Nov 2002 Began making email queries about my Dad's old crane (Cowans Sheldon 10 Ton lift steam crane '226'. Was put in contact with Gary Stewart in Taumarunui of the 226 crane preservation group. Discovered a number of other cranes were still around.
Dec 2002 Visited the Bush Tramway Club, Pukemiro - home of Cowans Sheldon 10 tonner '225', and 7 tonner '256'. Talked to Club Secretary Teresa Bettison and Eric Burns (owner of 225) who has a variety of crane documention. Contacted Doug King by phone - former driver on '226' - talked about the crane and contacts. Then started creating this website to seek contact with people who were involved with, or have an interest in railway steam cranes.
Serious research started with a bibliographic search of the University of Waikato catalogue, after which I grabbed some library books and started a literature review. Gained a starter list of cranes from the 1947 NI and 1952 SI Working Timetables. More online bibliographic search (National Library, British Library, COPAC, Library of Congress) gave disappointing results. Started to create a bibliography of NZ related railway material for this website. Also began to review online material for details on cranes - and discovered this was limited. Recorded the results in my website review notes for this website. Sent out some snail-mail enquires. Joined the New Zealand Railway & Locomotive Society.
Jan 2003 Progressed to investigating the NZ University library catalogues to flesh out my bibliography. Finished a 'first draft' website and advertised it on several email lists on January 12 - got a good response. Received an excellent crane listing from Kerry Bennett along with other material, and some good pointers from other sources. I incorporated this into my notes and updated the site. On the research side, I started trawling through the Appendices of the Journal of the House of Representatives (AJHR) for Railways statements and other material. Kept me busy ( 2 hours per day on average) for the rest of the month.
Feb 2003 Started the month by finishing my investigation of the Railways statements in the AJHR, then made a start on the Public Works Statements. Rang Colin Jenner in regard to '256', and also got useful details about the BTC 5 ton hand crane. Also received a variety of material courtesy of Kerry Bennett. Progress on my literature review was slowed by the arrival of a copy of Brownlie's Railway Steam Cranes on interloan from the National Library. Two weeks of note taking was also interrupted by the arrival of the first batch of a large quantity of back issues of the New Zealand Railway Observer (NZRO) from the NZL&RS. Proceeded to work through these looking for crane references.
Mar 2003 Continued with mining Brownlie for details - the book mainly concerns 'breakdown' cranes, but has lots on the manufacturers. Was again interrupted by the arrival of the second batch of NZRO back issues - also searched for crane details. Made some useful contacts during the month - Met Kerry Bennett in person at a HME open day. Paid a visit to Goldfields railway to view '227' and was given some contact addresses by Rex Brown. I was contacted by email by Chris Capewell from London who passed on some more contact addresses, a number of details, and a pointer to a crane listing. This listing by W. (Bill) Prebble was obtained after contacting Mark Cole (The NZL&RS archivist) in Lower Hutt, and has been incorporated into my notes. Chris also queried some diesel crane details which I raised on several email lists - which attracted some more useful contacts with details. All this material was combined in a website update at the end of the month.
Apr 2003 Finished working through Brownlie - as I had to give it back to the National Library. (85 foolscap pages of notes later). Incorporated the variety of diesel details I received after querying the tranzrailphotographers and NZHT-rail yahoo groups last month. Took two trips to Auckland to plough through the Les Downey Collection rail crane file in the Walsh Library at MoTaT which Kerry had put me onto. Also managed to track Mr Downey down in Brisbane and chat by phone. Spent a day in the Hamilton Public library checking on some references. Finished checking the NZRO's I have to hand for crane references (Vol 15-52 missing 11 issues). Also acquired Vol 5 thru 27 of Rails for the same treatment. Talked to Ron Brown about the acquisition of '227' by the Goldfields Railway.
