- Given the recent postings about the Waitakere waterworks I thought folks
might be interested in these photos taken in the mid-70s. Sorry they're in
B&W, but the colour photos I took at the same time (on best quality Agfa
professional film) are now a brilliant orange.
They're all taken on the tramway which runs from just above the filter
station through to the Waitakere dam. This tramway is the remains of a 2ft
6ins gauge line built about 1909 to carry materials from the broad gauge
(3ft 6in) government railway up to the dam site. The line was shortened once
the dam was completed, then shortened again during the 1930s depression. It
was converted to the Christian 2ft gauge after WWII -- at the time I took
the photos much of the line was still laid on the original sleepers with one
of the rails moved over.
At this time it also had sprung track -- the web had rusted completely away
on many of the rails leaving the head of the rail floating in the breeze.
This gave travel on the line an extra thrill as you wondered whether the
rail would hold together until after your journey. To really savour this
special frisson you had to be travelling on the upper section of the line,
which runs along a narrow ledge two or three hundred feet above the valley
The first photo is a general view of the tramway on this ledge section,
about a quarter of a mile below the dam. You can just see a work train
repairing track at the top of the waterfall. The water ran straight across
the track and kept washing away the ballast, so a wood chute was built to
carry the stream over the tramway a couple of years later.
The second photo shows the locomotive a couple of hundred yards down the
line. The water pipe is hidden under the grass at the right of the picture
and the edge of the baseboard is just the other side of the fence. The
locomotive was built by an enthusiast group who had permission to run over
this tramway in exchange for doing basic maintenance work on the line. It
had a 3.5 horsepower Honda industrial engine and wheels salvaged from a
derelict skip. The driver is Jim Pilkington, who has since moved south to
spread the 2ft gauge gospel at Victoria Battery near Waihi.
The third photo is another view of the locomotive, this time on one of the
curved bridges. The water pipe is visible at the right.