Southerner (New Zealand train)

Last updated

The Southerner
Overview
Service typeExpress
StatusCancelled
Predecessor South Island Limited
First serviceTuesday, 1 December 1970 [1]
Last serviceSunday, 10 February 2002 [2]
Former operator(s) New Zealand Railways Department (NZR) (1970–1987)
InterCity Rail (1987–1995)
Tranz Scenic (1995–2002)
Route
Start Christchurch
End Invercargill
Line(s) used Main South Line
Technical
Track gauge 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in)

The Southerner was a passenger express train in New Zealand's South Island between Christchurch and Invercargill along the South Island Main Trunk, that ran from 1970 to 2002. It was one of the premier passenger trains in New Zealand and its existence made Invercargill the southernmost passenger station in the world. [3]

Contents

Before the Southerner

Express passenger trains on the South Island Main Trunk were some of the last services to be hauled by steam locomotives in New Zealand. These services, especially in the late 19th century and early 20th century, were the flagships of the passenger network and received the newest and best motive power and rolling stock. In the mid-20th century, these expresses were augmented by evening railcars between Christchurch and Dunedin. [1]

Introduction

DJ3228 (D 1222) preserved in "Southerner Blue" livery at Dunedin in 2017 Locomotive Dunedin (30682890153).jpg
DJ3228 (D 1222) preserved in "Southerner Blue" livery at Dunedin in 2017

By the late 1960s steam locomotives had been phased-out from the North Island, and a serious effort was being made to replace steam locomotives with diesel-electric locomotives in the South Island. The introduction of the DJ class in 1968 sealed the fate of steam, and on May 1969 plans were announced to introduce a premier diesel-hauled express to replace the South Island Limited between Christchurch, Dunedin, and Invercargill. Named the Southerner, it would be hauled by members of the DJ class, and unlike the steam-hauled expresses, it would not carry mail. It began service on 1 December 1970. [1]

The business model behind the Southerner was a limited-stop service, halting only at major towns, with feeder bus services to smaller towns that had been bypassed. [4] The reintroduction of buffet carriages, the first time since the removal of dining carriages in the 1930s as an economy measure also eliminated the refreshment stops which added time and inconvenience to the journey. [5] The Southerner was a single-class train using former first-class carriages. [1] As a result, all passengers enjoyed wide reclining seats arranged two-and-one; significantly greater comfort than other rail or bus options provided at the time. [6]

Initially, it was planned to use two DG class locomotives to haul the train. [5] When the service was introduced, a single DJ class locomotive was used. [7]

Despite the introduction of the Southerner, steam-hauled expresses continued to operate on Friday and Sunday evenings for almost 11 months; the last running on 26 October 1971. This was the last steam-hauled, regularly-scheduled revenue service in New Zealand. The service was replaced with a diesel-hauled train, which continued until 1979. [8] The evening railcars lasted a few years longer, but the age of the Vulcan railcars was becoming increasingly obvious and the service was cancelled in April 1976 without replacement. After 1979, the Southerner was the only long-distance passenger service on the South Island Main Trunk. [8]

Rolling stock

The original Southerner stock consisted of ten (later twelve) single-toilet South Island Main Trunk Railway first-class carriages, two (later three) full buffet carriages, three vans and, in the 1980s, three wooden 50-ft bogie box wagons for parcels, formed into two trains. All passenger carriages were rebuilt NZR 56-foot carriages dating from 1938–1945. [1]

A pressure-ventilated former composite first-class (14 seats) and second-class (28 seats) carriage and the only 56-ft car to serve in a Vice-Regal capacity for a Governor-General as a kitchen carriage for the 1934-built North Island Vice Regal car [9] (hence the unique design) were rebuilt as full buffet carriages, incorporating full-length counters and 20 swivel stools. [10] In 1973, a former double-toilet (later designated a North Island Main Trunk railway first-class car) was rebuilt as a third buffet car. Two carriages retained their "coupe" compartment for train staff (one car for each train) and one car in each train retained its compartment for hostesses. [11]

