GVR development


Prior to the execution of the Trust Deed in November 1970, the Glenbrook Vintage Railway project was administered by a Board consisting of the RES President – Ian Bullock, Paul Heighton for the Committee and Dave Tyler elected by the members. The Society’s Solicitor had drawn up the necessary Deed of Trust for execution and for the incorporation of the railway as a Charitable Trust. The setting up of the Trust was in accordance with the proposals considered at the 10 March 1969 Special General Meeting of the Railway Enthusiasts’ Society. The deed provides for three Trustees; the Chairman being the Society President (or their nominee), a Committee Trustee nominated by the elected Committee of the Society and a Members’ Trustee elected by the members. The Trust Deed was executed on 30 November 1970 and was signed by John Stichbury, Alister Tewsley and Don Carline.

The application to purchase the necessary land was favourably received by the Land Settlement Board who offered a 20 acre area to the Society. The land was to be held on a 5 year lease at a rental of $300 p.a. and provided satisfactory progress had been made towards establishing an operating railway, the land would be sold to the Society either on a cash or deferred payment basis for $6,000. The Society’s committee accepted the offer and the decision was advertised under section 54 of the Land Act 1948. This brought a number of objections from the Franklin County Council, the Waiuku Borough Council and neighbouring farmers. A conference was arranged between all parties and held at Pukekohe in July 1970.

While the negotiations for the land were underway, the Society’s Solicitor was negotiating with the Minister of Railways and interested Government Departments over appropriate amendments to the public Works Act 1928 and other legislation. Because of the few privately owned railways in New Zealand much of the appropriate statutory law was contained in the Government Railways Act 1949 and was applicable only to the New Zealand Government Railways.

The uncertainty over the acquisition of the land was settled on 13 January 1971 when the Land Settlement Board overthrew the objections to the scheme. Lands and Survey offered to do the necessary survey provided the Society paid half the estimated cost, in February 1971, and this was accepted. Also in February 1971 John Stichbury and Paul Heighton met the Chairman of the Franklin County Council, Mr. Cochrane for what was, according to the Society’s 1971 Year Book, a full and frank discussion. February was a busy month for the team who met the Railways District Engineer, Mr. Newton, and finalised a deal by which the derelict railway track and sleepers etc. plus the Glenbrook and Patumahoe station buildings were purchased for $1,333.75. Also purchased during the month were car-vans AF 804 & AF1182 which were put into the NZR’s Auckland sheds for storage.

In July 1971 GVR No. 3, a 1954 Ruston Hornsby 30 hp diesel mechanical locomotive, was purchased for just over $200 at a Ministry of Works auction. The little diesel arrived out at Pukeoware on 10 July 1971 and the GVR had its first operational locomotive to operate on the former Waiuku branch line. Prior to purchasing No. 3, the Society had been considering purchasing TR 38 which was at this time in Dunedin. 
That talk with the Chairman of the Franklin County Council must have paid off, as the Council allowed the GVR to resite the Patumahoe station building to Pukeoware despite the fact that the Society had yet to file a Town Planning application. The shift took place on 12 July 1971 where the building acted as a lunch room and storage shed before the construction of the loco depot.

Also during the year the Society purchased a Daimler bus to transport workers out to Pukeoware to work on the railway. At Papakura work on WW 480 was progressing with the locomotive stripped down and waiting for the boiler to be lifted from the frame to enable the Marine Department to test it. The bogies and other under-gear were also being overhauled. The Papakura loco shed’s roof was replaced and the shed painted.

The Mallet was not forgotten during this time, as in March 1971 a group of Society members travelled in the Society bus to Putaruru for the weekend to tidy up the locomotive. The mallet was reported as being in a neglected condition with rust holes and the paint work in a deteriorated state. 

The 1971 Year Book reported that the Minister of Railways, Mr. Gordon, had been approached and it was decided to purchase JA 1261, or a sister engine, to run a steam locomotive delivery trip over Easter 1972 from Wellington to Auckland (via Masterton, New Plymouth and National Park) with a final trip to our Glenbrook private siding shortly after Easter.

In February 1972 the Trust’s application to the Franklin County Council for Town Planning permission was approved, which cleared a major legal hurdle in the development of the railway. The approval related to the operation of the railway and the erection of buildings at Pukeoware. The Council had also regraded the approaches to the Morley Road level crossing in preparation for sealing the road and the Trust contributed to the cost of this work which had been designed so that no alteration was required to the line of railway.

