Masterton And Return With A Cab Pass

On 16 August 2001 I was fortunate to travel from Waterloo to Masterton in the cab of 1606 passenger. I returned on 645 Express Freight. I took plenty of film with me but rapidly gave up taking photographs out of a rain smeared window. It was the tail end of the worst southerly storm of the year.

I have decided to document the journey by describing my impressions rather than giving a blow by blow account. The comments are not neccessarily in chronological order. I have created a Wairarapa Line page for those interested in more detail.

1606, the 4 11pm Wellington - Masterton passenger service, arrives at Waterloo. The 4 20pm Taita - Wellington EMU is at the down platform.


Thank you to the LE who arranged my pass and also to the other Tranz Rail staff who shared the cab with me. Four in a cab is not a crowded as it sounds, although over longer distance maybe it would become uncomfortable.

Waterloo - Masterton Railway

Note: Any comments about Carterton on this page apply to the date of my cab ride. Two sidings are not shown in this diagram - a cool store between Masterton and Waingawa and a fertiliser store between Waingawa and Caterton. The former has not been used for many years (if at all); the latter is used seasonally.

Plenty Of Trains

The Trentham - Masterton section was busier than I realised it would be:

  • 1606 Wellington - Masterton passenger.
  • Red set in dock at Upper Hutt.
  • 1608 Wellington - Masterton passenger.
  • 645 Masterton - Wellington Express freight.
  • 670 Wellington - Napier Express freight.
  • Up EMU crossed on double line at Trentham.

Relics At Masterton and Carterton

Where else in the Network could I see:

  • Semaphore signals
  • A Distant signal (although colour light, not semaphore)
  • Two position signalling
  • Woods Key
  • Platform frame
  • Sleeper lock
  • Large yard with plenty of track still in place
  • Turntable
  • Wagons in the yard
  • Station building used by Tranz Rail staff

The tablets have gone but as I stood on the platform looking at the heavy rain and watching the rail operator walk down the platform with the Woods key, it was almost possible to imagine that a traditional crossing was taking place. In bad weather crossing trains at a Woods locked tablet station must have been time consuming and unpleasant.

Hi Viz Jackets

The Hi-Viz jackets with the reflectorised stripes are very effective. Observing the jackets in the dark and rain at Masterton and at the JNL siding made me think about how difficult shunting must have been before their introduction. It was hard to imagine shunting being directed by guards and shunters wearing dark clothing and communicating by signal lamp.

Gutless DCs

I was aware that the cars are cleared for 100km/h. As we cruised on the straight and (as far as I know) level track north of Featherston at no more than 80km/h I asked the LE if there was a speed restriction. He said no so I asked why he did not apply more power. "We are at full power" he said.

"Crowded" Smoko Room

I was told that it was a rather unusual night but at one stage there were eight or nine people in the smoko room at Masterton. The LE and Rail Operator from 1606; the LE and Guard from 1608; a training driver and two other rail operators. As I write this it occurs to me that the Guard from 1606 must have been there at some stage so counting me that is nine people. In addition, there were several cleaners in a room next door.

Real Person at Upper Hutt

As 645 approached Upper Hutt arrangements were made for the training LE to transfer to 670. I noted that the LE of 645 was talking to a real person at Upper Hutt, not someone in Control in Wellington (or on the North Shore miles from a railway line (-;   ).

Taking Care Down Grade To Upper Hutt

As we travelled carefully down the 1 in 70 grade to Upper Hutt I realised that we were dependant on steel wheels on wet steel rail to reduce speed and stop at Upper Hutt, where we were due to cross 670.

Defining Distance

There must have been some old-timers among the crew. When 645 was shunting Waingawa three units of measurement were used - bogies, four wheeler and *feet*.

In The Rimutaka Tunnel

With one exception visibility in the Rimutaka tunnel was good. The ventilation shaft was clearly visible from 1606. The summit is 26 chains (approximately 530m) beyond the shaft (for up trains) and we went through a patch of fumes with reduced visibility. After this the "light at the end of the tunnel" was clearly visible. I could also see a Telecom fibre optic cable which had been mounted high up to avoid damage by loose bond chains.

Returning on 645 the intermediate signals near the southern portal were clearly visible.

Wairarapa Line Page

My Wairarapa Line page provides more details on Wairarapa railway operations. Matters discussed include Track Warrants, Woods Keys, S&I diagram, schedules (with train graph) and train size.

Last Updated: Saturday, December 31, 2005/p>

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