Blenheim Riverside Railway
The Blenheim Riverside Railway (BRRS or BRR) is a 2 ft (610 mm) narrow gauge heritage railway in Blenheim, New Zealand. It runs along the Taylor River, which winds its way through the middle of the town. It is operated by the all-volunteer Blenheim Riverside Railway Society.
The railway was founded in 1985 by the Marlborough Historical Society, and two years later track-laying commenced. In 1988 motor trolleys started running to Chinaman's Creek Crossing. Four carriages were built in 1989/90 with parts from the Lake Grassmere salt collection railway, and the A & G Price locomotive was restored and put into service. Also in 1989 the line was finished to Fulton Station from Chinaman's Creek Crossing, reaching the 4.5 km mark. The railway officially opened on Labour Weekend 1990. The first station resembled a lemonade stall, and the platform was only sleepers laid next to the track. In 1995 Beaver Station (now Brayshaw Station) was constructed, with an extension of track from the workshop requiring a cutting and embankment with a steep gradient. Previously, the railway was seen to have a negative impact on the park. By 1997 the locomotive "Murray" was restored to operational condition. In 2005 the track was extended to the current terminus at Riverside Park. Over the years the workshops have been enlarged, and concrete sleepers made by the volunteer members have been used to replace the wooden ones first used on the line. In September 2010 the Society celebrated its 25th anniversary.
The railway follows the Taylor River from Brayshaw Park in the southwest of Blenheim to Beaver Station, next to where the River Queen boat docks. There are passing loops at Brayshaw Park, Chinaman's Creek Crossing, Fulton Station and Beaver Station. The route is roughly 5.5 km long. There are six bridges and five road overbridges. At Beaver Station the line passes under the Main North Line Taylor River bridge.
The track is mainly 55/56 pound per yard (27 kg/m) rail on concrete sleepers designed and made by members of the railway. Currently sections of 330 m track upgrades are in progress, replacing old wooden sleepers and laying new ballast. The track is buried with only the railhead visible as the route is on a floodway and runs through the Taylor River Reserve.
There is an 800 m (half-mile) extension to the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre at Omaka Airfield, crossing the Taylor River by a bridge. Tracklaying began during 2013/2014. It was expected that the extension would be completed in time for the 2015 Omaka Airshow, and was opened on Saturday, 21 March 2015. The Society's efforts in constructing the branch line were recognised with an infrastructure award from KiwiRail at the FRONZ conference over Queen's Birthday weekend 2015.
The railway has a small fleet of locomotives. A & G Price "George" (works no. 166) is a 6.5 ton, 0-4-0 diesel-mechanical from the Ohai coal mines (one of only three built). During 2010 it was refurbished with a new engine and officially named "George".
The second loco is a Ruston & Hornsby "Murray" 0-4-0, 5.5 ton, diesel-mechanical (works no. 170204) powered by a 3-cylinder Lister JP engine. This loco was modified from 2' 6" gauge. It formerly worked for Milburn Cement at the quarry near Milton.
Two diesel locomotives arrived in 2011. The first was a Ruston & Hornsby 20DL #226278 (which was modified to steam outline and repowered) which formerly worked at the Footrot Flats theme park in Auckland, New Zealand. Another, smaller diesel hydraulic bogie locomotive was donated to the society. This homebuilt loco is named "Onahau" and serves duty with track spraying and mowing.
Pending restoration is 0-4-2 steam locomotive 'Donald' from the Puponga Coal Mine in Puponga, near Collingwood.
A bogie railcar made by the society powered by a Toyota diesel engine is sometimes used.
The four main passenger carriages seat 24 people in 4-person bench seat configuration. They are all the same design except No. 4, which has an underslung compartment for tools to use in a derailment or the like. All carriages air braked. In the track work-train there are typically a ballast wagon, two flat-deck wagons, a tool wagon and a staff car. There are a six-man, a two-man and a four-man jigger, all ex New Zealand Railways. A hand trolley, track sprayer wagon, grass mower on railway wheels and bolster bogies are also used.
The railway has a tractor and digger for excavation work, with all track work being done by volunteers with hand tools. The workshop has a pit, and a small turntable for small trolleys.