Rail history won for Oamaru


A piece of New Zealand and British rail history, in the form of a Rail Motor (RM) class Vulcan railcar, will soon call Oamaru home.
After three years of trying, Harry Andrew, of the Oamaru Steam and Rail Society, has succeeded in his bid to bring one of New Zealand’s few remaining Vulcan railcars to North Otago.
In May 1938, the Minister of Railways announced that 10 Vulcans had been ordered from the Vulcan Foundry, of Britain.
They were intended to service the Midland Line between Christchurch and the West Coast, to replace the Leyland diesel railcars built in 1936 as a temporary measure.
The first Vulcan arrived in New Zealand in September 1940, while three more had arrived by April 1941.
Ten were ordered but only nine arrived in the country as the ship carrying the 10th was sunk by a German U-boat during World War 2. All nine were in operation by the second half of 1942 and served for more than three decades, before being retired in 1978.
The Vulcan Mr Andrew has bought, from Ferrymead Heritage Park in Christchurch, is not in working order, but he plans to have it in town by June to start restoration.
“I put an [unsuccessful] offer in about three years ago to get it to Oamaru Steam and Rail. I kept at it for three years then they put it up for tender and, blow me days, I got it.
“It has no motor in it, so it needs some work. I’ll put all the modern stuff inside, like a motor transmission system but I’ll do nothing on the outside.”He will source some parts from New Zealand Railways and build the rest, and has given himself two to three years to get the Vulcan up and running.
He declined to reveal how much it cost to buy the railcar but said it would cost between $10,000 and $15,000 to restore it.
Plans are in place to have the Vulcan ferrying passengers around the Oamaru Harbour, which is serviced at present by a steam locomotive.
“I’m more interested in getting it up and running for the benefit of Oamaru.”Mr Andrew has no plans to run the Vulcan on a main line because of the paperwork involved and that it may not be suitable for long-distance travel.
However, the biggest issue the society faces is getting the Vulcan to Oamaru.
Mr Andrew said a truck with a flat deck at least 20m in length would be needed, which would cost anywhere between $5000 and $15,000.
When operational, it will be the first time Oamaru will have had a working railcar since the early 1930s, when a steam-powered car operated between Oamaru and Kurow. The Vulcan railcar, which only requires two crew to operate, can seat 48 passengers and were designed to operate at speeds of 120kmh.
It holds the fastest officially recorded speed on New Zealand’s rail network _ 125.5kmh _ which was set near Springfield during trials in October 1940.
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