New bogies and seats

The buffet carriages were fitted with new Japanese bogies of Kinki-Sharyo manufacture to ensure a smooth ride. [10] Compared to the Timken spring bogies under the other carriages and vans, they offered a superior-quality ride; passengers had complained about the riding quality of the other carriages. The bucket seats were reupholstered in teal-blue vinyl. [12]

With the success of new Korean bogies underneath Northerner carriages, the Southerner carriages were also fitted with this type of bogie. Work on car underframes was less substantial than that carried out on the Northerner. [13]

InterCity Rail upgrade

In the 1980s, NZR Addington Workshops designed a new seat and these had proven successful in Picton/Greymouth carriages, so the Southerner carriages received these seats also, increasing seating capacity from 29 or 33 to 45 or 50 per car. [12]

Once new seats were installed, one 45-seat car with staff compartment and one 50-seat car without were sent to the North Island for use on the two Gisborne Express sets. In their place on the Southerner were two 32-seat Endeavour carriages. [1]

With delays in the overhaul and refurbishment of all the InterCity Rail stock, the Southerner suffered most. From late 1987, with the Northerner requiring replacement stock, eight carriages from the Southerner were refurbished for the task. This resulted in the remaining three Southerner carriages, carriages from the Picton and Greymouth pool and two former Picton and Greymouth carriages that were heavily refurbished and overhauled for the new TranzAlpine Express keeping the services running, and also saw the standard of service drop considerably. The three full buffet carriages were still utilised. The two TranzAlpine carriages had their Addington seat numbers reduced from 52 to 50. The seats were reupholstered and modified before being reinstalled and were re-arranged into bays of four, alcove-style, around tables. These two carriages, still retaining their small windows, were permanently allocated to the Southerner when the TranzAlpine was made an all-panorama train. [12]

Connoisseur

At the same time, the InterCity refurbishment programme started, a private tourist firm leased a Southerner carriage and marketed it as The Connoisseur car. It was thoroughly overhauled and refurbished, and offered users a more upmarket service. [12]

In 1988, three more red Picton and Greymouth carriages and an Endeavour car were refurbished for the Southerner, entering service Monday, 4 July 1988, joining the two carriages already fitted as such. The Endeavour car and one Picton/Greymouth car were fitted out as servery carriages, each seating 31, alcove-style, in bays of four. The other two carriages seated 50, alcove-style. The seats were reupholstered and new carpet laid in all four carriages. Two FM class guard's vans were equipped with 11 kW generators at their handbrake ends and became power-baggage vans for the "new" trains. Its reintroduction also saw the cessation of parcels traffic on the trains. [11]

This seating arrangement, while accepted on the TranzAlpine, Coastal Pacific, and Bay Expresses, proved unsuccessful on the Southerner, so one car from each set had seating re-arranged to a forward-facing layout. [13]

Replacement rolling stock

On 27 August 1993, a former Wairarapa Connection car turned NIMT servery car was brought in to replace the servery car damaged in the Rolleston accident two days earlier (see below), along with three refurbished Auckland excursion carriages and their 37.5 kW FM van and the first of the two Bay Express panorama carriages was also allocated to the train as the initial attempt to re-equip it with panorama carriages.

In September 1995, five of the first batch of 11 non-air-conditioned panorama carriages were thoroughly overhauled, air-conditioning and a new-style seat (as in the third three-car Northerner and Overlander set) were installed. Two of these were permanently allocated to the Southerner, the second two temporarily, with the fifth juggling duties between Invercargill, Greymouth and Picton. The two original servery/observation carriages were similarly refurbished. The third TranzAlpine/Coastal Pacific and the first of the two Southerner 11 kW power/baggage vans were fitted with newer, more powerful generators (though less powerful than their NIMT counterparts) and the Southerner van had its public viewing module re-enclosed for luggage carriage again. Later that year, when the Bay Express was re-equipped with two of those seven refurbished carriages, the original two Bay Express carriages were similarly refurbished and permanently allocated to the Southerner.

