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Nelson Historical Society Journal, Volume 3, Issue 1, October 1974

Recollections of Brownlee's Locomotives

page 44

Recollections of Brownlee's Locomotives

Travellers between Nelson and Blenheim must be accustomed to the sight of an old steam locomotive beside the main road through Havelock. Perhaps few of those who pass by will realise that this is "Aunt Sally", one of the three engines used by Brownlees on their tramlines carrying logs and timber from the valleys in the Rai-Pelorus area. The other two were named "Opouri" and "Aunt Mary". "Opouri", which was much heavier than the other two engines, was usually driven by Dave Young of Canvastown. One day when returning to Blackball with a full load the tram bridge, known as Dalton's (on the site where the road bridge now stands) gave way and Davey, engine, and all, went crashing through. His only complaint when he called at a nearby house after scrambling the thirty feet or so out of the riverbed and wreckage was that his pipe was broken. He was mighty lucky it wasn't his neck!

The other two engines were driven by Bill (Stumpy) Morrison and Joe Barber. Nearing Blackball one day when driving "Aunt Sally" with a load, and Mrs Morrison as a passenger, Barber felt a jerk so leaned out to see what had happened. It was a derailed truck and as Joe was leaning out the coupling broke and the engine gave a leap ahead and threw him out on to the ground. He jumped up and waved to Mrs Morrison to stop the engine and, although she could drive quite well, panicked, and instead of shutting the throttle she opened it wide, and then jumped out. The engine travelled at top speed towards the mill. A Mr Bagget, who later became Harbourmaster at Picton, was at the Blackball mill and, seeing the engine speed along, realised that something was wrong, so switched the points so that instead of crashing into the mill it went tearing past and over the wharf into the sea.

For years I have wondered how that engine was rescued, and supposed that it must have been a tough job for a teamster and his horses. Only recently Mrs H. Higgins of Wakefield looked at the engine and said "My Dad (Arthur Hewetson) pulled it out of the sea with his traction engine." (Arthur Hewetson owned the first steam traction engine in the locality).