from all parts of the business. The team is led by independent consultant Simon Aimer who will serve as Strategic Director.
We’ll also be engaging with some key external agencies. Treasury has seconded a senior analyst, Ant Shaw, to the project and he is already working with the team in Wellington. We are building a positive and constructive partnership with Treasury and this promises much for the future of Project 2045. We will also be working with other important agencies including the New Zealand Transport Agency and the Ministry of Transport. To re-test our case, we’ll need to map projected freight demand by sector, customer and service. We’ll need to understand performance by corridor and train service and demonstrate how this is complemented by our Interislander and Passenger services and the function of a well-managed property portfolio. Freight volumes are expected to double over the next 20-30 years. We need to outline strategies that will show how we plan to capture that future growth. To do this we’ll have to consult with our customers and draw on the support of independent data such as that provided by the recently completed National Freight Demand Study. On that basis, we can then confirm train plans and rolling stock investments.
We’ll also need to look at all modal options and assess the risks our business may face. Port developments, changes in coastal shipping, industry relocations, the introduction of trucks with vastly increased capacity and the development of new transport hubs, all have the potential to impact negatively on our business. We need to articulate how we will meet these challenges and still drive our business forward.
We plan to complete and deliver Project 2045 to our shareholder by September/ October this year.
The project aims to provide the Government with greater confidence in the future security of our business and enable it to make informed decisions about the future of rail. This will not only secure a sustainable future for KiwiRail, it will also enable us to make an increasingly important contribution to the future development of the national economy.
A final footnote commentary from Randal Prestidge from Target Railway Progress makes some great points -
"The 2014/15 Budget brought a double dose of good news for KiwiRail: $198M of new funding, plus the announcement of an inquiry into the KiwiRail business model. This is potential good news because it might signal a change to the hand-to-mouth nature of this support, which cannot be conducive to effective long-term planning.
Some negative sentiments have been emanating from the beltway recently: from Treasury that “the [KiwiRail] business model is wrong”, and Mr Brownlee’s quip that “sometimes it’s hard to kick life into something [KiwiRail] that is fundamentally dead”. If he scrutinised the updated Freight Demand Study he would see that in the last 6 years rail has increased its market share and GTK, whereas road transport has shown a decline. So, for all its troubles rail is far from dead.
But we feel his frustration. He has handed over more than the $750M requested by the Turnaround Plan. But more is needed, because both the Plan and the business model are wrong. Many of the benefits created by the existence of the freight rail system actually go to users and funders of the road network, but these good folk don’t get to contribute anything toward the resultant easing of road network congestion and maintenance and expansion costs. The ad hoc Crown funding that makes this all possible is actually a great national investment, but “the system” stigmatises it as a subsidy for a sunset industry.
Will the government inquiry come up with a mechanism for facilitating National Land Transport Fund investment in rail, in recognition that “more rail” actually works for the benefit of road users and can reduce their overall costs?"
|Posted on May 8, 2014 at 1:48 AM||comments (7221)|
Heriot, West Otago is a small town in New Zealand, where I grew up. It is an apparently diminutive little town in the middle of nowhere on the South Island but a town that few know was pivotal in New Zealand’s Commercial and Farming heritage.
Growing up in Heriot in the 1970's was great time but is was also very much the end of an era. For starters there was the railway station and the daily freight train from Gore (I have to say that as this is a Railway Transport blog after all). This gave the town a sense of importance and also connection to the larger world out there. The Heriot to Edievale railway extension had closed at the end of 1967 and Heriot was now the terminus of the Tapanui Branch Railway line which in of itself lended the town some importance on the national railway network.
As a town In the 1970's and early 1980's Heriot had a Bank (BNZ), a Post Office (with another bank POSB), a Newsagent and sweet shop, another bigger shop that sold just about everything from groceries to hardware to toys to clothing, travel agents (where I used to go and pick up brochures and dream of traveling away from Heriot), four farming supply shops (Wrigthson NMA, Donald Rieds, Otago Farmers and Dalgety's), a Motor Garage selling petrol and maintaining motorcars and farm appliances, Fertiliser stores and a general truck transport company (West Otago Transport). It also had several churches, a town hall, a fire station, a public library, a concrete works manufacturing factory, and a primary school equipped with a public swimming pool. It had public tennis courts, a pre-school facility for toddlers, various sports fields and a pretty 9 Hole Golf course. There was a course also a Hotel with restaurant and public bar attached. It was in fact quite a town all for about 300 people that lived there in addition to those that lived nearby on the surrounding farms.
