New Zealand Palmerston North to Te Rapa electrification

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What was the EXACT date that electric working started on the entire section? I can only find "June 1988"

Did it open all at once or were electric locos working on part of the electrified area before it was opened throughout?

Thanks,

Martin Baumann

 
Tonymercury Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: Botany NSW

Deleted

 
wanderer53 Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: front left seat EE set now departed

As no one else seems to be able to answer this question, I beleive the electrification was completed in 2 stages with Palmerston North to Taumarunui being completed in 1988 and the remainder to Te Rapa in 1989 but I do not know the exact dates.

 
GeoffreyHansen Minister for Railways

Location: In a FAM sleeper

Slightly off topic but was there ever an intention to link Palmerston North with the 25kv overhead and to have dual voltage locos? It just seems a shame to have two disconnected sections of electrification.

 
alexjc Deputy Commissioner

Yeah there was, but the technology was too expensive at the time...Also the then Labour government thought the project was a massive folly and simply couldn't cancel it as too much progress was made.

There is Japanese technology availiable and a locomotive of dual voltage exists. It would be more a strain on the DC line as even all three Ea locos running at once can tax the network somewhat.

I,d be more inclined to link the NIMT to the new Auckland network more than anything. Now there's a folly if one!

 
wanderer53 Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: front left seat EE set now departed

Of note buried deep in the Auckland plan is a proposal to electrify as far as Pukekohe in the first 10 years.

As for duala system locomotives with 3 phase drives this is simple and all the standard European designs are capable of being produced in any combination of the standard electrification systems. However for Wellington it is the capabiltiy of the overhead to deliver enough amps that will be the limiting factor.

 
duttonbay Minister for Railways

Official opening was over the whole electrified section on 24 June 1988.

Observer 194 (Winter 1988) says:

Power was switched on for the firs time on 2 March 1987, between Palmerston North and Bunnythorpe, and trial running began between Palmerston North and Marton from 19 May. Energisation of the overhead proceeded in stages, and the last section, Te Awamutu to Te Rapa was switched on from 9 May 1988. The entire system was officially launched on 24 June by the Minister of Railways, Mr Prebble ...

There is also this note under the heading "Class 30 Electrics":

... the first train to be hauled southwards out of Taumarunui by a class 30 electric locomotive was express goods No. 639 on Wednesday 2 March 1988. The locomotives on this occasion were 30059 and DX5039. The first Class 30-hauled train into Taumarunui was Auckland-bound express goods 668 on Thursday 3 March with 30088 and DX5026.

Rails magazine had these reports:

Jan 88: Marton-Taihape energised on 27 October 1987

Mar 88: Taihape-Taumaruni energised 11 January 1988

Jun 88: Electrification will be officially opened June 24. Official train to run Palmerston North to Hamilton .. the first passenger train to be hauled by a Class 30. Meanwhile power was to be turned on over the final Taumaunui-Te Rapa section ... on 9 May, with full commercial operation starting about the end of last month. [May].

I can't find any reference to any actual date of the "full commerical operation".

 
millsy Station Staff

I seem to recall it was approved in 1979-80 and then started in 1984. It is my understanding that Prebble pretty much bagged Think Big, the electrification project and rail in general on his opening speech.

Every time I'm in in that part of the country I have to say I am pretty impressed by the catenary. Though I've never seen an EF loco in action  Sad

Interesting that the electrification came on stream just as NZR was winding itself down...

 
alexjc Deputy Commissioner

Smile The 'Ef' class have a distinctive aureal sound as they whistle past...Equipped with ditch lights long before it became Rail Standard in NZ because of their quiet nature, also a higher pitch horn exclusive to the class gives you notice when these massive locos are around.

 
alexjc Deputy Commissioner

Exclamation A quick reminder that Gunzel Quarterly aka NZ Railfan June 2011 edition does have a long winded artical by Karl Morris regarding the Japanese EH500 class dual voltage locomotives, their adaptation to NZs loading gauge and how it would be easy to extend the DC line up to Palmerston North...

 
wanderer53 Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: front left seat EE set now departed

I hav't seen the June issue yet but will be interested in what Karl says. Basicaly with modern 3 phase drives there is little extra required to make them dual voltage and as such any loco that fits the NZ loading guage should be easily produced in a dual volt version. However I still believe the capability of the Wellington overhead to deliver enough amps will be the limiting factor.

 
alexjc Deputy Commissioner

Sad Major work would be needed for the Wellington Dc lines...But really easy to do. At the moment the three EO class locos in operation cope but they do have to be carefull since the lines were downrated after the EW class finished in the 1980s.

 
wanderer53 Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: front left seat EE set now departed

I'm not so sure about the easy to do bit not to mention the cost.

