SHARE

A gully in Hyde has offered up railway hardware of yesteryear.

In January, three JC Class sheep wagons were reclaimed from scrub by contractors on behalf of the Lumsden Heritage Trust, more than four decades after they slid into the gully following snow and heavy rain.

The three wagons were retired from New Zealand Railways and placed at the top of the gully in an effort to prevent the hillside from eroding.

Forty-five years on, the wagons were finally removed.

Built in New Zealand in the 1940s and 1950s, JC wagons were the vehicle of choice for New Zealand Railways to transport stock until the late 1970s where road transport became the preferred option.

The six-metre-long wagons had timber frames and two decks.

Lumsden Heritage Trust chairman John Titter said despite working in difficult terrain, the recovery operation went “relatively smoothly”.

The first wagon – weighing in at more than five tonnes – was hauled up the hillside by a 12-tonne digger with a bulldozer pushing as needed.

“They got about two-thirds of the way up and it started shuddering as the digger struggled to gain traction,” Mr Titter said.

The two remaining wagon frames were stacked on top of each other and dragged by the bulldozer – which was towed by the digger to flat ground at the top of the gully.

At its steepest the hillside was around 45 degrees, however the wagons “towed really well”, he said.

“It was pretty gnarly up there. There was a hairpin at the top of the track with a straight drop down into the gorge. There was nowhere to go if things went wrong.”

Lumsden Heritage Trust secretary-treasurer Rob Scott said the trust wanted to recover the wagons for their under-frames, which included the chassis, wheels and axle sets.

Parts from two of the three wagons would be fabricated to make a complete underframe for a C Class passenger carriage, which the Trust is planning to recover soon from a residential property in Winton.

“The beauty of it is that the axles, headstocks, buffers and frame are all complete,” Mr Scott said.

The third wagon, complete with sheep crate largely intact, will be restored to original condition by Project Steam Middlemarch for its heritage rail collection.

“This is a good project,” Mr Titter said.

“There are only seven JC wagons remaining that I am aware of on the New Zealand Rolling Stock Register.”

The wagons were gifted to Lumsden Heritage Trust by the Hyde landowner Bevan Dowling.