By Phil Drummond

Three years ago the railway wasn’t even on the radar. Ian Welch and Gloria had just moved into their new residence in Pauatahanui and were settling in nicely. It was at this point Ian’s imagination went wild and the railway was to commence. I was asked to come up and start the excavation for the new engine shed, and for the 40 foot container which was to store the 17 items of freight and passenger rolling stock which was being imported from the USA.

Quickly running out of room to store the seven miniature engines in Plimmerton of which six were 7.25 inch gauge those being two Mallets a Garrett , 480, j 1211, K 36 482, and the 10.25 inch Ka 942, the engine shed was finally finished! Still realizing mid 2018 we were short of something important the decision was made to purchase the appropriate track from the USA. This includes 1 km aluminium of track, 11 turnouts, sleepers, track screws fishplates and u-bolts. The race was now on to get the earthworks completed also including cuttings and correct levels for grades. The digger and front end loader both put on some serious hours and completed the necessary excavations.

By mid 2019 I was busy making track after making jigs to do this. It was at this point we needed to get another concrete slab poured to make it easier to remove locomotives from the shed. This got put on hold in favour of the rebuild of #26 Ian’s red Mallet. This was completed by June and had its first run in almost 10 years up in Auckland for a Queens birthday weekend run. After having a few months of running and refining it was October.

The next hurdle was working the track in with a fast approaching model engineers convention in Hamilton, dubbed as Steam and Steel 2020. So up we went with Ian’s recently imported DRG&W, K 36 and freight cars. It was soon found that the engine was to big for the track. So myself and some of the kind club members worked for two days, on occasions well after midnight to build a new section of track so the engine could operate. Ian saw this and his imagination went wild again.

Convention over; the concrete slab was started, Ian now armed knowing that I was now “brilliant" at building steel flat bar track, the welder at Plimmerton came up for a few days to build a turnout and sections of track to pour within the pad. Boxing was done and the pad was poured. We now had easy access to the engine shed. The turntable pit was dug the ram was installed and the table was made. We now are able drop engines to the ground and turn them. This idea was thought up and designed by our Plimmerton engineer Mike Wilcox.

All this done by March then.........

Coronavirus decided to pop its head up! All ready to lay track for the first part of the railway again put on hold! So with 5 weeks of patience we turned up and lay the first track, subsequently laying about 300 metres around the hill in a matter of weeks. Final lifting, leveling, and tamping was achieved over another few weeks.

I was sent to Auckland to do a repaint on J 1211 so was away from the track for some six weeks . In that time the small crew of Brian, Graeme, Mike, James, and Ian were busy perfecting and making more adjustments. And then.... Auckland is going into a level 3 lockdown again! Back to Wellington I went.

Caleb Scott and I pulled out little J 1211 and gave it the first run on the track first by pushing it then by steaming it.

Success! No derailments just a few areas to tamp and lift. Since then 3 other engines and items of rolling stock have been run, and a triangle with associated yard has been built and a tunnel cutting being dug.

The dream is coming true even if it is on a much smaller scale than 3 foot 6 inch.



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