Well I am back from New Zealand, a 12000 mile round trip to the very edge of the world.
When I married a Kiwi I had not quite worked out that she came from a place that can literally be no further away. New Zealand has naturally been a large part of my life but until this year I had never visited, it was just spoken about in mysterious terms and blamed for the odd piece of vocabulary (Togs anyone?)
The idea of flying for 30+ hours to meet my mother in law with two toddlers was my idea of hell but after avoiding tactics for 6 years the time to go was unavoidable.
I could not conjure any idea of the holiday past the obnoxiously long flight and I had nightmares of screaming children getting the flight diverted and the climax of me jumping from the aeroplane at 36,000 feet in desperation to escape the crying and resultant glares.
Therefore I had not possibly imagined anything railway related within the land of the long cloud.
I had researched Kiwi railways previously, just out of interested, I had once imagined that if I modeled them then maybe the Kiwi purse strings would be loosened. As soon as read that the gauge was 3 ft 6 inch I put it into the ‘too hard’ pile.
We started at Wellington and straight away railways were in evidence and I was surprised to see on the drive back from the airport two large looking steam depots attached to the mainline. Then when I reconnected to the internet NZ’s fascination with its railway heritage really became obvious. I was in a hot bed of railway deviancy and I was excited. The wife saw the look and her eyes rolled with the knowledge that trains were taking over.
So off we went, NZ’s health and safety rules are much like I imagined Britain’s were when my father was a child, getting into a mainline steam shed with toddlers was just a case of strolling up and having a poke around. We met NZ’s steam beasts (Check out the KA class or the JA/JBs) and some really genuine people who happily let us into cabs, mess rooms and anywhere we wanted to visit. It was magic. I was enjoying my holiday.
Plimmerton is the base for the Mainline Steam Hertiage Trust and also the model shop ‘Macks Tracks’. This is where I brought my first paper derived filth in the guise of the New Zealand Model Railway Journal.
My Mother In Law’s den was situated on the line out of Wellington and passing by was the odd loco hauled stock (The Connection and The Northern Explorer) and every so often a nice lash up of locos and a container train. The juices were flowing and model railways portraying 3 foot 6 inch gauge were starting to swirl.
Then came the first nasty shock, NZ’s government does not like railways. The modern scene is something akin to 1960s here. Railway closures, the complete eradication of the railfrieght business and associated lines to road transport. Some really bat shit crazy stuff from people who should know better. This made my wife nervous as plans for me working there and an eventual life there were now looking dodgy.
I was shocked, in the UK new railways and trains is big big big, abroad its the same from Mexico, to the US, to Russia and China but the NZ government has a very negative stance. While I was there a 25 year old AC electrification on a main trunk route was officially abandoned, it was easier and cheaper for the few trains left running to revert to older diesel power.
Then I came to model trains, I had worked out that the Kiwis liked modelling in S scale using HO chassis to represent the odd gauge.
Googling information on it is like reading a book through a jar of marmalade. You are aware the information is there but its not defined at all. One thing is clear though its a scratch builder’s paradise.
I was fixated on the idea that there must be something RTR and then I found Frateschi at Macks Tracks. These things are made in jelly molds by people who really should of gone to specsavers. Imagine Lima when they created the Deltic. A dark day in the Italian foot hills.
The Frateschi are worth nothing to no man except maybe their creation of the NZ DA class. The model is advertised as ‘HO’ but the dimensions that are right are actually just shy of OO.
This lead me to http://nzr.lolshame.com/ a website proclaiming to be not for rivet counters but with some exceptional modelling on display.
Now to get 3 foot 6 inch gauge from OO that would work on 3mm finescale track. This scale combination made complete sense to me, especially as components in 4mm are bloody easier to source than in S scale. However what was becoming apparent in New Zealand was that this would fall under the easy pile.
So OO/TT gauge combo has about as much support as fascism at a Liberal Democrat party conference.
The S scale combination for the Kiwis had proven to be too easy so they had created something called NZ120. When I first looked at it I initial thought that it was my dream of OO/TT but no, its TT scale on N gauge track. Obviously S scale components had been too easy to source. I was beginning to think that NZ modellers were sadists.
NZ120 is supported by 3D printing and it started to look like a good idea, the problem was the main guys selling the kits had their website down so my grand plan of ordering/delivery and then bringing it home was scuppered. It came back online the day we got back, bugger. http://trackgangproducts.co.nz/
So in the end I came back with a load of books and mags and even an old MRJ I found in a second hand shop but no models.
In the end railway wise we had visited:
So there you have it. Oly’s Railway Review of NZ.