The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 5 (September 1, 1929)
An Interesting Model Railway — Opening of the “R.S.R.” at Auckland
It is the privilege of few besides authorised members of the Railway staff to take control of a locomotive with a train of loaded vehicles behind. Yet, if given the chance, few there are who would not care to avail themselves of a rare privilege of the kind—to experience the thrills of negotiating grade, curve, bridge and tunnel, to see the flash of signal lights on the road, and generally, to assume the responsibility of a locomotive driver. However, if one is fortunate enough to know the “bosses” of the “R.S.R.” the miniature railway at Auckland, one may realise a cherished dream of childhood—to drive a railway train.
I recently accepted an invitation to inspect the rolling-stock and track of this miniature railway and, in due time, presented myself at Headquarters, No. 24 Kimberley Road, Epsom, Auckland. The “R.S.R.” by the way, is a company unincorporated and unregistered, but strictly limited; limited as to the number of its shareholders and employees, and badly limited as to capital. To its ambition, however, there is no limit.
After the usual courtesies, I was taken downstairs, for there, in the basement, is Rapata Terminus, the most important station and what represents the metropolis. I do not propose to describe the township, though a very creditable township there is. I made straight for the railway station, but, finding it under reconstruction, established myself at a convenient point “up the yard” and from there obtained a distant view of the reconstruction work and portion of the township. Noticing a light train in the siding, I inquired from the “boss” when it was due to leave. “In a few minutes,” he replied, “but come round to the shunting yard at Stewartville suburb and see what is going on.” We moved off as suggested to Stewartville, where was a more elaborate yard than that at Rapata. The Stewartville station too, literally plastered with advertisements, was a more pretentious building. An engine shed with its white-washed pits, coal stage and water-tank, completed the equipment. In the sidings I noticed an abundance of rolling-stock, open and covered wagons, cattle and sheep trucks.
Being absorbed in inspection, I was startled to hear nearby the familiar “ting-ting” of the tablet signal announcing the departure of a train from some station. Glancing up the line I noticed the “stick” drop and presently heard the rumble of an approaching train. Round the bend she came, then up the straight and into the station in good style. It was the “local” from Rapata. A carriage, a couple of covered wagons, and a van of the type one occasionally sees on the Helensville line, comprised the train. The engine was D. 109, an old type, a representative of which one seldom sees on the larger railway system of the Dominion. “She is due to run down the main line presently with a ‘ballast,’“ page 44 said the “boss.” “Would you like to take her out” When I intimated that I would be delighted to do so, I was shown where to take my seat—not in the engine of course, as that neat little model was only 10 ½ inches in length from “tip to tip.” but in front of a stationary “cab,” furnished with firebox, throttle, lever, hand-brake and whistle.
“Run your hand-brake down,” said the “boss,” and I hastened to obey, with a noticeably steadying effect upon my train. Nevertheless, she rattled through the tunnel, over a trestle bridge and away round to Bible Creek station, by which time I had regained my nerve sufficiently to pull my train up in creditable style at the platform. I left it there while I inspected the track. I was shown a “junction-to-be” from which a flying survey south had already been made; and I was shown the probable southern terminus. However, I gathered that the extension was not likely to be carried out until a substantial “loan” had been floated. So far, I have refrained from remarking on the scenery, relying on the accompanying illustrations to convey to the reader the excellence of its general appearance, but in my opinion it is the most pleasing feature of the whole system. It is so naturally New Zealand Railway scenery. While we were discussing the track and the scenery the “ballast” passed us on its way home, some of the staff having evidently decided that routine could not be indefinitely interrupted by visitors. Re-entering the basement I had a further look round Stewartville and expressed some curiosity as to the question of control. “It is all very well,” I remarked, “to control a train from this place as one can see almost any spot on the existing route, but what is going to page 45 happen when you extend your line south, and, in fact, what happens now, when control is exercised from your top station, seeing that the train almost immediately disappears from sight?”
“That is easily answered,” said the “boss.” “Let me demonstrate. A passenger train has already been made up at the top station, and, in consideration of the importance which we attach to your visit, (I bowed) we are prepared to despatch it in advance of timetable. The officer in charge of Rapata will be instructed accordingly. Now watch what happens.” In a couple of minutes the tablet announced departure of the “passenger” from Rapata. Shortly afterwards another signal conveyed to Stewartville the instructions to “take over.” The “boss,” who was temporarily in charge at the last mentioned place and stationed at the “cab” at once threw his lever forward and assumed control of the train, announcing to Rapata immediately afterwards that he had done so. Rapata thereupon put his lever in mid position and “washed his hands” of further responsibility. The “passenger,” drawn by L. 266, a beautiful little model as I observed later, came through at a great pace and pulled up in due course at the railhead.
I took my departure shortly afterwards, feeling that the combined responsibility of station-master, engine-driver, signalman, trackman and shunter, centred in one individual, might at times be something of a strain, even on a miniature railway.