At Glenbrook a new boundary fence had been erected and earthworks carried out for the rail connection to the NZR yard. The temporary connection points had been laid from the former goods shed siding and tracklaying was in progress from the connection to where the ex Waiuku branch had been severed when the line was extended to Mission Bush. On 1st December 1972 a ceremony was held to mark the completion of the track work connecting the Glenbrook yard to the old Waiuku branch. Mr W W (Bill) Stewart drove in a silver spike (actually stainless steel) to mark the completion of the track work. The event attracted TV coverage. Earthworks for the Pukeoware yard complex were undertaken and stage 1 of the construction of the locomotive shed had commenced. Resleepering of the track had commenced with second hand hardwood sleepers purchased from the NZR. There were no mechanical tools at GVR at this stage, with all sleepers after replacing being drilled by hand.

At Papakura the boiler had been lifted off WW 480 and a contractor was replacing the broken stays. The marine department had carried out a number of tests on the boiler and these were passed satisfactorily.

For the year ended 1972 the Trust had spent $12,000 on the railway and it was forecast that another $60,000 would be needed to complete the railway.

The situation regarding the Mallet at Putaruru was still of concern to the Committee. Having spent a considerable amount of time and money restoring the locomotive to good order for static display, the promised shelter to be constructed by local Putaruru interests had not eventuated. The Committee was starting to consider alternatives to ensure the continued preservation of this locomotive if the shelter did not eventuate.

Easter 1972 saw the running of the South Pacific Steam Safari with JA 1250 being the JA locomotive chosen instead of JA 1261 as originally envisaged. The number of passengers booking for the trip far exceeded the original expectations, which resulted in the purchase of J 1236 to assist with the haulage of the train. JA 1250’s addition to the Glenbrook Vintage Railway’s fleet was assured when Phil Goldman, a member of the Society from the USA, offered to purchase the locomotive on its arrival at Glenbrook. In addition he agreed to assist with financing a suitable building to house JA 1250, which the Society gratefully accepted. While the trip generally went very well, on the Easter Sunday while travelling from Taumarunui to National Park, J 1236 developed a boiler fault and could only just manage to haul herself, which left JA 1250 to haul the large train up the Raurimu Spiral single-handed. This train was well over the tonnage limits for a single Ja and the locomotive crew and JA 1250 demonstrated their ability to tackle the spiral single-handed, and this effort was regarded as one of the highlights of the trip. 

The following Saturday after Easter, J 1236 was repaired and with Ja 1250 hauled a twenty total delivery trip to Glenbrook. Two Da’s were added at Paerata to assist on the steep grades out of Paerata, and after the two steamers were detached at Glenbrook, hauled the carriage train back to Auckland. The NZR connection to our track had not been completed at this stage and Ja 1250 & J 1236 followed the train back to Auckland for storage at the Auckland locomotive shed. While at Glenbrook a formal ‘handing over ceremony’ took place with Phil Goldman accepting ownership of Ja 1250.

The completion of both the connection to the NZR Glenbrook yard and the locomotive shed at Pukeoware enabled the delivery of rolling stock onto GVR’s property. JA 1250, J 1236, WW 644 and car van AF 1182 were then transferred to GVR. The equipment ran from Glenbrook to Waitangi Stream using the “gravity method” from where No. 3 the little Ruston Hornsby diesel towed 
JA 1250 and J1236 individually up the 1 in 50 grade to Pukeoware and then the WW & car van. No. 3 struggled up the grade, a 4 ton diesel hauling a dead 109 ton steam locomotive. Sand was applied to the rails and as many people as possible who could fit on the locomotive were added to add weight to assist traction. There was no means of running No. 3 around each locomotive as the Pukeoware yard complex consisted only of temporary track laid into the new locomotive shed and no turnouts had been constructed at this time to connect the two roads into the shed. Track sets were barred by hand across after No. 3 was run into one siding so that a tractor could pull the locomotive forward, which was then pushed into the shed by the workers. The 1973 Society Year Book noted that the Board was grateful to the Minister of Railways, the Hon. T. McGuigan who made available a quantity of track and turnouts, suitable for the railway’s needs, at a special rate.