Additional services

After air-conditioned panorama carriages were introduced, the train's popularity increased to the extent that Tranz Scenic introduced extra Christchurch-Dunedin, Invercargill-Christchurch, Christchurch-Invercargill and Dunedin-Christchurch services on Fridays, numbered #903 to #906. These were short-lived, ceasing after the 1996 Hilderthorpe, North Otago level-crossing accident.

Patronage continued to fall away, even when—from 1993 onwards—panorama carriages were introduced to this service. Two carriages came from the original Bay Express, two were Southerner carriages turned panorama carriages for the TranzAlpine and Coastal Pacific and one car that was formerly The Connoisseur car (also an original Southerner car). Two Picton/Greymouth carriages turned panorama carriages also served these trains until joining the Bay Express to Napier. The original TranzAlpine servery/observation car and its Coastal Pacific equivalent were assigned to the Southerner. [13]

Incidents

On Wednesday, 25 August 1993, the southbound Southerner, consisting of a DF class locomotive, passenger car with luggage space at one end, servery car, day car and the second of three TranzAlpine and Coastal Pacific power-baggage vans, was hit at Rolleston by a concrete mixing truck. The bowl of the truck bounced off all three passenger carriages and ripped two of them wide open. Three people were killed, [14] one of whom was Louise Cairns, daughter of former New Zealand cricketer Lance Cairns and sister of then-representative Chris Cairns. Chris Cairns has since become a campaigner for safety around the rail corridor and level-crossings through the Chris Cairns Foundation, which later became known as TrackSAFE Foundation New Zealand. [13]

Two days later, a replacement train consisting of three recently refurbished carriages and the FM power and baggage van with 37.5 kW generator from the Auckland excursion fleet was brought in to supplement the remaining four Southerner carriages. The first and second of these temporary replacement carriages seated 50, alcove-style, like the Southerner carriages, but with a more modern seat, seen on upgraded Masterton carriages and the NIMT carriages. The third car seated 54 in the same type of seat, but with all seats facing into two centre tables, one on each side of the aisle. The NIMT car turned buffet car in 1973 returned to the train as part of the replacement consist. [13]

On Thursday, 14 November 1996, one of the two Southerner trains was involved in a level-crossing crash at Hilderthorpe, North Otago, killing four people. [15] The train was involved in another crash in July 2000, colliding with a ute at Edendale, 53 kilometres (33 mi) north of Invercargill. On Monday, 8 January 2001, the southbound Southerner was again involved in a level crossing crash, this time with a cattle truck. The DC-class locomotive and two of three passenger carriages were derailed, injuring 21 passengers and forcing the destruction of 10 cattle-beasts. [16]

Timetable

The advantages of the new technology and the removal of delays caused by the carriage of mail, and the elimination of refreshment stops became apparent instantly, with the travel time between Christchurch and Dunedin cut by almost an hour from 7 hours 9 minutes to 6 hours 14 minutes. Initially, the service stopped at only a small number of stations along the Main South Line – Gore, Balclutha, Dunedin, Oamaru, Timaru and Ashburton, with feeder bus services for passengers travelling to other destinations. [2] Gradually, additional stops were added, although a number were "stops on request" only. [2]

Typically, two DJ class diesel locomotives hauled the train, and when a third was added to increase power on the rugged, difficult line between Oamaru and Dunedin, another 19 minutes were cut from the schedule. [11]

Dining service

The Southerner was notable for being the first train on New Zealand Railways to include a full dining service since the abolition of dining carriages as an economy measure in World War I. The Southerner had a full-service buffet car with 20 seats that served hot meals and cafeteria-style food, replaced in the early 1990s with a buffet bar service for passengers to purchase food to be consumed at their seats. [12]

Demise and withdrawal

By the 1990s, the DJ class had been largely withdrawn and other locomotives hauled the Southerner, including the DC and DX classes.