May 2003 Typed up the NZRO crane references (Vol 19-56) - filled in the gaps from the Hamilton Public Library collection. Slowly progressing on working through Rails. Managed a bit of other reading too. Finished incorporated a variety of material into this website - particularly on the steam and diesel pages. Havemade a start on the cranemakers page with some details of Graftons, Jessop & Appleby Bros, and Kincaid McQueen. The gallery has grown from the initial five cranes pictured to over twenty with contributions from Kerry Bennett, Wayne Duncan, Patrick Dunford, Tim Elphick, Andrew Hamblyn, and Darrin Wilkinson. Made some more interesting contacts. David Parsons and Kevin Crosado have come up with some particularly interesting material. Six months into this project, I'm starting to feel like I'm getting somewhere - and I've already outgrown my first folder of notes.
June 2003 Reading is continuing - progress has slowed, but I'm still getting through the back-issues of Rails. Managed to acquire my first copy of NZ Railfan - I can see I have more work coming there. Attended my first meeting of the local Waikato branch of the NZR&LS. An interesting bunch and already some useful contacts! More on the cranemakers page with entries for Cowans Sheldon, Craven Bros, Ransomes & Rapier, and Stothert & Pitt. Have started tabulating some of the data in my AJHR notes to add to the site. Received a very interesting parcel from Colin Barry - lots of photos to scan. Further contacts coming to light via the internet. Purchased Derek Brown's fireman's handbook after some correspondence. Talked to Colin Smith by phone about crane142 which is now held by the Waimea Railway Trust.
July 2003 Things slowed a bit as we started a new teaching semester at work, but managed to do a little. Still working through Rails back issues. Having made contact with a small number of crane enthusiasts from around the world, I set up a email discussion group for cranes. It will be interesting to see how that develops. Also found a North American 'maintenance of way discussion group which may prove useful. Made a bit of a diversion onto steam excavators as I found a little about the Whitaker Bros, and Marion machines operated by NRZ. Off line I have also had some correspondence with a letter from Chris Rietveld who passed on useful diesel crane info, and brought another railcrane (a Jones KL-44 EL423) to my attention.
August 2003 Getting a little more done, particularly in typing up material. Have created a crane spreadsheet for collating notes. Also went through a set of coaling crane notes which I had received - after a little investigation I confirmed with Kevin Crosado that they were in fact his! Have also started a reading burst over our teaching break - raided the library for the first time since May.
September 2003 More reading - particularly Hoy and Cassells on the WMR - precious few clues to the WMR cranes though. Found some time to send out some more letters (L.Munro, C.Rietveld, etc). Found a copy of an article on the early use of cranes for tracklaying in the Canterbury University library - lead to an interesting discussion on-line. Got an interesting video via Kerry Bennet which featured some crane footage. Downer for the month - missed the 60 tonners which were at Te Rapa. Started planning a research trip to Wellington for December.
October 2003 Have started typing up my notes on the crane references in Rails. Went out to the BTC and caught up with Eric Burns again - borrowed the 225 file for some in depth examination. Teresa talked me into joining! Was contacted by Duncan Robbie, whose late father owned crane142. Attended another local NZR&LS meeting and made a new contact, Trevor Rawlings who has passed on some photos, and some more contacts. Contacted Howard Phillips at SSR in relation to crane 124. Noted a curious side-effect of this website - I have started to be contacted by people (from India and the Middle East) who wish to purchase cranes or spare parts.
November 2003 Still collating and typing up data. Another visit to BTC to return Eric's cranefiles. Spent quite a lot of time going over my notes on 225 - the file was 200+ pages. Had a visit from David Parsons who was in town - nice to put faces to correspondents. More time making arrangements for next months trip.
December 2003 Went to Wellington for a week! Great fun was had! Main objective was to visit the NZR&LS archives at Ava and the National Archives in Wellington. Both were successful, although in the main I was finding out what they had rather than investigating the data. More visits will be required! Managed to attend an NZR&LS meeting and also met some TRP members. Visited Paekakariki to check out the Craven 40 tonner and met Derek Brown and Chris Johnson. Highlight was a visit to SSR where crane 124 was in steam. Was in heaven when Howard Phillips invited me to try the controls - very, very educational! (Many thanks to all the people I met along the way!). Rest of the month faded into work and Christmas.
