TS21 - South Pacific Spectacular!
New Zealand is set to make its debut in Train Simulator with NZTS Workshops' Midland Line: Aickens - Springfield route!
“The Midland Line” Route is the culmination of over 6 years of work by NZTS Workshops to bring the addon to life in Train Simulator. Historic photos, aerial imagery, maps, diagrams and consultation with former Railways Staff have all been used to create the route as it would have appeared to those riding the train in the year 1968 – marking the transition from Steam to Diesel on the line.
New Zealand’s Midland Line is today world famous as the route of the ‘Tranz Alpine’ tourist passenger service, but in 1874 when the railway first started to head west from Rolleston, just south of Christchurch in New Zealand’s South Island, the goal wasn’t to cross the mighty Southern Alps to reach the vast coal fields and forestry on the islands West Coast but instead to access the vast tracts of arable farm land on the Canterbury Plains inland to Springfield.
In the early 1880’s the pressure was on to join the West Coast to the ports on the East Coast, though a royal commission soon scuppered the idea of the Government funding the construction. In the mid 1880’s the New Zealand Midland Railway company was founded and began work on what would become the South Islands alpine crossing. The company, however, did not have the funding to achieve such a feat, and in 1894 construction halted, forcing the Government to seize the company’s assets in 1895.
The route from Westland to Otira, at the foot of the “main divide” was mostly complete at this time though from the east progress had been slow – not surprising considering the 5 viaducts, 5 major bridges and 16 tunnels required to progress from Springfield, at the foot of the alps, to Arthurs Pass – just east of the “main divide”.
By 1914 the line has reached Arthur’s Pass on the East, and was of course, still at Otira to the west. In the middle lay a mountain range, splitting the two locations by a distance of 14km and a height difference of 359m (1177ft). Knowing that this mountain range would need to be pierced, the Government had, in 1907, begun construction of the “Otira Tunnel” an 8.5km long tunnel, built straight along a 1:33 gradient. 11 years later, in 1918 the tunnel was broken through, at last linking the east and west coasts – but there was still work to be done and it wasn’t until 1923 that the first train, hauled its way by electric power from one end to the other.
For 45 years these electric locomotives – the “Eo” class – hauled all manner of goods and passengers up and down the tunnel between Arthur’s Pass and Otira before being retired in 1968 for new build replacements. To the east a special type of large steam locomotive the “Kb” class worked trains over the mountains from Springfield to Arthur’s Pass and back again while to the west the job fell to smaller locomotives, the gradients not being as fierce. In the late 1960’s New Zealand Railway’s was full swing into replacing steam with diesel power and the sound of a Kb tackling the grades was lost to the past, replaced instead with the sounds English Electric built ‘Dg’ and Mitsubishi built ‘Dj’ diesel electric locomotives.
Train sizes continued to increase from the opening of the tunnel, coal and timber being the main traffic and as the trains got bigger and heavier the 1968 purchased electric locomotives working the Otira-Arthur’s Pass section began to struggle, and so in 1997 the electrification was removed, vast steel doors fitted to the Otira end of the Otira tunnel and massive extractor fans for the diesel exhaust put in place – trains now powering up the tunnel hauled by five 2750-3000hp ‘DXC’ class diesel-electric locomotives.
The Midland Line Route from NZTS Workshop covers the toughest section of the route, the 90km from Springfield in the east to Aickens in the west and includes the 8.5km long Otira Tunnel. Set in 1968 the route still has all steam age facilities in place, though the railway has transitioned to diesel. Included in the route are the 1923 built ‘Eo’ Bo+Bo electric locomotives, especially designed for the challenges of the Otira tunnel, and the 1968 built ‘Dj’ Bo-Bo-Bo diesel electric locomotive.
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TS21 - South Pacific Spectacular!