NEW ZEALAND RAILFAN
RM 133 RAILCAR TRUST: A new millennium treat for railway enthusiasts who thought it would never happen! An articulated ‘twin-set’ railway, RM 133, is finally going to be preserved, albeit in their latter form as a non-powered AC carriage set. Following a plea in the December 1998 issue of New Zealand Railfan magazine to do something creative to save the last surviving relic of the genre, Pahiatua Railcar Society President Don Selby has kicked off a campaign to save what was RM 133. For the foreseeable future, a full restoration to a Fiat diesel engine powered railcar is pretty unlikely though as none of the specialised underfloor diesel engines, transmissions, and control equipment are thought to have survived in New Zealand.
Some twenty years after the last of the Fiat engine twin-coach railcars were disposed of, sadly little remains today from what was the largest class of self-propelled railcars in New Zealand. A total of thirty five of these good looking articulated 88 seat capacity units built by the Birmingham Railway Carriage and Wagon Co Ltd. of England entered service with the NZR between 1955 and 1958. The last red ‘twin-set’ ran between New Plymouth and Taumarunui in February 1978 and between Christchurch and Greymouth later that year in September. Fourteen of the withdrawn articulated sets were selected for conversion to locomotive hauled AC class articulated carriages between December 1977 and January 1979. As part of the modifications, the diesel engines, transmissions and control gear were removed, while the body underwent changes to make them more suited as carriages. One of the railcars involved was RM 133, that became the second to last carriage set numbered AC 13.
Renumbered into the TMS register as AC 8140, the vehicle is believed to be the sole survivor of the ‘Fiat powered’ railcar era other than two bogie-less half body sections, one near Kaukapakapa north of Auckland, the other at Waitomo in the Waikato. Still largely complete with the body structure in relatively good condition and equipped with its bogies, the one-time RC 133’s survival came about by the most unlikely of outcomes. In brief, once being written off by the NZR, it was acquired during the mid-1980’s for anti-terrorist training at Auckland International Airport! Made surplus with the recent privatisation of the airport and changed training protocols, the articulated carriage set has been made available to the newly formed RM 133 Railcar Trust, that was developed specifically for this major task at hand. Of note, the new trust’s organisational structure is modelled after the very successful K 88 Trust Board.
Co-founders of the RM 133 Railcar Trust are two well known rail preservationists, Don Selby and Friends of Opapa Station Society President Kelvin ‘Spuds’ [Spud] Langley. Initial objectives of the Trust are to move the former railcar from Auckland to Opapa, where it will be placed on a short section of track on land owned by Kelvin Langley adjacent to the railway station, to be tidied up and put on display for the public and railfans alike to stop and view. To that end fund-raising is presently under way to achieve these first goals. Later plans call for a more complete restoration as either an AC car set, or back to its original status as a self-propelled railcar should the necessary components become available. For the interim though they are primarily focused on the big job of getting it on site at Opapa and protected from the weather.
The choice of central Hawke’s Bay as a resting place, at least until the RM 133 Railcar Trust are ready to proceed with a more substantial overhaul, on closer examination makes a lot of sense. From a historical perspective, Opapa during the 1950’s and 1960’s was a regular crossing place for the daily Wellington to Hawke’s Bay railcar services 632, 634, 955, 957 and others. It is ideally situated alongside State Highway 2 and a pleasant stopping off place for visiting railfans. Perhaps like the heritage railway precinct at Ormondville that has become a regular stop for the daily Bay Express, Opapa in the future may similarly be reinstated on the timetable as a passenger stop. There is also a developing association between the Pahiatua Railcar Society and the Friends of Opapa Station Society, with a number of exciting possibilities in the offering once the Pahiatua Group’s Standard railcar RM 31 Tokomaru is returned to main line operation in the next year. Opapa could be both a stopping off point on charter trips to Hawke’s Bay or even a destination in itself.
Support for the new RM 133 Railcar Trust is actively encouraged with a supporters group being set up that will offer both foundation and regular membership levels of participation in the Trust. The initial need is for approximately $18,000 to fund the major job of moving the articulated car set from Auckland to Opapa and set it up there for static display. Like most new railway restoration projects, support is critical to ensure its success. For all the many fans of the articulated ‘twin-set’ railcars, this is your moment to come forward and offer your assistance, both financial and labour. While there is a long way to go to get RM 133 back to something like its original condition, this is a very important preservation project to plug a notable gap in our nationwide rail heritage collection. For further details and a membership application form, please contact the RM 133 Railcar Trust at P.O. Box 67, Pahiatua, 5470.
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