Monday, 29 February 2016

An-12, An-124

The first clip is an An-12 which is a multi camera clip showing several different aspects of the flight at once. The An-12 dates from the 1950s being roughly equivalent to the C-130 and still flying today.



The second clip is another An-124, both clips are from Air-Clips.com




Antonov An-225

First clip was made in 2002 and covers the early years of operation as a Buran lifter, mothballing and second career as a commercial freight haulage aircraft.


Second clip is from Air-Clips.com and shows an actual flight of the An-225




Monday, 8 February 2016

Selwyn-Rakaia on the Main South Line

This post covers the Main South Line between 46 to 69 km and the stations of Selwyn, Dunsandel, Bankside Loop, Bankside and Rakaia. Some of the maps are shown at full size while others are thumbnails. You can see the thumbnailed ones at full size by clicking on them.


Commencing at the Selwyn end we have Bridge 25 at the Selwyn River. The Selwyn River has been crossed by two railway lines in New Zealand: the Main South Line and the Southbridge Branch. The Whitecliffs Branch avoided a crossing by running on the east bank of the river between Glentunnel and Whitecliffs.

Selwyn station was located near the well known level crossing of State Highway 1. "Dates and Names" (J Scoble, 1982) records that the station opened in 1867, and was closed to freight traffic in 1940 and completely in 1963. It would therefore appear to be the case that the station's last role was for passenger traffic. The above diagram is based on the 1942 Canterbury Maps aerials and therefore would show the station as a passenger only facility. There were no other buildings visible on the 1942 image but there is reasonable certainty of the siding for the goods yard that must have been on the north side of the line. Selwyn was originally known as Selwyn South; Norwood was originally known as Selwyn North. The location of a station called Selwyn Bridge is currently unknown, but may have been nearby. Scoble records that it was open for a six month period in 1867. The closing date of Selwyn Bridge coincided with the opening date of Selwyn.

Between Selwyn and Dunsandel are a number of small bridges.

Dunsandel is located at about 50 km, about 3 km south of Selwyn. Scoble says the station opened in 1873 and was closed fully in 1982. The main level crossing for the township originally was placed at Hororata-Dunsandel Road, to the east of the station, but since closure it has moved to Browns Road which passes through the former station site. The reason for this has not been researched but may have been to increase stacking distance for heavy vehicles at the crossing, taking advantage of a kink in State Highway 1 where it passed around the former railway yard. Because of this road going through the centre of the railway yard, this is the most likely reason why there are no substantial remains left at the site today.


 South (or west) end of Dunsandel.


The Tramway Road curve is a prominent feature of this map. The road was never more than a reserve so far as I know, insofar as no tramway was ever laid, but would have gone through to Southbridge. Tramway reserves are common around Canterbury, probably because it was settled around a time when railways had not yet fully taken over in the UK. Very few general freight tramways were actually constructed in the province, on the other hand bush and mineral trams existed just as they did in many other parts of the country.

Just past 53 km we have the Bankside Crossing Loop. Scoble does not record any details of this location. It is approximately 1200 metres long so can cross very large trains.




Bankside Crossing Loop is the second location to use the Bankside name but is several kilometres north of the old Bankside station, which is covered below.





Between Bankside Loop and Bankside, there has been established for about ten years the Synlait Dairy Factory. Although it must have been established near the railway line strategically, it does not use the railway at present. Because of the heavy road traffic accessing the plant, the roading and rail layout at this point have both changed. The former level crossing of Old South Road was moved to Heslerton Road and the railway line was diverted to increase the stacking distance for vehicles between the railway and the Main South Road intersection.




At about 59.5 km we have the original Bankside station. According to Scoble it opened in 1880. Passenger traffic ceased in 1966 and it was fully closed in 1970. The highway was originally diverted around the station but since closure, the highway has been straightened which puts it on the alignment of the former station access road. Like Dunsandel, this is probably the reason there are no substantial remnants obvious today.



