Thursday, October 25, 2012

Moving the gold

Palmerston might be a small station in the grand scheme of things but it still handles a significant amount of freight for its size. Not just any freight but one that is unique on the Kiwi Rail network. Gold ore.

Mined from the area around Reefton, the gold ore is railed across the Southern Alps to Christchurch and then down the Main South Line to Palmerston.
The ore is unloaded in Palmerston and then hauled by truck to Oceana Gold's mine at Macraes. Here the ore is processed and the gold extracted.

Being at home on holiday, I decided I'd catch the railway side of the gold ore operation here in East Otago by following the morning freight service bringing the full 'goldies' into Palmerston and the service that picks them up for their return to Reefton.

First up was 937 Middleton - Dunedin freight. This freight operates Tuesday to Saturday and almost always stops in Palmerston to drop off the 'goldies'. 

Heading out to one of my 'safe' spots at Bushey I waited for 937 to arrive.... and waited and waited. I don't know the cause of the delay but I was about to call it a day when 937 behind DXB 5080 and a tired looking DC 4784

DXB 5080 and DC 4784 with 937 just north of Bushey loop. 24/10/12.

After getting a quick shot in poor light, I headed into Palmerston to catch the action. By the time I arrived at the south end of the yard, 937 was getting ready for the shunt.

937 on arrival in Palmerston and gets ready for the shunt.

One of the staff from Reefton Hire, the company that unloads the ore and transports it up to Macraes, normally assists the LE with the shunt but on this day it was carried out by one of the Kiwi Rail guys. After uncoupling from the rest of the train, the loco's and three 'goldies' headed to the south end of the yard and the main line points.

And the shunting begins. DXB 5080 and DC 4784 with the 'goldies'.

At the south end of the yard the mainline and catch points were unlocked and aligned for the yard. The loco's and 'goldies' then reversed into the gold siding.

The 'goldies' leave the main and enter the yard.

With a light touch on the air brakes and the assistance of the shunter, the LE positioned the 'goldies' in the yard ready for the gold bins to be unloaded.

Easy does it! The goldies are positioned for unloading.

Once uncoupled, the loco's headed back south through the yard to re-enter the main.

DXB 5080 and DC 4784 ease through the points as they make their way back onto the main.

Back on the main and with the points all securely locked, the loco's crawled north again to couple up with 937. A short time later and with a blast on the horn, 937 was on the move again as it continued its journey south to Dunedin.

DXB 5080 and DC 4784 don't waste any time in getting up to road speed as they depart Palmerston.

Before leaving I got a shot of one of the heavy duty forklifts starting the unloading process. The gold ore is emptied directly into the shed to the right. A front end loader is then used to load the truck and trailer unit for final delivery to Macraes.

It was time for lunch, so I headed home and got a few things done around the house before heading out once again, this time to catch the northbound 'goldie' working, 922 Dunedin - Middleton freight.

922 was late arriving at Merton which wasn't surprising since 922 uses the same loco's off 937. What was surprising  was that when 922 arrived, DC 4784 was the lead loco with DXB 5080 trailing. Normally the larger loco's, DXB, DXC or DFT's lead. Not today.

The terminal staff at Dunedin must have wanted to get 922 away as soon as possible so instead of turning 5080 and repositioning the loco's, they sent them back out as they had arrived.

922 Dunedin - Middleton freight in the loop at Merton after a crew change and crossing with 923 Middleton - Dunedin freight. DC 4784 is the lead locomotive.

Heading back to Palmerston, it didn't take long to get ahead of 922. There seems to be a lot of speed restrictions around at the moment.

Back in Palmerston I got a shot of the waiting, now empty 'goldies' and a close up of one of the gold bins. The gold bins are normally hauled on IAB or IAC container flat wagons.

The three empty 'goldies' ready for their return north.

 Close up shot of gold bin 18 sitting atop IAC 339.

Not long after the headlights of DC 4784 came into view as 922 arrived in Palmerston.

922 on the main at Palmerston.

On arrival the loco's were uncoupled form 922 and proceeded north to the main line points.

The loco's climb the grade out of Palmerston before unlocking the points and entering the yard. 

Once the main line points and the catch points were unlocked and aligned for the yard the loco's proceeded back into the yard and coupled up to the empty 'goldies'.

DC 4784 and DXB 5080 couple up to the empty 'goldies'.

Once coupled up the loco's and 'goldies' proceeded back up the yard and onto the main before reversing and coupling up to 922.

DC 4784 and DXB 5080 haul the empty 'goldies' out of the yard and onto the main

DC 4784 and DXB 5080 with the empty 'goldies' reverse on the main back to 922.

After watching the 'goldie's couple up to the wagons of 922 I hit the road again and headed north to a spot near the Shag river. (I kid you not, thats its name). The LE, keen to make up some time, had 922 humming as it approached my spot and soon I had my final photo of the day.

A rare scene on the MSL in East Otago. DC 4784 leads DXB 5080 and 922 Dunedin - Middleton freight through the old Bushey station site.

And that's about it.

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