Mike Bradshaw back in Kawakawa to take the post of Bay of Islands Railways Operations Manager
Train man back on Bay track
Mike Bradshaw, who was an integral part in past running of the Kawakawa-Opua Railway is back in New Zealand and has taken up the position of Operations Manager for Bay of Islands Vintage Railway Trust.
Trust Chairperson Alison Lemon said, "This is fantastic for us as Mike brings a huge wealth of experience and knowledge to the Railway, and we feel we can now make some major strides forward. We also feel sure that with Mike back at the Railway, many people will want to come forward and offer their help."
Mike Bradshaw has an impressive work record that he can bring to the Railway. After leaving Kawakawa in 1999 he joined the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways where he was the Works Manager with responsibility for a team of 24 to rebuild and maintain 12 steam locomotives, six diesel engines and 100 coaches. Mike recounts that a great pleasure was to re-build the first Beyer-Garrett locomotive in the world, and then drive it after it had not moved for 76 years. In addition he acted as consultant to the Isle Of Man Railways and Croyden Tramways.
Although he was asked to stay on at the end of his contract, Mike decided to try something different and so accepted a position with an Argentine company to assist them to extend the Tren del Fin del Mundo line and to obtain new coaches and a steam engine. As well as this work Mike was asked to do a line inspection of a railway in northern Argentina which ran up to nearly 5,000m through difficult but spectacular scenery across the border into Chile.
Now back in Kawakawa to catch up with grandchildren and old friends Mike brings fresh enthusiasm to the Bay of Islands Vintage Railway and, with the active and valued support of WINZ, has already made great strides helping to get the Vintage Railway back on track.
After an initial assessment, he says the stock is not as bad as thought and there's a chance the railway may be operating within about three months.
The Bay Chronicle, Feb 2006
Auction raises thousands for steam engine Gabriel
"Absolutely fantastic! One of the most enjoyable evenings I have ever had!" This was the verdict of Merv Smith the well-known radio personality and railway enthusiast following the Vintage Railway Trust's inaugural Gala Dinner and Auction held at the Copthorne Resort last Friday. And it was a view that was undoubtedly shared by the capacity crowd who attended.
Entertainment was provided by the children from Opua Primary School who delighted the crowd with the variety of their performance from trick cycling to solo violin and chorus singing, and by the beautiful harmonies from the Bay of Islands College a capella choir. And the wonderfully controlled singing of Daniel Morrison brought tears to the eyes of many listeners.
But it was tears of happiness that were the highlight of the evening as auctioneers John Carter and Frank Leadley played off each other in a session that was almost manic at times, and which had everyone in gales of laughter in one of the craziest auction sessions anyone had ever witnessed.
And the effectiveness of the auctioneering, the great good humoured support of the crowd, and the large number of items donated from the community resulted in a total of $9,710 being raised from the auction, with the top bid of $1,600 going for a painting appropriately entitled "Light at the End Of The Tunnel" by Lisa Davis.
"We have been delighted with the community support for the restoration of the Vintage Railway," said Chairperson Alison Lemon, "and it has certainly given us the encouragement to keep going."
Other highlights of the evening included the semi-strip from Frank Leadley before his powerpoint presentation on the restoration of the Vintage Railway, and the excellent meal provided by the Copthorne Resort.
A rolling powerpoint presentation on the early history of coal and steam in Kawakawa, the screening of an excellent film of Gabriel in her "Glory Days", and the presentation to Merv Smith of a beautiful framed photograph of Gabriel provided by John Frew brought an extraordinary evening to a close and the total of $14,060.00 raised, which included a $2,000 donation from Wally Tichener of Auckland, has convinced the Vintage Railway Trust to make this an annual event. Viv Cumming, the main organiser, is already planning next year's event. The Bay Chronicle, September 2005
Rail enthusiasts excited to be part of the vintage railway revival as they headed out to the first working bee on the track, from left, Frank Leadley, Johnson Davis, Daniel Lemon, Steven Anderson (back to camera) Don Mandeno, Steve Renton and driver Denis Hewit
They may have been grey-haired and not as agile as they once were. But the last two Saturday mornings have seen up to 20 railway enthusiasts and community-minded people turn out to slash, hack and spray their way through a tangle of vegetation that has developed on the Kawakawa to Opua railway line.
