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"