Cross Creek and the Incline.

Cross Creek, about forty miles north-east of Wellington, is on the railway line at the foot of the Rimutaka incline. The settlement consists of a railway station and enginesheds, and a number of railway employees’ cottages, with a schoolhouse and master’s residence. It is seven miles south of Featherston, where the settlers get their stores, etc.

mp.natlib.govt.nz

Cross Creek station yard, [1910s] National Library of New Zealand. Reference Number: APG-0147-1/2-G.
View of Cross Creek station yard, with the end of the Rimutaka Incline visible at the extreme right. Railway houses are seen on the left of the railway track; a locomotive, and items of rolling stock. Taken in the 1910s by A P Godber.

The place is so situated amongst the hills that in winter it gets only about an hour’s sunshine in the day. The hills around, once heavily wooded, now present a partially cleared appearance. Cross Creek runs through the settlement into Lake Wairarapa.

mp2.natlib.govt.nz

Cross Creek railway yards – Photograph taken by Albert Winzenberg, Between 1897-1899. National Library of New Zealand. Reference Number: PAColl-4307-001

The Rimutaka incline, which is the steepest piece of railway line in New Zealand, extends from Cross Creek railway station to the Summit, a distance of nearly three miles. The grade is one in fifteen, and the line winds round the hills to the Summit, sometimes with rather dangerous curves, till it rises from 273 feet above sea level at Cross Creek to 1144 feet at the Summit. The railway here is constructed on what is known as the Fell system, with an additional central rail.

Incline train 2

A mixed train with four engines on the Incline. Te Papa collection.

When a train reaches Cross Creek from the north, the ordinary engine is detached, and a Fell engine for every eight loaded waggons and van, or every four carriages and two vans, is attached. These engines can each draw a load of sixty-five tons up the incline. An incline van with special brakes is also hitched on. The train then proceeds up the incline at the rate of five miles an hour….. The centre rail is gripped on each side by wheels revolving horizontally underneath the engine. There are two pairs of these wheels on each engine, pressing in towards each other.

Inc_engine 2

This Fell engine was built by the Avonside Engine Co. Ltd. at Bristol, England in 1875. Two horizontal wheels can be seen between the rail and the piston rods. These gripped the centre rail at a pressure of 3 tons per square inch. The Fell was, in effect, two engines in one frame and made a distinctive sound – a double chuff.

When descending, the centre rail is gripped between cast iron blocks fitted under the engine [and brake vans] so as to press towards each other. The friction is so great that, after taking a heavy train down, these blocks are so worn that they have to be replaced. A workshop with a stock of these blocks is therefore part of the plant at Cross Creek, and fitters are kept to replace the blocks as required.

The ascent is made in forty minutes with a passenger train, and the descent in twenty minutes. In two places where the train crosses deep gullies, the line is protected by high wooden fences to break the force of the gusts of wind that at one time, before this means of protection was devised, blew part of a train over the embankment. [September 1880. Three children killed, another died of injuries later].

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Windbreak fences at Siberia embankment. Photo: Burton Brothers. Te Papa collection.

The line is now, however, well secured against such possibilities. The only inconvenience suffered by passengers is the rather awkward dip of the carriages, and the delay in getting over this three miles of country. The Fell system was first tried on the Mount Cenis line in Europe, but is not used elsewhere in the world, as far as is known, except on the Rimutaka incline.

Text: Extracts from the New Zealand Cyclopedia 1897.
Note: the spelling of ‘Rimutaka’, which has no meaning in the Maori language, was officially changed last year to ‘Remutaka’, which means ‘sitting down to rest’.

The Incline route closed in 1955 after modern engineering technology drove an 8.8km tunnel through the mountains. Fell engine H199, which supported track gangs laying the line in 1878, was there again to help them rip it up 77 years later. Then it was donated to the people of Featherston where it sat in a children’s playground for the next 20 years, slowly rusting away. The other five engines were scrapped.
But that wasn’t the end of the story.

To be continued.

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Travelling in style

All the media of the Western World seem to be obsessed with British royalty at the moment, thanks to a recent addition to the family and a “fairytale” wedding this weekend. Well Pastimpressions isn’t too proud to jump on that bandwagon while the wheels are rolling – so welcome to Royal Week.

Royal trains.
For ordinary journeys royal personages often travel in a saloon attached to one of the regular trains, but for all important journeys, special measures are taken.

Several railways have constructed special trains for the King [George V] and Queen [Mary], and these are really palaces on wheels. They include sleeping cars – with proper bedrooms, not sleeping berths; dining-cars, in which meals are served just as in a royal palace; saloons; and compartments for servants, attendants and others. The trains used by the West Coast and East Coast Railways are like this, and will carry a hundred or more people on some journeys.

R_King's bedroom_GNR

The king’s bedroom in a carriage of the Great Northern Railway.

The King's Day Saloon on the Royal Train (King George V).

The king’s day saloon.

Image from a 1935 cigarette card by W.D. & H.O. Wills.At the starting and destination stations the platforms are covered with crimson carpet, and frequently they will be decorated. As a rule the chief officials and the Chairman of the railway will be there to receive the King or Queen, and some of them travel with the train. The engines and drivers are carefully selected, and generally the locomotives are decorated.

In many cases a pilot engine is sent in advance of the royal train. This engine travels by itself, about ten minutes in front, and after it has gone by all trains which are passed must stop, and no shunting work may be done or points moved until the royal train has gone by.

Each signalman has to see that everything is done properly, and to signal the royal train by a green flag in addition to the ordinary signals. Every level-crossing gate must be locked as soon as the “pilot” comes along, and men are placed at the principal points, and along the line wherever thought desirable. As a rule, a policeman is stationed on every bridge crossing the railway; and the stationmaster has to be on every platform passed.

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A Royal engine at Portsmouth on the return of the King and Queen from their Coronation Tour in India [1912]. The ship in the background is P&O’s Medina which acted as the Royal Yacht for the tour.

Some people think that when the King travels he does not pay his fare. No doubt most of our railways would be very pleased to convey him on those terms; but in actual practice the usual rates for special trains and the fares of all on board are paid.
‘The Wonder Book of Railways’, Ward, Lock & Co., Ltd., c.1924.

Riding the rails

This piece of history rolled through the region today so I thought I might share a few impressions. It’s a Ja locomotive built for New Zealand railways in 1956.

Ja_wide

Ja_cross

Ja_Mville

And, just for good measure, here’s one I prepared earlier – in better weather (3rd Dec.). A Da Diesel loco from 1957.

Da_gate

Da_bridge

Both locomotives are maintained and operated by the Steam Incorporated railway society north of Wellington, New Zealand. Their excursions are almost always booked out.