Resleepering of selected portions of the main line continued, and the fight to eradicate the gorse and other noxious weeds along the line was proving to be a long and contracted one. At Papakura, WW 480’s boiler had been completed and replaced back on the frame ready for lagging. During the year a decision had also been made on WW 480’s livery, from a scheme prepared by Neil Carey. Car van AF 804 had joined WW 480 at Papakura and work commenced on this vehicle to return it to service.

The Members Trustee, Keith Hamilton in his 1973 report noted progress towards an opening date for the railway was constrained by the ability to raise funds and the willingness of members of the Society to contribute their labour to the project. The 30 June 1973 year was the last year that the Trust Board’s revenue and expenditure was included in the Railway Enthusiasts’ Society’s accounts, and from 1 July 1973 the Trust Board took over its own accounting and administration. 

The reassembly of WW 480 had reached a stage where it was steamed for inspection and testing. A boiler certificate was received for the locomotive in August 1974. A decision was made to turn the wheels of the locomotive before re entering service. A defective weld was discovered in the main frame and at this stage it was decided to completely overhaul the running gear of the locomotive. The driving wheels were sent to A & G Price Ltd of Thames, for axle box and crankpin repairs. Progress was also being made on the overhaul of AF 804 during the year. The work at Papakura was undertaken on alternate Sundays by a small but regular group. The balance of the carriage fleet was also acquired during the year, again with the assistance of the Minister of railways, the Hon. T McGuigan.

The track gang met most Saturdays of the year at Pukeoware, and by 1974 the spot resleepering of the main line had been undertaken from Glenbrook to Waitangi Stream. This gang in the main consisted only of a regular 5 members who worked through all weathers undertaking the spot resleepering of the line with second-hand hardwood sleepers. Negotiations were successfully concluded for the lease of the land at Glenbrook required for the passenger terminal, and preparatory steps were taken towards designing the layout and associated works for the station.

During February 1974 the first open day weekend was held at Pukeoware and a large number of people turned up to inspect the progress. Rides were provided on the motor jigger between Pukeoware and Morley Road and No. 3 with seats on two hand trolleys ran a shuttle from Pukeoware to Waitangi Stream. In between this activity the hand jigger provided rides down the Pukeoware straight. A second open day weekend was held in August 1974.

One fund raising method employed at this time was the collection of paper which was bundled up at the Society’s Onehunga clubrooms and sold to a paper merchant. At times the clubrooms was full of paper and regular work parties spent many nights bundling & strapping the paper into 56 lb bundles which were then sold to the paper merchant for shipping to Fiji. It was not unknown for one member’s NZR locomotive cab to be full of paper collected from the suburban trains, the Silver Star & the Northerner. It was not unknown for the running boards of the locomotive to also be loaded with paper. Rumour has it that one day there was no room for the locomotive inspector to ride in the locomotive.

Again the Members Trustee appealed for funds either by way of donation or Society Debentures. The planned carriage shed plus earthworks and ballasting associated with the terminal and Pukeoware complex was estimated to cost $15,000 over the coming months. John Stichbury’s prediction of the railway opening in late 1974 was not to be, as the overhaul of No. 1 (WW 480) and the required carriages to provide the service was still in progress. Track laying at Pukeoware and Glenbrook also needed to be completed.

 Work on car-van AF 804 was nearing completion and was the first carriage to be painted in GVR’s distinctive yellow livery. With the return of the driving wheels from A&G Price, WW 480 was reassembled and moved under her own steam in December 1975.

The carriage shed was completed in January 1975 and has a capacity to store six 50 ft carriages. During May and June an inspection and wheel drop pit was constructed in the locomotive depot on number 1 road and the remaining floor area of the shed was concreted. The old wooden overbridge at Shakespear Road was demolished by the Franklin County Council and a new concrete bridge was constructed in its place. The Trust Board had to meet a third of the cost which the County Council allowed the Board to repay over a number of years.

The spot resleepering of the main line between Glenbrook and Pukeoware was completed. The next task was the construction of the Glenbrook and Pukeoware yards. Over 1,000 second-hand sleepers had been purchased from the NZ Railways for this task. During the year John Stichbury instituted a No. 2 gang to undertake work such as clearing the drains to free the track gang from general maintenance work to concentrate on completing the yard trackage. Drain clearance was always a task that John undertook at the railway, and in the later years he and his Labrador dog Milo would set off down the track to clean out the drains. In November 1975 a helicopter was employed to tackle the noxious weeds on the Pukeoware to Cornwall Road section of the railway.

