FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Railfan’s day at Glenbrook Vintage Railway

Posted in Glenbrook, New Zealand, Waiuku by folkestonejack on March 22, 2013

Although, for once, my travels have not taken me a country with any real steam operations there are still a number of interesting preserved railways here in New Zealand that I have been keen to see. One of the most impressive is the Glenbrook Vintage Railway (GVR), which is around a fifty minute drive from central Auckland.

L507 at Glenbrook Station

L507 at Glenbrook Station

The Glenbrook Vintage Railway largely follows the footprint of the old Waiuku branch line, although it deviates from the old alignment shortly before its current terminus at Victoria Avenue, Waiuku.

The Waiuku branch line was first mooted in 1880 but construction only began in 1914. A further eight years elapsed before the railway finally opened in 1922. It connected Waiuku with the North Island main trunk line which connects Auckland and Wellington. The branch line closed in 1967 and the track was in the process of being lifted when the GVR stepped in.

The GVR re-opened a section of the line in 1977 and have made steady progress with their extension towards Waiuku, opening to Pukeoware (1977), Fernleigh (1986) and Victoria Avenue (2010). The railway hopes to be able to extend the line to a final station at the Tamakai reserve in time (an artist’s illustration of the intended future terminus was on display at Glenbrook station and certainly looked impressive).

Looking across the Tamakai reserve to the site of the future terminus

Looking across the Tamakai reserve to the site of the future terminus

This weekend the railway are holding a vintage festival and the Railfan’s Day (photographic charter) organised as a prelude to the festival seemed like an opportunity too good to miss. The charter for the day used two visiting locomotives (L507 and Y542 from MOTAT) with numerous run pasts on the railway’s 7.5km of track, starting and ending at Glenbrook.

L507 and Y542 from MOTAT posed with the GVR's Ada (F233)

L507 and Y542 from MOTAT posed with the GVR’s Ada (F233)

First up was the L, one of ten 2-4-0 tank locomotive built by the Avonside Engine Company, Bristol in 1877. The locomotive saw service with New Zealand Railways from 1877 until 1903, when it was transferred to the Public Works Department for use in construction work until the early 1930s. In later life the locomotive saw industrial service with the Portland Cement company before her acquisition by the Western Springs Railway (MOTAT) in 1971. To open our day the L was coupled with a single passenger carriage.

L507 coupled with a single passenger carriage

L507 coupled with a single passenger carriage

After a lunch stop at Waiuku the charter resumed in the afternoon with Y542 on a mixed passenger/freight. The Y was one of three 0-6-0T locomotives built for the Public Works Department in 1923 by the Hunslet Engine Company, Leeds, and remained with the department until 1951. In her time with the PWD the engine was used on the North Island Main Trunk railway construction projects. In 1951 she transferred to New Zealand Railways for a short lived period of service (just seven years) before moving on to the Portland Cement company. Y542 was acquired by MOTAT in 1985.

Y542 on a mixed passenger/freight passes a water tower on the Glenbrook Vintage Railway

Y542 on a mixed passenger/freight passes a water tower on the Glenbrook Vintage Railway

Although the big engines were not in service today, we were able to see them being prepared at Pukeoware workshops in readiness for the weekend’s festivities. I have to admit that the two members of the Ja class 4-8-2 steam locomotives that we saw (Ja1240 “Jessica” and Ja1250 “Diana”) looked like pretty impressive engines. I’ll have to come back to see one in service on a future occasion!

Ja1240 at  Pukeoware workshops (with Ja1250 in the background)

Ja1240 at Pukeoware workshops (with Ja1250 in the background)

Our charter came to an end with our return to Glenbrook just after 5pm… I really wish all my 9-5 days were like this! To avoid hitting the rush hour we drove back to Waiuku and enjoyed a leisurely and surprisingly tasty meal at the Kentish Hotel, a historic pub just across the road from the Tamakae reserve and a part of the Waiuku Heritage Area. It has been a pretty full-on day at the end of a full-on week, but I loved every minute of it.

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