However, like many small towns in New Zealand it has suffered greatly from the changes that wreaked havoc to rural New Zealand that started in the 1980's about the time I left home to go to the big city to work and study. When I left Heriot in 1981 it still had much of its vibrancy but it’s importance had already started to wane. The first big loss was the closure of the Railway in late 1978 that occurred due to the big flood damage in October of that year and the drop off in freight tonnage. With trains no longer coming to Heriot, the town, I believe, had lost part of its soul. Sure West Otago Transport (the local trucking company) helped fill the gap but Heriot slowly started to seem somehow less relevant in the bigger scene. Where once there was action in the railway yards there was now a deathly silence - a harbinger of things to come.
As Heriot entered the 1980's the protectionist economy that supported small towns like Heriot could no longer be sustained as our greatest export market for primary produce (the United Kingdom) had ten years previously joined the EEC and so one of NZ's biggest export markets was curtailed. The Government started a drastic reform program that was similar to what happened in many other parts of the world - here it was known as Rogernomics (named after NZ's Minister of Finance), in the USA it was Reaganomics and in Britain it was Thacthernomics.
In the early 1980's Wrigthson NMA and Dalgety shops closed. The bank shut up shop. The news agent closed next and Donald Reid and Otago Farmers stores merged into one store. The concrete works closed down. By 1988 the Post Office had closed and other services disappeared forever like the public library.
What remains now is West Otago Transport, http://www.westotago.co.nz, a farm machinery garage only, the Fertiliser stores, a much smaller general store with a farm supplies agency that is struggling to survive, a Community Center, the Golf Course, the Sports fields, School and Public Hotel. One church still runs as does the Fire Station. Heriot is very much a shadow of its former self. Some contracting businesses like Heriot Earthmoving still remain.
However Heriot is special as it was from here that was born perhaps New Zealand largest private commercial enterprise - the Todd Group. The former Todd historic homestead happened to be our closest neighbor in Heriot across the paddocks. The Todd business had started in Heriot in 1885 about the time the Railway came to town. From it grew New Zealand biggest motorcar assembly company and what remains as New Zealand largest Oil and Gas Exploration company - Todd Energy. Many other company's and investments make up the larger the larger Tood Corporation.
What a great way to remember the little town - the Todd family are especially proud that they came from Heriot and they have never forgotten where they came from and neither will I! Heriot was a great place to grow up and build from dreams.
The following is a news story taken some time ago from the Christchurch Press about Heriot and its often forgotten place in New Zealand’s Commercial and Farming history (it was also the cradle of the famous New Zealand sheep breed, the Romney, now exported all round the world).
Farming and fortunes
Heriot is proof that small-town beginnings can lead to great riches.
A ramshackle building stands halfway down Heriot's main street. When the light strikes at a certain angle, you can make out the name: Todd Brothers Grain Store.
This vintage structure seems at home. Heriot, hub of West Otago, is 150 years old this month.
The Todds launched businesses here which led them to become reputedly New Zealand's richest family. They built an empire in tiny Heriot that included a wool scour and fellmongery, stock and station agency, motor garage and car assembly.
When the Todds moved to the big cities, they became national leaders in vehicle assembly (Humber, Hillman, Commer, Chrysler and, later, Mitsubishi), motor fuels (the Europa brand) and oil and gas exploration.
But they never forgot where they came from. The Todds still donate prizes to children leaving Heriot School each year and they contribute to community causes. They are supporting 150th anniversary celebrations. And they own and maintain the little whitewashed cottage where it all began.
George and Nola Garrett live in the Todd Cottage. They say that since it was given Historic Places Trust registration, they have had many visitors pop in for a look.