January 2004 Not a lot happening. Post Christmas I was bogged down with work. I did manage to purchase a copy of Brownlie - I had seen it in on-line silent auction for the Australian Narrow Gauge Railway Society in Queensland in December. It didn't sell and I was able to purchase it. Then my daughter was born in the middle of the month. Was able to take advantage of being on parental leave to complete the NZ Rails crane references (Vol 4-27) listing. Toward the end of the month begin to type up some of the data from my December trip- including NZR&LS Archive (Ava), and Archives New Zealand holdings summaries.
February 2004 Bit busier this month. Made some new contacts - with the Oamaru crane folks (not NZR but its still a crane). Sent off a few more letters. Finally finished typing up my Rails notes . Have also finished my first railway themed piece of writing for publication and sent it off to Reid McNaught for 'New Zealand Railfan'. But much of the month was down to revising the crane listings for this web site, both in the way information is presented and incorporating the new material that has come to hand over the past six months.
March 2004 First crane publication - a commentary titled 'Why are there no cranes in Thomas the Tank Engine' in the March issue of NZ Railfan. Splashed out and bought a new domain for this web site on March 15. Finishing the additions to the pages and uploading them to the new location took up quite a bit of time. New book on Stothert & Pitt arrived from the UK. Steady flow of crane snippets and pictures coming to hand.
April 2004 Made a start on revising my coaling crane notes. Went through a pile of notes by Kevin Crosado, and pulled in some other sources. Sent out a number of queries regarding pneumatic coaling crane survivors. Set up the survivors page as a way of detailing these and other crane survivors. Also added a site map in response to feedback about the site. More pictures added in the galleries.
May 2004 Bit of a slow down in crane activity due to other things happening in my life. Did get out on May 2nd to see Crane 224 in action at GVR. Three hours in the wind and rain with a photographic camera in one hand and a video camera in the other confirm I am now a complete anorak. Photos appear in 224's gallery page. I had a visit from Bill Gupwell, former driver on Crane 254. I have a small list of drivers I'm slowly putting together. Although not getting much done research wise, I have fleshed out a page I started some time ago summarising data from the AJHR on crane stocks between 1881 and 1915. More to come on this.
June 2004 Things have been very quiet - domestic matters taking precedence. Have tidied up a few things on the site, and done a little reading. Alan Earnshaw's book on Cowan Sheldon has finally been released - now I have to find a copy. Got the rest of my pictures back and added them to 224's gallery page. Ian Tibbles kindly supplied a bunch of pictures of Crane 227 working on the West Coast.
July 2004 Back to work fulltime and finding life busy. But things have been happening. Contacted by Tom Potaka, the son of another cranedriver. Ian Tibbles again kindly supplied a bunch of pictures - this time of the Westport coaling wharf cranes. After a request from John Steeds, an Appleby researcher, I have spent a bit of time searching out cranes on film. After visiting a model railway expo in Cambridge I was enthused to put together a crane models page. which I'll add to as I get the chance. Finally managed to sight Toll Rail's big hooks (still in Tranz Rail colours) after they visited Te Rapa for a loco bogie change. Didn't manage to catch them in action, but I did get some pics for the El 6002 and El 6019 gallery pages. A steady flow of crane snippets and other material is still coming to hand.
August 2004 Still finding life rather busy, so not doing a lot of crane stuff. Finding that enough people are aware of my efforts that various things are making their way to me without my having to ask - great! Have received a number of pictures from Christine Johnson which I have been incorporating in the gallery (particularly the diesels). Got involved in a debate over the maker of Crane 277 at Ferrymead. Notes I have say its Cowan Sheldon, but it looks a lot like an R&R. More investigation required!
September 2004 Not much research going on, but new material continues to find me. Was contacted by Jens Ršsner, a german mechanical engineer who had studied in New Zealand, who has provided a number of pictures from round the country. He also made me aware of a type of small crane used by bridge gangs. Have subesequently discovered two have survived - something else for further investigation. Managed to update the gallery again (some of my pics this time) with 40 pictures of Crane 200 and 9 pictures of Crane 293.