Railway Trustee Frank Leadley said this week, "It's just the beginning but the voluntary hours that people put in at this stage will count in dollar terms towards the subsidy when we make our applications for funding. We hope to have a working bee every Saturday morning from 10am to 12 noon, so the more the merrier! With slashers, chainsaws, machetes, a lot of sweat and aching bones we will get the train back on track."
A reward for volunteers, last weekend, was a 'fantastic lunch' supplied by the Kawakawa Bakery and Mr Leadley also noted input from Far North Holdings Ltd, which installed a turntable, removed from Opua.
The working bees will lead on to more organised labour when funding applications enable the purchase of sleepers and the use of Task Force Green workers through the Kawakawa Work and Income office.
The project includes upgrading the Kawakawa station yards and constructing a maintenance shed to provide a secure working area for rolling stock.
Railway Trust Chairman Johnson Davis said, "It's a huge task and we don’t underestimate the challenges ahead of us. But we have strong community support, and we are determined to get this historic Vintage Railway up and running again, and return pride to the people of Kawakawa and Opua."
The Bay Chronicle, July 2004
Kawakawa getting steamed up
Kawakawa is hoping to resume its role as Northland's Train Town with a community campaign to see the railway restored.
The Bay of Islands Vintage Railway Trust's major fund-raising programme has been boosted by the efforts of local enthusiast Don Vicars of Kawakawa.
When Don heard about the work of the Railway Trustees to get fund-raising underway, he put petition forms in outlets in Opua and Kawakawa and collected 696 signatures in just six days.
He says, “Getting the Railway up and running again will be great value for tourism and economic development and it will instil a sense of community pride. It seems the whole community is right behind getting the Railway operating again."
Strong community support has been mirrored by others including the Rail Heritage Trust, MP's Dover Samuels and John Carter, and Mayor Yvonne Sharp, who describes the railway as a "hugely important economic development icon and tourist attraction."
Trustee Frank Leadley, who is putting together the initial fund-raising plan, agrees. "We have broken our funding requirements into manageable segments. One application to the ASB Trusts will be for a new maintenance and training shed at the Kawakawa station and the installation of a turntable. We are putting together applications to the Lotteries Board and others to restore the line as far as we can into Opua and, with the support of the Kawakawa Work and Income office, that will be a huge move forward. And there will be applications to other organisations to restore the iconic steam engine Gabriel and the rolling stock, which is all in a sad state of repair. But this support from the community has given us fresh heart and we will start to steam ahead again."
Measuring 14 km, the Bay of Islands track was the first to be developed in the North Island and is, today, one of the longest heritage railway lines in New Zealand. Track at the Opua end of the line now crosses Far North Holdings Ltd land but negotiations are underway to reclaim it for railway use.
The Kawakawa to Taumarere section was opened in 1877, but had earlier (since 1868) been operated as a coal tramway, using horses. The Bay of Islands Vintage Railway was established in the late 1980s to operate a scenic tourist railway on the former NZR North Auckland Line between Kawakawa and Opua.
However, factionalism between several interest groups contributed to it becoming the first heritage railway to be shut down by the Land Transport Safety Authority, in 2001. The groups have since merged and the Trust is now set on restoration.
Kawakawa railway station is on the register of Historic Stations of the Rail Heritage Trust.
Anyone who wants to help is invited to turn up at the Kawakawa Station on Saturday July 3, armed with equipment to clear the track of vegetation: Report to Railway General Manager Madan Bhikar for the working bee, 10am to midday. The Bay Chronicle, June 2004