Of course another option would be that when replacing the Ganz EMU's in about 15 years time build the replacements as Dual system and re-energise the overhead north of a change over point between Porirua and Paramata at 25kv ac (11kv if the insulators on this section have not all been replaced with 25kv capable insulators). This means that the high current draw required to lift freight over the Pukerua Bay hill will no longer be a problem and it is possible to limit the current draw to match the 1500v dc system for the remainder of the route into Wellington. Closing the gap to Palmerston North at 25kv ac will be considerably cheaper than at 1500v dc.

 
alexjc Deputy Commissioner

Confused Err... although you are talking about 15 years in the future, I doubt that GWRC factored this into the massive Matangi unit order?

Bringing the Ac lines down to Levin or Otaki would be a better fit as the Dc line would still have passenger growth potential north from current Waikanae.

Had've NZGR gone with Dc for the NIMT way back in 1956, then we wouldn't be talking about this...Diesel was suppose to be a stop gap measure, with the mighty EE Df and DG classes leading the way...but then along came that famous first batch of EMD road switchers from America and the rest was history.

 
wanderer53 Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: front left seat EE set now departed

Confused Err... although you are talking about 15 years in the future, I doubt that GWRC factored this into the massive Matangi unit order?

Bringing the Ac lines down to Levin or Otaki would be a better fit as the Dc line would still have passenger growth potential north from current Waikanae.

Had've NZGR gone with Dc for the NIMT way back in 1956, then we wouldn't be talking about this...Diesel was suppose to be a stop gap measure, with the mighty EE Df and DG classes leading the way...but then along came that famous first batch of EMD road switchers from America and the rest was history.

- alexjc

No problem with the Matangi's if you convert the line north of Porirua as the matangi's can still be used Wellington to Porirua and all other lines. Having a changeover at Levin or Otaki is of course another option that also makes more sense these days than Palmertson North.

Of note the Dc electrification plan was already ditched in favour the 11kv Ac system as used in Sweden, Germany etc before 1956. The cost of providing all those substations for 1500v dc being the killer. Of course in many ways with 25 kv technology just evolving at the time the delay has been for the better in the end.

 
alexjc Deputy Commissioner

Sad Politically, Wellington wouldn't stomach the idea of duel volt units after shelling out $$$ for the Matangi's. The idea of linking the two networks is for Locomotives that could run Ac/Dc.

There was never any intention to operate EMUs...But extending the Dc line to Levin, although as expensive as bringing the Ac line south, seens a logical compromise. By 2020 the EF class will just be past 'middle age' and as their components become hard to obtain (a problem already - typical Buy British trap) then with the Auckland network linked to Te Rapa, a new fleet is feasable.

 
wanderer53 Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: front left seat EE set now departed

One of the problems is that when the Ganz EMU's are replaced a further round of beafing up the electric supply will be required. By simply restricting the Matangi's to part of the network it then becomes possible to move the substations from the part that they will not run on the beaf up the supply elswhere. The additional cost of building dual voltage emu's will be largely repaid by the reduced costs in providing for the Dc network power upgrade. I don't see that as being a problem politically. It just requires thinking ahead.

 
RTT_Rules Minister for Railways

Location: Dubai UAE

I thought one of the benefits of 1500VDC was that its relatively easy to upgrade. ie if you want to run high HP, just plug in another rectiformer or 10 along the route.

Anyway why worry about the southern end when you havn't done the Nth end. Once a spark can arrive at Auckland, then figure out something for the Wellie end.

Regards

Shane

 
wanderer53 Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: front left seat EE set now departed

I agree that the northern end will need to be sorted before any prospect of filling in the gap in the wires at the southern end of the NIMT, but by planning ahead the costs will be reduced when it is decided to tackle the job of stringing wires south of Palmerston North.

Increasing the current carried in the overhead for either sysyem is relatively simple whilst you remain within the ability of the overhead to deliver the amps to the trains pantograph. With the Dc system as you say you simply create an extra supply point between 2 existing substations. With the Ac system you can often get away with even less, simply increasing the weight of the conductors supplying the existing substations and adding an extra transformer and smeg switch gear. This normally works out cheaper than creating a completly new substation.

