Time to hit the road again, our journey of 125km took us “over the hill and far away”. Towing a caravan over the Rimutaka Hill can be a bit of a challenge, depending on weather conditions. There was no problem with the weather, but a whole posse of workmen were resealing part of the road in the searing sun. We came to shuddering stop behind a long queue of traffic and the engine stalled! Oh dear – hope we can get started again. Luckily the driver knew what he was doing, and we were soon on our way again.
Hot work on the Rimutaka Hill
We were heading away to attend a weekend caravan rally over in the Wairarapa and if we can, we always like to take our time and extend our trips. Our plan was to stay overnight at Featherston Lyon Street Pop and right next door was the Fell Locomotive Museum. So of course we had to go for a visit.
The sturdy little Fell engines pulled the trains up and down over the notoriously steep incline section of rail between The Summit and Cross Creek, at Featherston. The Fell engines were two engines in one, one engine driving on the normal rails, and a second engine underneath the loco which gripped and drove on the centre rail. The centre rail was gripped by the locos on the ascent and used for braking purposes on the descent. The locos and brake cars were marshalled into the train at each end at the head of their allotted load of 60 tons. Once through this section, the Fells were removed, the carriages marshalled into a continous train, which continued on in the normal fashion.
A five engine excursion train on the notorious “Siberia” curve in 1955
The Fell engines toiled away for 70 years with the last train tackling the hill in 1955. These days trains travel to the Wairarapa through the 8 mile long Rimutaka Tunnel. Sadly, of the six used in New Zealand, this is the last remaining one in the world. This was rescued from a playground where it stood for many years, with children crawling all over it. I can remember stopping at the playground many years ago with my own two children.
Fell Brake-Van F210 built in 1898 and worked on the Incline for 57 years
Brake levers inside the van which were constantly adjust on the descent. Note worn brake blocks.
Under the loco, brake blocks shown in white and centre rail driving wheels just behind
Each Fell engine had four of these grip wheels suspended within the main frame. The wheel at the base gripped the centre rail, exerting 6 1/2 tons of pressure. This pressure was applied by the fireman, who was also kept busy shovelling coal into the fire box.
By the time we had finished our musuem visit, our other travelling companions had arrived. We sheltered under the awning, catching up, and trying to keep cool. Once the temperatures had dropped in the early evening, most of us took a walk to the local Fish and Chip shop bringing back our meals to eat outside. The later the evening got, the more pleasant it became sitting outside and chatting, and we finally departed to our own vans once the midges started biting.
Lyon Street Featherston Pop