In 1876 the Kaitangata Railway & Coal Co built this short 6.5km private railway from Stirling, which is on the Main Trunk Dunedin to Invercargill line, to serve the town's main coal mine.A short extension down the town's only main street also served the Castle Hill mine until 1963.
With coal hving been discovered by the early Europeans in 1844, mining did not begin until the late 1850's as there was a lack of transport. The 1st locomotive was an 0-6-0 12ton saddle tank, i of 3 built by James Davidson & Co Dunedin. A number of other small tank locomotives were purchased over the years & in 1898, because of the increasing volume of traffic & tonnage a more powerful NZR "F" class side tank was ordered from Scotland. This loco gave great service until 1970 when the line closed & it was donated to "Shantytown" near Greymouth on the South Island's West coast, where it is in regular operation.
The idea of modelling such a part of NZ's area became stronger over time, as the attractiveness of the Station building, with its 2 Engine sheds, water tank, Goods shed & Weighbridge were all contained in a very confined space. As space was a premium, tight curves also meant the small locos would not present problems, 4 wheel rolling stock was predominant, & if I had space to include a condensed version of the mine bins, plus include some of the Main street & some iconic NZ buildings, the die was cast.
Over some time now, with an inevitable shift of Islands thrown in, the track plan has had to be modified, but was never to lose sight of the original orientation to how the actual branch line formation was laid down.
If one major lesson has been learnt over a number of years, my philosophy is now firmly of the opinion we all tend to think too big in our endeavours. Modellers of NZ railways have a rich panorama to dozens of now defunct branch lines which could just be waiting to be modelled. I was surprised that for what was a privately run railway, such a wealth of material, photographs & background information was available.
A real bonus was when my sister presented me recently with a 558 page "History of Kaitangata" (1800s-2004), which she purchased for a nominal sum at a church fair in Northern Southland. Life is full of surprises.
So we press on, building in our own way, a little slice of NZ's history which brings satisfaction in so many ways & the joys of being part of a great hobby.