The service ran at a loss and had been supported by government subsidies until these were abolished for all long-distance passenger trains in 1989. New Zealand Rail changed the seating configuration by replacing the very generous three-abreast configuration with a more standard four-abreast, with reduced (but still generous compared to bus) seat pitch. The full-service buffet car was replaced with a buffet servery. Both measures reduced costs significantly, but the service was challenged by the increasing number of low-cost shuttle bus services, particularly between Christchurch and Dunedin, which were significantly cheaper than the train. Nonetheless, the Southerner still operated seven days a week, one service each way. [13]

As branch lines were nearly non-existent (and with those still in use not open to passenger train) and as Dunedin's suburban passenger services had been withdrawn by 1982, it was the sole regular train to stop at the famous Dunedin Railway Station, once the country's busiest. [17] At this time, the typical consist comprised only two or three carriages and a power/luggage van, and the southbound journey from Christchurch and Dunedin was timetabled to take 5 hours 46 minutes, with an additional 3 hours 19 minutes to reach Invercargill. Northbound, the journey from Invercargill to Dunedin was scheduled at 3 hours 28 minutes, with another 5 hours 27 minutes to Christchurch. [13]

It continued to face increased bus competition, and with increased car ownership and competition in the airline industry, the Southerner seemed unable to find a profitable niche. [13]

In 2001, Tranz Rail sold a 50% share in long-distance passenger services operated by Tranz Scenic to directors of Australian company West Coast Railway, but the company elected not to purchase the Southerner without the promise of a subsidy. The Ministry of Economic Development funded a feasibility study into the economic impact of subsidising the Southerner, but this failed to demonstrate a viable business case for the service; patronage having fallen to an average of between 40 and 50 people per day in each direction. This was roughly half what was necessary to make the train viable. As neither airline nor bus services along the route were subsidised, the government decided not to subsidise the train and its demise was inevitable. [2]

Public outcry failed to save the train, and the last services ran on Sunday, 10 February 2002. The carriages were re-allocated to the TranzAlpine between Christchurch and Greymouth and the TranzCoastal between Christchurch and Picton. Invercargill lost its status as the southernmost passenger station in the world. [3]

After the Southerner

The South Island Main Trunk is now almost wholly without any passenger trains. The northern portion between Christchurch and Rolleston is still used by the TranzAlpine, and Dunedin Railway Station and the South Island Main Trunk out to Wingatui remain in use as by Dunedin Railways' Taieri Gorge Limited, a popular daily tourist train operated by the Dunedin Railways along the former Otago Central Railway. Dunedin Railways also run the weekly Seasider on the section of line between Dunedin and Palmerston using a Silver Fern railcar leased from KiwiRail.

With the rising demand for travel, especially to and from Invercargill, there has been of talk of reinstating the Southerner on an Invercargill-Dunedin-Invercargill daily rotation. With Otago University and Southern Institute of Technology encouraging studies between the two campuses, students would benefit if enough interest was generated. KiwiRail has stated that it has no interest in the services but said a private operator would be assisted if an attempt was made to operate the route.

In December 2016 KiwiRail announced that it was considering establishing a temporary Southerner-style service using scenic carriages from the Coastal Pacific, whilst that service remained suspended following the large Kaikoura earthquake. An alternative rolling stock option would be to use one of the three Silver Fern railcars owned by KiwiRail once the Coastal Pacific service resumes.

In June 2017 the government made a grant of $50,000 to evaluate the business case for reinstating the Southerner. [18]

Despite this revived interest, the service did not return and there are now discussions around chartered services for pop concerts. [19]

Related Research Articles

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Rail transport in New Zealand is an integral part of New Zealand's transport network, with a nationwide network of 4,128 km (2,565 mi) of track linking most major cities in the North and South Islands, connected by inter-island rail and road ferries. Rail transport in New Zealand has a particular focus on bulk freight exports and imports, with 19 million net tonnes moved by rail annually, with 99.5% of New Zealand's exports and imports being transported through the country's seaports.