In June 1975 the Mallet arrived at the GVR. Local (Putaruru) groups still had not provided a shelter for the locomotive and the Railway Enthusiasts Society Committee were becoming concerned with the increasing incidence of vandalism to the locomotive. Waikato Heavy Haulage and Carlton Cranes reduced their charges to assist the Society to transfer the locomotive from Putaruru to Pukeoware. The Society 1975 Year Book stated that a feasibility study would be undertaken to see if the locomotive could be prepared for use on the GVR. However, whatever the outcome, the important thing was, and is, that this unique and historic locomotive now has a safe home under cover and will be well looked after. At this stage Ted Pointon, GVR’s mechanical officer probably had already made up his mind that the mallet would steam again.

Another open day was held at Pukeoware over Queen’s Birthday weekend to boost the funds. The Commercial branch issued $1 certificates which entitled the bearer to two free rides when the railway opened. Other fund-raising continued to consist of donations, trading tables, raffles and newspaper collection. The newspaper collection was still a major source of fund-raising for the Trust Board during the year. By 30 June 1975 the Board had spent $49,550 on fixed assets for the railway, with the cost of buildings totalling $35,363. The bulk of the capital funding was provided by the Railway Enthusiasts Society. In the Annual Report to members of the Society, Neil Carey, the Members Trustee, advised that the railway required another $12,000 for the planned work over the next 12 months. He also stated that the Trust Board could see no bar to the railway opening for traffic; however this could only be achieved with the support of members eager to assist financially and with labour to bring the project to completion. 

On 1 March 1976 WW 480 (GVR No. 1) was certified to operate by the Marine Section of the Ministry of Transport and, together with car-van AF 804 ‘Tainui’, were transferred out to the GVR on 12 March 1976. On arrival at GVR, WW 480 was painted into her GVR livery and emerged in time for the Queens Birthday weekend open days. Steam passenger trains now commenced running on open days from the Pukeoware Depot up to the top curve using WW 480, car-van Tainui and carriage Aorere. The Ruston Hornsby diesel No. 3 was given its first major overhaul after 4 years of continuous service on the railway. The overhaul of the first carriage ‘Aorere’ was completed during the year and work on another had commenced. Once work was finished on WW 480, work commenced on No. 4 (the Mallet) to prepare the boiler for inspection. By December, No. 4 had moved under her own steam for the first time in 29 years, having been certified in November by the Marine Department section of the Ministry of Transport.

October saw the arrival of guards van F 376 which was fitted out as a mobile store and workshop for the track gang. A 543 a clerestory roofed carriage also arrived during this period. This carriage was formerly the kitchen-diner of NZR’s South Island signals maintenance train. This carriage had been used by the Railway Enthusiasts Society on a number of South Island rail tours which were run over the Christmas break using the signals train.

The majority of the track work for the Pukeoware yard was installed, with final ballasting still to be undertaken. A large capacity air compressor was purchased to operate air tools in an effort to speed up the track maintenance and make life easier for the track gang. The track gang had commenced hand drilling the replacement hardwood sleepers, then a small petrol powered Tas motor drill was donated which speeded up the sleeper replacement programme. Originally 10 to 12 sleepers a day was all the small gang could accomplish, but with the arrival of the Tas drill, this number of sleepers could be drilled in no time. All hardwood sleepers were dog-spiked but with the supply of second hand hardwoods becoming scarce plus becoming dearer, new pine sleepers were being purchased which required the use of screw spikes. The air operated drill, impact gun for screwing in the spikes and jack hammers brought in a new area for the track gang.

Permanent facilities for the volunteers at Pukeoware were commenced with the construction of a mezzanine floor at the rear of the locomotive depot. In May the water tank from NZR’s Papakura loco depot arrived and together with a windmill were erected at Waitangi Stream to provide the main locomotive water supply. By November, earthworks at Glenbrook had been carried out, preparing the site for the passenger terminus. The ex Patumahoe station building that had been acting as a temporary depot at Pukeoware had been moved to Glenbrook and the old NZR Glenbrook station had been transferred across to the site.