The problem as I see it with the Wellington 1500 V dc system is that I do not believe the current overhead can deliver sufficient amps to a single freight train to climb the banks each side of Pukerua Bay at an acceptable speed.

 
alexjc Deputy Commissioner

The problem as I see it with the Wellington 1500 V dc system is that I do not believe the current overhead can deliver sufficient amps to a single freight train to climb the banks each side of Pukerua Bay at an acceptable speed.

- wanderer53

Smile True...

Karl Morris did say that 'EH' class would simply blow the system apart and that's what would require a beefy upgrade.

Would agree with the common theme here, close the obviously potential gap between Te Rapa and Auckland first!

 
wanderer53 Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: front left seat EE set now departed

Its the logical thing to do.

 
wanderer53 Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: front left seat EE set now departed

Electrification of the NIMT almost came 30 years earlier

One of the most interesting stories to

emerge along the path to the electrification

of the North Island Main Trunk Line was

the failed attempt to introduce it more

than 30 years earlier.

In 1949, the General Manager of the

Railways Department, F W Aicken

advocated electrification of the entire

line, according to Wikipedia, in spite of

protests from his engineering staff.

Following the Second World War railway

services suffered from skill, locomotive

and coal shortages. Aicken believed

electrification could relieve the coal

situation and prevent high expenditure

on imported fuels.

Aicken sent a technical mission of

four senior officers overseas in March

1949, and travelled overseas himself

to negotiate a tentative contract with

a British construction company. The

Chief Mechanical Engineer and Chief

Accountant specified and costed the

system and Aicken was able to complete

a substantial report justifying the

NIMT electrification and submit it to

the Government.

Staff from New Zealand Treasury, the

Public Works Department and two expertsfrom Sweden commented on the proposal

and in December 1950 the Government

granted approval in principle. However,

Aicken fell out with the then National

Government, and retired as General

Manager in July 1951.

With the change in regime the

electrification proposal disappeared.

A Royal Commission on Railways

established following Aicken's tenure,

rejected the proposal.

Aicken's successor, H.C. Lusty,

terminated the tentative consultancy

contract and ordered DA class dieselelectric

locomotives.

A key assumption of Aicken's report was

that traffic on the NIMT would grow by

50 percent from 1948 to 1961. Since a

diesel-electric locomotive was in fact

a travelling power station, the savings

through electrification compared to

diesel could be regarded as the difference

between the cost of buying bulk electrical

energy generated substantially from

New Zealand resources and the cost of

generating electricity in small plant using

imported diesel fuel – although there was

also significant expenditure on traction

overhead and other new capital works to

take into account.

The 411 kilometre section between

Palmerston North and Hamilton was

electrified at 25 kV 50 Hz AC and opened

in June 1988. The project was essentially

a response to the oil price shocks of the

1970s and early 1980s. An overall cost in

excess of $100 million had been projected

but the final cost was about $250 million.

A significant proportion of this sum paid

for civil works on realignment of the rail

corridor and improved signalling.

The economic benefits of the project were

reduced by the fall of the price of oil in

the later 1980s and the deregulation of

land transport, which removed the longdistance

monopoly NZR held when the

cost benefit report was written. However

Electrification's advantages were reflected

in the economic evaluation in the report,

which showed a rate of return of 18

percent. Sensitivity analysis showed that

this high rate of return gave the project

robustness against lower traffic volumes

than expected.

 
wanderer53 Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: front left seat EE set now departed

NIMT electrification milestone reached this week

As KiwiRail engineers work on the

electrification of the Auckland rail

network, the business paused this

week to remember a milestone in the

electrification of the North Island Main

Trunk Line.

On March 2, 25 years ago, a ninekilometre

section of line between

Palmerston North and Bunnythorpe was

electrified – the first section of Trunk to

be energised.

Electrification of the North Island Main

Trunk Line between Palmerston North

and Hamilton was one of the “Think

Big” projects, introduced as a response

to the second oil price shock in the

early 1980s.

A number of KiwiRail engineers and

staff members worked on the project,

including Palmerston North’s Dave

Coleman and Wellington’s Allan Neilson.

Today, Dave Coleman is a traction

trainer passing his knowledge and skills

on to others, At the time, he was the

local traction manager responsible for

the building and commissioning of the

sub-stations along the route and was part of the team that carried out the final

inspection of the overhead wires prior to

acceptance from the contractor.

