Home > News > Archive > 9th December 2004

Icon moved from park
New life to be breathed into steam engine

Courtesy of Te Awamutu Courier

Climax Steam Engine

Te Awamutu Memorial Park’s Climax Steam Engine 1317 was successfully moved to a Council depot in Daphne Street on Saturday.

The all wheel drive bush locomotive, which hauled logs for timber mills at Arohena till 1946 and then in Ngaroma till 1954, was gifted to the Memorial Park in the late 1950’s by Smyth Bros and Boyer Ltd. The engine was previously owned by the Egmont Box Company in the King Country. It was brought to the Memorial Park around 1960 by the Jaycees.

Former members Bob Vaile, Phil Ward and Joe Tolich, who was one of the moving crew from then, were present on Saturday to see Te Awamutu Lions move the engine from its home of 44 years.

The move from the park required the track along the Mangaohoi stream to be widened and gravel laid. The engine’s wheel assembly was pulled out with a digger. Then the engine was lifted by crane and loaded onto a flatbed truck. It travelled via Christie Avenue, Ohaupo Road, Racecourse Road, Factory Road, Alexandra Street and Paterangi Road to the Council depot in Daphne Street.

The engine was lowered onto wood blocks. Rails under the blocks were rolled over steel pipes to move the engine into the depot shed with a push from a loader driven by Jeff Bowers.

Ken Williamson, who had recently made detailed engineering drawings of the engine to assist his building a working scale model, was available with advice for its safe handling during the move.

He was encouraged to find that the engine’s pistons and valves were clean and intact when the head covers were removed at the depot.

“They appear to be serviceable without a great deal of trouble and the cast iron components are intact. However, the engine is generally in poor condition. The framework needs to be completely replaced and the axles and gears need a lot of work,” Mr Williamson said. “The boiler may possibly be repaired for steaming, but converting the engine to run on compressed air should be considered.”

Marc Dawson was present to record the move in 3-D on film and video. “If the engine is not to be returned to the Memorial Park, let it be returned to the glory of full working order,” said Mr Dawson, who grew up with the engine over his family’s back fence and whose current Rewi Street home was previously occupied by Archie McMillan who drove the Climax Engine.

Lions public services chairman Russell Easton co-ordinated the move. “I would like to thank all involved for their co-operation and assistance. We want to form a trust as a vehicle to fund raise for restoration work. Our goal is to promote restoration, however the future of the engine is yet to be decided by Council,” Mr Easton said. “The engine is a valuable asset. It is important that it remains in Te Awamutu.”

Te Awamutu Lions would welcome anyone with assistance or support for the project to contact Mr Easton at 871 5576.

Former Te Awamutu Jaycee Joe Tolich (above right) is the only surviving member of the party which brought the Climax Steam Engine into Te Awamutu in 1960. The project was undertaken by the club under the presidency of the late John Martin, who also went on the recovery trip with another member, the late Ken Price.

A truck was borrowed from Reg Schimanski and driven by the late George Bain.

Mr Tolich says the engine was on a raised siding at Ngaroma. Mr Bain backed the truck into the siding and forestry workers pushed the engine onto the truck with another engine.

Everyone was surprised at how easily the shift went. Driving into town on the narrow road proved more dangerous, especially when Mr Bain pulled over for a car and the weight of the engine pulled the truck down the camber and off the road. The truck stopped in the grass, but was stuck. The team recruited a nearby farmer to pull them out with his tractor, and stuck to the middle of the road for the rest of the journey.

The engine was taken down then near empty Christie Avenue and tipped onto the concrete pad the club built previously. Mr Tolich says amazingly it slid neatly into the resting place it had for the last 44 years without a hitch.