South Island Main Trunk Railway

The Main North Line between Picton and Christchurch and the Main South Line between Lyttelton and Invercargill, running down the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand, are sometimes together referred-to collectively as the South Island Main Trunk Railway (SIMT). Construction of a line running the length of the east coast began in the 1860s and was completed all the way from Picton to Invercargill in 1945; the last sections being on the Main North Line south of Picton. But the designation "South Island Main Trunk" originally referred to only that line between Christchurch and Invercargill.

Main South Line

The Main South Line, sometimes referred to as part of the South Island Main Trunk Railway, is a railway line that runs north and south from Lyttelton in New Zealand through Christchurch and along the east coast of the South Island to Invercargill via Dunedin. It is one of the most important railway lines in New Zealand and was one of the first to be built, with construction commencing in the 1860s. At Christchurch it connects with the Main North Line to Picton, the other part of the South Island Main Trunk.

New Zealand DJ class locomotive

The New Zealand DJ class locomotive is a type of diesel-electric locomotive in service on the New Zealand rail network. The class were built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and introduced from 1968 to 1969 for the New Zealand Railways Department (NZR) with a modernisation loan from the World Bank to replace steam locomotives in the South Island, where all of the class members worked most of their lives. Nine of the locomotives remain in use, mainly with Dunedin Railways.

NZR RM class (88 seater)

The NZR RM class 88-seaters were a class of railcar used in New Zealand. New Zealand Government Railways (NZR) classed them RM , the notation used for all railcars, numbering the 35 sets from RM100 to RM134. They were the most numerous railcars in NZR service, and were known unofficially as "Articulated", "Eighty Eights", "Twinsets", "Drewrys" or "Fiats". Their purchase and introduction saw the demise of steam-hauled provincial passenger trains and mixed trains.

The Endeavour was a long-distance passenger train service between Wellington and Napier in the North Island of New Zealand. The service was modelled on the Southerner service in the South Island, and operated from 1972 to 1989.

<i>TranzAlpine</i>

The TranzAlpine is a passenger train operated by The Great Journeys of New Zealand in the South Island of New Zealand over the Midland Line; often regarded to be one of the world's great train journeys for the scenery through which it passes. The journey is 223 kilometres (139 mi) one-way, taking almost five hours. There are 16 tunnels and four viaducts, with the Staircase Viaduct elevated as much as 75 metres (246 ft).

Midland Line, New Zealand

The Midland line is a 212km section of railway between Rolleston and Greymouth in the South Island of New Zealand. The line features five major bridges, five viaducts and 17 tunnels, the longest of which is the Otira tunnel. It is the route of the popular TranzAlpine passenger train.

Overlander (train)

The Overlander was a long-distance rail passenger train between Auckland and Wellington in the North Island of New Zealand, along the North Island Main Trunk (NIMT). It was operated by Tranz Scenic. The service was replaced from 25 June 2012, by the Northern Explorer.

The Capital Connection is a long-distance commuter train between Palmerston North and Wellington on the North Island Main Trunk in New Zealand. It is operated by KiwiRail. The service began in 1991. It was the only unsubsidised commuter service in New Zealand, but was subsidised by the regional councils and KiwiRail until 30 June 2018. In 2018 the Government committed to continuation of the train, NZTA planning to invest in refurbishing or replacing rolling stock and Wellington Region paying $6m to 2021.

The Northerner was an overnight passenger train between Wellington and Auckland in New Zealand. The train replaced the unnamed and ordinary express trains supplementing the luxury Silver Star, which had replaced the Night Limited in 1971. The Northerner operated from 1975 to 2004.

The Bay Express was a passenger train between Wellington and Napier in New Zealand's North Island, operating from Monday, 11 December 1989 until Sunday, 7 October 2001. It was operated by New Zealand Railways Corporation's InterCity Rail division, later known as Tranz Scenic.

