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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 14, Issue 2 (May 1, 1939)

High Winds and Hard Grades

High Winds and Hard Grades.

“Firing on the ‘O’ class goods was a breezy job in the heavy winds of the Wairarapa,” smiled “Massa” Johnston. “I soon realised why the driver had advised me to tie down my overalls on that footplate. And I knew the reason for the peculiar shape of the ‘onesided’ young trees along the track.”

After fourteen months’ service at Masterton, Mr. Johnston was transferred to Palmerston North. From there he frequently descended Paekakariki above a curling white expanse of restless seas, or traversed the difficult Wangaehu bank to Wanganui in days when the latter gradient achieved a fame that had page 26 page 27
(Rly. Publicity photo.) On the North Island Main Trunk Line, near Taumarunui.

(Rly. Publicity photo.) On the North Island Main Trunk Line, near Taumarunui.

enriched the vocabulary of many a train's crew. Long goods trains on Wangaehu snorted a halting way, as slipping desperate wheels clutched at rails that were laboriously sanded every few yards by driver and fireman.

“The Palmerston North depot of twenty-five years ago might be described, literally, as a dumping ground,” recalled Mr. Johnston. “From the ‘W's’ to the very early types, almost every known class of engine was represented. It was a relief to train crews when the first superheated type was introduced at this depot, proving far superior to the old saturated steam engine.”