Rm 51 in Buller Gorge

Stephen Wright

In late December 2019 I posted a photo of Rm 51 in the Buller Gorge, outside Tunnel No. 4. I have since found out some info relating to that photo and the one attached. Richard Legge, who has done a lot of research into Vulcan railcars, was a big help and I also talked to the driver Jack Fentiman, now well into his eighties, who took both photos.

The photos appear to have been taken on Sunday 1 November 1970. The railcar was taking a group of Japanese railway engineers from Greymouth to Westport and they then went on to Ngakawau. The purpose of the trip was to assess whether the line was suitable for carrying Buller coal from Westport to Christchurch. The name 'Japan Transportation Consultants Inc.' appears on a memo issued at Greymouth on 22 October 1970.

The driver, Jack Fentiman, took both photos. He only went as far as Westport before returning to Greymouth by bus. A train advice dated 29 October has the return trip (G2) from Greymouth to Christchurch on Tuesday 3 November. Working backwards from that date, the Greymouth to Wesport leg is likely to have been Sunday, as Jack can remember no train crossings at all and the Japanese would have needed to inspect the track etc. at their leisure.

The guard is visible in the cab.

Vulcans in the gorge would be a rare sight in 1970, as passenger services to Westport had ceased in 1967.

Now there is a small mystery component to this photo. Can someone identify which bridge it is? The curve should narrow things down I would imagine.


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