‘A West Coast Engineman’ is an exquisitely detailed and entertaining recount of railway preservationist Ian Tibbles’ time working on ‘the Big Railway’ in the 1960s, following a childhood watching trains at work in his hometown of Greymouth.
Signing on at Greymouth’s Elmer Lane depot in 1962, a young Ians very quickly learnt the mysteries of “the dark shed”. Graduating from labourer to cleaner and then fireman, his apprenticeship takes us on a journey about the West Coast in the golden age of steam.
Starting on the wharf and local shunts on Wf’s Ian moved onto the main lines, then populated with A, Ab, B, J, We and Ww class engines. Sharing his firing experiences, Ian recounts throughout the chapters what it was like “getting down the road” on the various lines and classes of engine. Managing transfer to various depots on the Coast, Ian recounts his time on all the West Coast lines. The Grey Valley, Blackball branch, Ross line, relieving Reefton, the Tawhai saddle, Reefton to Westport, the Westport to Mokihinui coal railway, Conns Creek branch, Rewanui incline and of course blasting up to Otira on the J class, are all vividly recounted.
Even a passing railfan will appreciate Ian’s amusing anecdotes and tales of trickery and disaster, all in a days work out on the line.