Bankside was the site of a railway ballast pit. Just when this was in use is not clear but a reference has been found to it from the Papers Past website when a coronial inquest was held into the death of a railway workman there in 1905.


One of the more interesting features of Bankside is its role during World War II. Due to the threat of a Japanese invasion in 1942, the Government decided to increase the number of airbase facilities in New Zealand. Bankside was chosen as the location of a secret fuel dump known by the codename AR16. A large bunker was constructed to hold a fuel tank with a capacity of 750,000 gallons (about 3.4 million litres) which was served by a railway siding from Bankside station. Fuel from trains was pumped via a pipeline into the tank, and was discharged by another pipeline to a tanker loading bunker adjacent. The area was planted in pine trees for camouflage. The tank and all other equipment along with the siding were removed a few years later but the tank bunker is still intact today and is being reopened as a historical site.


The Bankside fuel depot was constructed as a reserve supply for the secret Te Pirita airfield which was built further inland near Greendale.


The airfield at Te Pirita was constructed secretly between 1942-43. There were three runways laid to service US bombers (B-17/B-24). Only a few test flights ever landed there and it reverted to farmland after the war. Until about 2008 it was still possible to determine the location of the runways quite clearly on aerial footage, however since then the land has been converted from sheepfarming to dairy production and most remaining traces are now gone.


The AR16 depot and adjacent land to the south of Bankside was pine plantation and became part of the Selwyn Plantation Board's holdings. In the early 2000s all the plantation was felled and the land converted to dairy production. This eliminated most remaining traces of the fuel depot apart from the tank bunker.


Continuing south from Bankside the railway line is crossed by Bridge 30, an overbridge of State Highway 1. This bridge appears to have been built as part of the replacement of the Rakaia River combined road-rail bridge with separate road and rail structures about 1940.

The Rakaia River railway bridge dates from around 1940 when it replaced a combined bridge. The original dated from the 1870s. It is the longest railway bridge in New Zealand at 1744 metres, with 143 spans.



Rakaia Station was to the south of the Rakaia River. Scoble writes that it opened 1873 and was closed to passengers in 1970 but does not record a date for the full closure. There was a siding loop which served several private freight depots at the south or east side of the line. There was also another siding to a premises just to the south or west of South Town Belt. I haven't drawn any proper diagrams because Canterbury Maps does not have any aerial coverage of most of Rakaia. There was formerly a road crossing the railway near Dunford Street (our family ancestors did have relatives who settled in the area so the street is probably named after them as our family's surname is very rare in New Zealand). This has been changed into a foot crossing in more recent years.

Rakaia was the junction station for the Methven Branch which closed in 1976. The kink in Thompsons Track where it formerly crossed the branch line has since been straightened.

As a family, for many years we used to travel on Thompsons Track from Rakaia to Ashburton Forks, where after crossing the North Branch Ashburton River bridge we would turn onto Ashburton Staveley Road to reach Staveley, where a group of our church families booked the Presbyterian-Methodist campsite for our New Year holiday for about ten years. During these times I remember the formation of the Methven Branch alongside the road almost as far as Lauriston, although it was probably pulled up by the time we first made the trip. Sometimes we did in fact take a different route from Christchurch through Yaldhurst, West Melton, Aylesbury, Charing Cross and Hororata, which featured three fords of the Hawkins, Waireka and Selwyn Rivers. All three of these rivers have been bridged in more recent years by the Selwyn District Council. This route was a shortcut onto State Highway 72, the inland route from Darfield to Winchester via Rakaia Gorge. It joined SH77 near Methven and SH79 at Geraldine. More recently the section of SH72 from Darfield to the Methven turnoff has been incorporated as part of SH77 going to Ashburton (whereas SH77 used to just go from Ashburton to Methven) and the part of SH72 south of Methven has been changed to a local road.

Anyway thanks to Philip Moore and his website nzrifle.com also Wings Over Cambridge and others for additional material and historical data about Te Pirita and the Bankside fuel depot.