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Rimutaka Incline - The World's Last Fell Engine Railway

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Rimutaka Incline - The World's Last Fell Engine Railway

Old 2nd Dec 2016, 20:21
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Rimutaka Incline - The World's Last Fell Engine Railway

I just stumbled on this marvelous documentary about a railway and an engine type that I had never heard of, even though I have driven over the Rimutakas several times.

If you have any interest in steam locomotives, I recommend investing an hour of your time.



What surprised me was that they managed to run a railway that often required five locomotives in steam, when they only had a fleet of six.
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Old 2nd Dec 2016, 20:30
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These days a very nice cycle/walking trail as well! If you're cycling I'd recommend riding from the Kaitoke (Wellington) side.

Still goes through the old tunnels, although some of the original bridges and most of the infrastructure is long gone.
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Old 3rd Dec 2016, 00:50
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Thanks so much for that, I-42.
That certainly was an hour well spent.
Like you, I'd not previously heard of Fell engines and railway systems.
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Old 3rd Dec 2016, 09:53
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Added to my personal watch list (the good kind). Cheers I42.
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Old 3rd Dec 2016, 10:33
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Fascinating & ingenious! Wouldn't a rack & pinion system have been better?
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Old 3rd Dec 2016, 15:21
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These days a very nice cycle/walking trail as well! If you're cycling I'd recommend riding from the Kaitoke (Wellington) side.
I assume that's so you ride down the 1:14 incline, rather than up it!

There are a few videos of keen cyclists on the trail on YouTube.

I also discovered that there is a group trying to resurrect the railway:

Rimutaka Incline Railway | Building a Sanctuary for Steam
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Old 4th Dec 2016, 09:13
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Thank you for posting what I found to be a totally new concept of Steam Railway power..that I had never heard of before, despite thinking myself well read...What ingenuity the old world steam engineers had in their minds..!

Wonderful.

Peter R-B
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Old 4th Dec 2016, 11:02
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Very interesting.

Fascinating & ingenious! Wouldn't a rack & pinion system have been better?
I would have thought so, since it is mechanically far simpler, and so eases maintenance. Arguably the Fell system is better for braking, but once Westinghouse automatic continuous brakes were in use, you could have 100% of the wheels braked.
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Old 4th Dec 2016, 21:26
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Point of order It's not the last Fell System railway. The Sneafell railway on the Isle of Man uses the Fell system albeit only for emergency braking these days. Although that is an electric railway not steam so you could say that Rimutake is the last steam Fell railway!
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Old 5th Dec 2016, 01:58
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Complementary to:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raurimu_Spiral
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Old 5th Dec 2016, 02:52
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New Zealand had other lines that used the Fell system purely for braking.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rewanui_Branch

I used to work on a locomotive that had an extra Westinghouse air compressor from its brief time working on Rewanui. I suspect that the Fell system was at least as fast as rack and pinion for the ascent, and likely significantly faster for the descent.
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Old 5th Dec 2016, 02:58
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I also discovered that there is a group trying to resurrect the railway:

Rimutaka Incline Railway | Building a Sanctuary for Steam
Despite their effort thus far I'd be very very surprised if they ever get much further. The region wide support for the rail trail in my opinion outweighs any desire to have the incline rebuilt, despite the historical and engineering significance. In addition to that the non-Fell section would be operating for some time before the Cross Creek side could be opened (at great cost), and I suspect the operation of that section alone would struggle to make money. Very few heritage railways in New Zealand have managed to make money from being a commercial operation, and the only one that jumps to mind (Taieri Gorge Railway) runs diesel engines.

It surprises me how much money the incline group has been able to get through grants and such. Considering in reality all they have is some wagons, a diesel shunter, the hulks of a few steam locos, and a fairly extensive plan.

I've also heard 2nd hand that their proposed alternate cycle route had grades on it that would be beyond anyone except serious mountain bikers. The beauty of the current route is that I can take my <10 year old daughter up it on her bike.

A nice idea, but I personally wouldn't be investing any of my own money in it.
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Old 5th Dec 2016, 08:03
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I once walked the 14km from Cross Creek to Kaitoke. It was a wonderful sunny day, hot as hell and I was overjoyed at having made it. In the Rimutaka Tavern later we decided to go and do it again. Fortunately common sense prevailed and we waited too long, drank more beer and then promptly forgot about it. there is a Fell engine museum at Featherston that is worth a look if you are passing through.
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Old 5th Dec 2016, 15:45
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Despite their effort thus far I'd be very very surprised if they ever get much further.
Aerozepplin,

I thought the same thing. Apart from all the other issues facing the group, I imagine Health and Safety officials would take a very dim view of the conditions in the tunnels, as described in the documentary.
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Old 5th Dec 2016, 20:11
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Yeah true, I hadnít considered that. Itís quite possible that summit tunnel would require electric or diesel bankers/helpers like the mainline trips require through the Rimutaka and Otira tunnels. The others should be fine, as those same mainline trips run steam only through a number of pretty long tunnels.
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