Open days continued to assist the finances and No. 3 with three hand trolleys fitted with seats and the jiggers provided rides pending the availability of WW 480 & the carriages to provide a steam-hauled passenger service. The balance date was changed to 31 March in 1976 and the open days became the major source of income with the collection of paper declining as an income source. The first guide book written by Keith Fairgray was published this year and sold out very quickly. A second more elaborate guide book was printed with a colour cover and additional information which proved very popular at the open days.
 With the opening of the railway drawing nearer, consideration was being given to the training of staff to undertake all duties associated with the operation of the railway. A comprehensive training programme was devised of which the safety aspects of operating a railway were a major part.

At Labour Weekend 1977, the Glenbrook Vintage Railway was officially opened from the Glenbrook terminus site, but before this could occur there was a major amount of work to be completed during the year.

Work continued on No. 4 with the construction of a new tender tank and coal bunker. The Mallet had only a steam brake, and so Westinghouse air brake equipment had to be fitted to the locomotive to haul passenger trains. After fitting of the air brake equipment, No. 4 commenced hauling passenger trains on her own at Easter 1977. After the Easter running, No. 4’s new tender was completed, two new sand domes fitted, plus a new steam dome cover. A new front headlight was made and the original Taupo Totara Timber Company’s front headlight was repaired and used as the rear headlight on the tender. The overhaul of carriage Aotea was a major task compared to the first two vehicles and had to be virtually rebuilt. The carriage was completed for the October opening day, as was open carriage Nga Hau converted from UB 1554.

The start of steam-hauled passenger services on the open days started to have an impact on the main line and it became apparent that the full sleeper replacement programme would have to be accelerated. Work on the Glenbrook yard commenced during the year and was completed except for the loop back-shunt by opening day. This entailed the construction of approximately twenty five chains of track, three turnouts and the laying of over 400 cubic metres of ballast. As well as this work, heavy re-sleepering work was carried out between Morley Road and the 1 km peg. In November the Ultrasound Rail Flaw Detector car was working on the Mission Bush branch and it made a detour down our railway, testing for rail faults. Only one faulty rail was found which was replaced.

February saw the construction of a 100 metre long concrete platform face at Glenbrook and the permanent turnout connection to the NZR laid. The two station buildings at Glenbrook were joined together by a roof and a full length veranda added. To ensure the buildings were completed on time Alan Carline, the Building Supervisor was employed full time for several months to undertake this work. Many alterations were made inside the buildings and a new concrete block toilet added. A 5,000 gallon concrete water tank was placed on site and a water pipe was run from the deep well pressure pump of Karaka Bulk Spreaders Ltd who operated a bulk fertiliser store near the station. This supply ensured that the toilets had a reliable water supply. The grounds were levelled to form the picnic area, the concrete platform was poured, and gates and fencing erected.

The mezzanine floor in the Pukeoware loco depot was completed giving the volunteers kitchen facilities, a lunch room, bunk room and showers. Earthworks for the No. 2 carriage shed at Pukeoware were carried out and the Papakura loco shed was purchased. By March the loco shed had been dismantled to provide the main structure for the carriage shed which had been designed to house nine carriages. The trusses of the former two road Papakura loco depot were used to provide a three road carriage storage shed.

The running of steam hauled passenger trains on open days was an outstanding success and boosted the funds available for the construction of the railway. The fund-raising paper collection ended with no outlet being available to sell the paper. This avenue of finance was a good source of finance prior to the commencement of passenger train running. Again this project had been undertaken by a small dedicated team who regularly met at the Society’s Onehunga club rooms to bundle up the paper. The club rooms reverted back to their original use and were no longer a storage area at some times for tons of paper. 

The 1977 Society Year Book to 31 March 1977 reported that the railway had carried 20,731 passengers and WW 480 - No. 1 had run 981 miles over the four open day weekends held. A rule book was published for the safe operation of the railway and to form a basis of the staff training programme in preparation for the increased staff requirements when regular weekend operations commenced on October 1977.

Since the official opening on Labour Weekend 1977 the railway has continued to be developed and be supported financially by The Railway Enthusiasts Society Inc and by the numerous railway volunteers who are Society members. In addition financial assistance has been provided by many other generous donors who have also supported the vision of those original proponents.

09 636 9361 (Weekdays - 9am to 12pm)
09 236 3546 (operating days)

Glenbrook Station Road
New Zealand
Enquire now Postal Address
PO Box 13684
Auckland 1643
New Zealand