“It was one of the big moments in my

career. It was such a large project,” he said.

Twenty-five years ago, Allan Neilson

was a senior engineer working on the

signalling associated with the project.

Today he’s KiwiRail’s Manager Traction

and Electrical Engineering.

“It was a major milestone in the careers

of the people involved,” he says. “It

was a huge, exciting project. It dwarfed

anything of the kind done before that.”

Allan Neilson says the experience gained

on the North Island Main Trunk has been

valuable as the business works through the

electrification of the Auckland network.

Although contractors did the physical

work of erecting the traction poles and

wiring, the then New Zealand Rail

handled all the issues associated with

electrification.

There were obvious ones like signalling,

sub-stations, earthing and bonding, and

electrical protection for property and

structures. But there were less obvious, but equally important issues, like educating

people about the presence of high voltage

wiring along the rail network.

“We did a lot of work on making the

general public and different groups that

cross the network, aware of the dangers

that electrification brought with it.

“We’ve also been fortunate enough to

retain a lot of the skill and knowledge that

was developed at the time,” he says.

Dave Coleman remembers the mid 1980s

as a time when staffing levels were being

reduced. The practical effect of this

was turning people who had worked in

some other rail discipline, into traction

systems staff.

It also meant having to make do with

a minimum of equipment and very

basic facilities.

“I had a group due to start work in

Hamilton on a Monday morning at

7.30,” he said. “I told Head Office they

didn’t have a vehicle, didn’t have any tools

and they didn’t have a depot.

“I managed to get a second-hand truck

and an old building for a depot that was

falling down.”

 
wanderer53 Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: front left seat EE set now departed

When you look at the map of the North

Island, the sections of line not electrified look

small, particularly as the electrified Auckland

and Wellington networks stretch southwards

and northwards respectively.

The point is not lost on advocates for the use of

renewable energy who argue for the complete

electrification of the line.

Work done back in 2008 provides useful

perspective to this argument. It concluded that

to justify electrification, a route should be all

or most of the following: at or near capacity,

densely trafficked, steeply graded, involve

a long tunnel or be adjacent to an existing

electrified route.

The routes to meet these criteria were

Westfield-Te Rapa, Hamilton-Mt Maunganui

and Otira-Arthur’s Pass. The first two (in

practical terms one Westfield-Mt Maunganui

route) meet the density and adjacency criteria

while Otira-Arthur’s Pass meets the grade and

tunnel test. This is deviating from the North Island Main

Trunk, but given the density of traffic between

Auckland and Mt Maunganui, it would make

no sense to electrify simply to Hamilton.

Another consideration is the incompatabilty

between the Wellington network extending as

far as Waikanae and the Trunk at Palmerston

North.

The cost estimate at the time for the two

most likely routes was in the vicinity of $900

million – undoubtedly more at today’s prices.

Obviously the lion’s share would be taken by

the Westfield-Mt Mauganui route.

The conclusion reached was that money on

this scale could be spent on other projects

which provided significant gains in transit

time, capacity and reliability rather than on

electrification.

Of course, as the NIMT electrification project

itself demonstrated, we don’t know what’s

around the corner. One of the reasons why it

got the green light originally was the impact on

the country of rising oil prices.

There are plenty of analysts thirty years later

who have predicted the end of peak oil. But

for a rail industry that always has to make the

best of a tight budget, today’s realities are more

urgent than tomorrow’s possibilities.

Extension of electrification should remain an

option but ultimately it ranks as a distant priority.

Kevin Ramshaw

Express Editor

 
Been_Benuane Junior Train Controller

I'm shaking my head over some of the above posts talking about extending electrification on the NIMT and buying dual-voltage locomotives and even multiple units.

In hindsight it seems to me as though electrification of the NIMT was not the best investment of NZ's money. And I would expect getting the line Dieselised again would be considered before they ever thought of extending the electrification.
Dual-voltage locomotives (like Electro-Diesel locomotives) are expensive and only a niche best-solution. There is nothing wrong with the current arrangement of switching locomotives at Te Rapa and Palmerston North and there's not likely to be anything wrong in the foreseeable future.

So what would even be the advantage (if any) of extending the electrification to Auckland? I'd be surprised if the electric supply on the NIMT and the electric supply currently being installed in Auckland have the same power ratings. You might want to investigate it the EF locomotives could even use the future Auckland network before you start forming strong opinions.

 

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