October 2004 Works far too busy at present - shame that. Have had an Indian company seeking me out again to sell them some cranes - that's about four times now. Obviously they're not reading the web site carefully! Have been doing some shopping and acquired Dr Earnshaw's book "Carlisle's Crane Makers: The Cowans Sheldon Story", Bachmann's book "The History of Cranes" and a sizeable set of NZ Railfan backissues. Have several more books on order. That should set me up for reading material for the next couple of months!
November 2005 Research has mainly been reading back issues of NZ Railfan. I have completed a set of notes on references to crane which can be found here. Have been somewhat distracted by family matters. We have commemorated setting a headstone for Dad. One side effect is that I'm being sucked back into my genealogy interests. But more material comes to hand online. There was an interesting discussion on cranes and injectors, and George Weallans has some info on the 2ft crane at Ferrymead. Received pics of Crane No.291 from Chris Lidgard. Graeme Bennett also has an interesting set of cranes working at New Plymouth.
December 2004 Bit quiet on the crane front this month. Uni year is over and I seem to have slowed down all round. The family history is pushing out the crane research at present. Made another visit to the Bush Tramway club at Pukemiro. Did get some pictures of Crane No.200 from Pete Steer and Crane No.257 from Gordon Bartram.
January 2005 A busy month for work - writing new teaching materials and teaching summer school. But its all balanced by plans for a trip to archives in Wellington. Lots of email organising things for the trip (meeting people, being able to burn photo CDs, etc). Got some good advice from Kevin Crosado about locating info at Ava. David Oakley at Tinwald has provided useful info on their 2-ton hand crane. Got a weird email request from Morocco about purchasing a Priestman Grab!
February 2005 Spent January 30th to February 3rd in Wellington. A combination of crane and family history research. Visited the Museum of City and Sea, Archives New Zealand, National Library, and the NZR&LS archive at Ava. Kevin's lead on the Loco.63 ledgers was a real bonus! Came home with plenty to digest. Also meet with a bunch of TRP people, David Parsons, and NZ Railfan editor Reid McNought - he wants a crane article out of me. At home I had an interesting query on Greymouth harbour cranes, got some pictures of Omoto from Geoffrey Harrison, and a bunch more from Reid to scan and return.
March 2005 Have been chewing through the details from 09/5231/2 Obsolete crane file which I copied at Ava. Very interesting, and useful pointers to other files. Paul Dillicar pointed me to an interesting article on Crane No.277 on a tramline at Sumner. Dale Jonker has come up with an interesting crane plate. Les Downey has been in touch again. On a different note, had a curious email request in regard to purchasing a filter from a Rapier crane.
April 2005 Still busy digesting the data from my trip. Had an interesting discussion online with a man who has been making Craven models in Meccano. More stuff coming to hand - Reid has sent more more pictures to scan and return - all good for the article. Dale Jonker sent me a very interesting pic of crane No.94. David Parsons sent some very nice pictures of EL 6002. Received a photocopy of the crane code cards from Derek Brown - he is a real gem! They will be incredibly useful.
May 2005 Big news this month has been Crane EL 6002 taking a swim in the Nuhaka river after the bridge it had been sent to work on collapsed. Kendall Julian has kindly provided pictures. I'm still busy with transcriptions and corrections for my trip data. But I have also started on a draft of my article for NZ Railfan. Duncan Robbie has provided some information on Crane No.142 which his father saved from the scrapman. I've had Dale Jonker requesting info on No.287 for OBR - unfortunately I can't provide much. Have been in touch with Esme Stevenson at the Tokomaru museum in regard to their cranes.
June 2005 Toredo worm has been identified as the course of the Nuhaka accident. The crane was finally recovered on the 12th - took somewhat longer than anticipated it seems. I've been busy working on my article. As well as writing I've been looking for extra details and pictures. Ian Tibbles has pictures of Shantytown's hand 2-tonner, and Peter Trevor found a brilliant picture of a 5-ton hand crane doing breakdown work. Also got more Craven pictures from Peter Steer.