Charles Todd left the goldfields near Cromwell and moved to Heriot in 1864. The settlement had already been visited by a disappointed Gabriel Read. About 1860 this Tasmanian prospector sought the prize on offer for a find of gold in economic quantities. Striking nothing in West Otago, he was heading back to Dunedin when he stuck his shovel into ground 50km away and made the discovery that sparked the Otago goldrushes.
Todd set up a wool scour and fellmongery, part of which still stands, at Heriot. He then left the business to his son, Charles jun, and returned to Central Otago. Charles jun married a local woman and they raised four sons in the little cottage. These sons became the Todd Brothers. They brought the first car into the district, in 1908. They established a motor garage and gained the franchise to import "knocked-down" Ford cars, which they assembled and sold throughout New Zealand.
Heriot township, strung along a main street, has never been big. About 300 people lived here in its prime and today's population is only a third of that. But the surrounding area, a broad valley of rolling hills, north-east of Gore, has always been intensively farmed. This healthy and highly productive land is the cradle of New Zealand's romney sheep breed.
Heriot resembles many small towns. Rickety verandas lean against derelict shops; the banks and post office are boarded up; two of the five former churches still stand; a store sells basic items and a transport company sprawls over former railway yards.
It was a busier scene when George Garrett arrived from the Isle of Man in 1958. Nola was working in the grocery-haberdashery, which was "extremely busy". Regular stock sales brought hundreds of farmers to town. Three taxis shuttled fencing and shearing contractors to pubs at Waikaka and Raes Junction in prohibition times. And six stock and station firms operated agencies.
The names of these firms read like a roll of honour: Donald Reid, Otago Farmers, Dalgety and Co, NZ Loan and Mercantile, National Mortgage, Wright Stephenson and, of course, Todd Brothers.
For most of their shopping, residents make the 30-minute drive to Gore. Caught in a never-never land halfway between Invercargill and Dunedin, they are Otago-ites not Southlanders. When they "go to town", it is to Dunedin they head.
Heriot residents tend to avoid visiting nearby Tapanui. Farmer Gloria McHutchon says rivalry between Heriot and the forestry town at the foot of the Blue Mountains has always been strong – sometimes bitter. Teenagers go to Tapanui for high school, families may go there for medical services, but that is all.
Farmer and local historian Peter Herbert says the government bought and subdivided land to establish small farmers as the goldrushes petered out and again after World War 2, which boosted Heriot. The town's fortunes were built on farming families that settled the 200-acre blocks carved up in the 1870s. These fortunes spawned the stock and station agencies, many of which "carried" their clients through hard times.
Todd Brothers was such an enterprise.
"They were very genuine people. They had a sound relationship with their staff and were very generous," Herbert says.
The Todds moved from Heriot in the 1920s. Their cottage passed through several owners until the Garretts bought it in 1964. They sold it to Bryan Todd in 1978. He restored it, then leased it back to them. So, in a way, the Todds have never left.
Their influence will loom large at Heriot's 150th anniversary events: a social evening on May 18, street parade, gala and dance on May 19 and bus trip and church service on May 20.
|Posted on April 26, 2014 at 3:30 PM||comments (1066)|
A truly great red letter day for Rail in Auckland, New Zealand today 27 April 2014.
Auckland’s electric trains are finally launched today with public running of the first celebration services on 27 April. On Monday 28 April the first timetabled services will run from Onehunga to Britomart station, Auckland Central and the line will hence forth be fully be operationally electrified. This is especially poignant as this was the first public railway in the North Island of New Zealand back in the 1870's.
This is a great achievement after so many people battling for so many years have fought for to upgrade Auckland’s Rail network. Whilst a little sad not to be in Auckland to share this great day I am very happy that it has at last arrived. There is still a while to go before the whole electrified network is operational, another year or so, but it is truly great to see at last.
The Youtube video is particularly pleasing as it shows how Auckland passenger rail has matured and now attracts a varied clientele, something we were all fighting for in the New Zealand Rail industry for so many years. Well done New Zealand and especially well done to Auckland for getting there at last.
Now let’s look to the future and get the City Rail underground link built as quickly as possible to truly make the network world class. From there - well let us have a vision for rail to the airport and even maybe eventually the North Shore.
The Youtube promotion links are here (longer) and
here for the TV advertisement