<i>Coastal Pacific</i>

The Coastal Pacific is a long-distance passenger train that runs between Picton and Christchurch in the South Island of New Zealand. It is operated by The Great Journeys of New Zealand division of KiwiRail. It was called the TranzCoastal from May 2000 until temporarily withdrawn in February 2011. It was the first train to use the new AK class carriages.

The Lynx Express was a long distance passenger train in the South Island of New Zealand that ran the length of the Main North Line between Picton and Christchurch. The service was operated by New Zealand Rail Limited business unit InterCity Rail.

Wairarapa Connection

The Wairarapa Connection is a New Zealand interurban commuter rail service along the Wairarapa Line between Masterton, the largest town in the Wairarapa, and Wellington. It is operated by Wellington suburban operator Transdev under contract from the Greater Wellington Regional Council. It is a diesel-hauled carriage service, introduced by the New Zealand Railways Department in 1964 after passenger demand between Masterton to Wellington exceeded the capacity of the diesel railcars then used.

The Connoisseur cars were special railway carriages that were used in a number of passenger trains in New Zealand.

The Picton Express was a passenger express train operated by the New Zealand Railways Department (NZR) between Christchurch and Picton. It ran from December 1945 until February 1956, and was thus the shortest-lived provincial express in New Zealand. Following the end of railcar services in 1976, a new carriage train between Christchurch and Picton began, under the same name as the earlier service, until it was replaced in 1988 by the Coastal Pacific Express.

NZR 56-foot carriage Passenger rolling stock in New Zealand

The NZR 56-foot carriage is a class of 17.07 m long railway passenger carriage formerly used on almost all long-distance rail transport in New Zealand. 88 carriages have been preserved.

New Zealand British Rail Mark 2 carriage

The New Zealand British Rail Mark 2 carriages were built by British Rail Engineering Limited for British Rail in the early 1970s. From the mid-1990s, 150 were exported to New Zealand and after being rebuilt, refurbished and re-gauged, entered service with a variety of operators on New Zealand's railway network. The carriages generally replaced older NZR 56-foot carriages, some of which had been in use for almost 70 years.

The Great Journeys of New Zealand Tourism division of KiwiRail

The Great Journeys of New Zealand is the tourism division of KiwiRail that brings together its three Scenic train services with its passenger ferry business, Interislander. The new division was launched in May 2017 and replaced the former tourism brand KiwiRail Scenic Journeys. It has continuity with the earlier InterCity Rail (1987–1995) and Tranz Scenic (1995–2011).

References

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Churchman & Hurst 2001, p. 46.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Bromby 2003, p. 54.
  3. 1 2 Bromby 2003, p. 53.
  4. NZRO 1970, p. 56.
  5. 1 2 NZRO 1970, p. 57.
  6. Churchman & Hurst 2001, p. 180.
  7. McGavin 1970, p. 126.
  8. 1 2 Churchman & Hurst 2001, p. 181.
  9. "NZ History – Vice Regal Car" . Retrieved 28 December 2011.
  10. 1 2 McGavin 1970, p. 128.
  11. 1 2 3 Churchman & Hurst 2001, p. 64.
  12. 1 2 3 4 5 Churchman & Hurst 2001, p. 76.
  13. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Churchman & Hurst 2001.
  14. "Rail Reports". Taic.org.nz. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
  15. "Ex-driver spells out trauma of job". Otago Daily Times . 28 May 2009. Retrieved 22 February 2020.
  16. "21 hurt as train and truck collide in Canterbury". The New Zealand Herald. 9 January 2001.
  17. Churchman & Hurst 2001, p. 199.
  18. "$50k for Southern Rail business case". Stuff (Fairfax Media). 23 June 2017.
  19. "Ed Sheeran gigs could spur partial revival of Southern train service". Stuff (Fairfax Media). 20 April 2018.

Bibliography