July 2005 The Nuhaka bridge has reopened - what a mission! Most of my work is presently going into the article. Have been chasing round checking details and specs. Lots of assistance from Bruce Ward, Brian Swiney, Daniel Garland, Robert Sweet, Neville Tobin, Chris Rietveld, Duncan Robbie, Graham Anderson, Colin Dash, and others. Managed to send out a draft several people whom I think are well qualified for comment Brian Mckenzie, Chris Capewell and Trevor Rawlings) - hopefully they pick up on any embarassing blunders I may have made. Got some more wonderful details from Derek Brown - a copy of the Steam crane section index and some details from the NZGR blueprint register - both very handy! Have been engaged in some very interesting correspondence with Mr. WG Lloyd in regard to crane numbering.
August 2005 Deadline for the article. Sent the text, sorted photos, wrote captions, sent corrections, resent material after file problems, talked by phone to Karl Morris about the layout, checked proofs, and wondered if it would never end - but it did. I wouldn't want to be in Reid or Karl's shoes! The month proved interesting - got burgled, had a day on strike, managed another trip to Pukemiro, swapped notes with Colin Swabey for the book he's doing on the Bush Tramway Club, received more material from duncan Robbie, got to watch a bunch of mobile cranes working on building extensions at work, participated in an interesting online discussion about the defunct Southern Rail collection (who had crane No.150), and had a request from Gazi Cement (Egypt) who were looking to be a grab crane.
September 2005 The article hadn't quite gone away as I expected. There were some corrections to the tables and more proofs to deal with. So that's done, and publication awaits. Time for a breather on all this crane stuff. I hadn't planned on starting a photo collection, but when Digitalmax ran a special I wound up printing a bunch of 7x5 photos. So now I have to organise an album.
October 2005 Joy oh joy - had some computer problems at work and lost a chunk of email. Good practices don't always help and the backups didn't work! Good news is the article is out, and after what seemed like forever I got some very positive feedback! After some discussion online I seem to have detoured into E wagons and other way & works stock. Could be an interesting project in the long term. My correspondence with Bill Lloyd continues - he has pointed out some interesting details about a crane on the Dunedin and Port Chalmers railway which was used as a locomotive in the early 1870s - the earliest reference to a crane here I have seen. Stuart Hobbs has sent me photos of No.277 at Sumner (from the article). Books I ordered in July have finally arrived, and I've ordered a copy of the 1949 Ransomes & rapier history.
November 2005 Back to the article - Part II. Lots of trying to track down diesel crane information, and tidying up my crane listing. Still more photos to be captioned. Material is still coming to hand - pictures from Peter Trevor of Crane No. 500, and various cranes from Darryl Palmer. Derek Brown has also supplied more of his gems in the form of photocopies from the Civil Engineers handbook. More correspondence with Bill Lloyd, and new contacts with Terry Carroll and Owen Aitken, both of whom supplied photos and new contacts. Also had an interesting online discussion with Andrew Wilson regarding Crane No.150 and various West Coast cranes. Strangest mail for the month was a Vietnamese request for a grab crane. This site certainly generates some curious email.
December 2005 A complicated month. My mother was hospitalised after various problems - and had a pacemaker fitted. Its a relief to know she'll be fine. Its now three years since Dad passed away - and this little project got started. The second part of my crane article came out in NZ Railfan, and although there wasn't as much feedback as for Part I, it was all positive. I feel the project has now achieved something positive. Had a very interesting chat by phone with Charlie Oxley. Correspondence continues with Owen Aitken and Terry Carroll, and I got a bunch of pictures from Alan Curtis (including ex-WMR No.246). On the picture front, I have now purchased a digital camera (replacing the manual SLR stolen in August). Ordered more books (on earthmoving equipment - which includes Navvys)
January 2006 Notes still to come