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Final Days




    Accident At Ashburton

        The  following  year  after  K88's  inaugural  trip,  found  Ben  Verdon  in  disgrace  at Ashburton.  As  he  bought  in  the  10:45AM  south  bound  express  from  Christchurch into  Ashburton  on  Tuesday  11th  March  1879,  he  failed  to  notice  that  the  points were  set  for  the  siding  and  not  for  the  main  line,  thus  causing  a  serious  accident, although  with  no  loss  of  life.  The  express  passengers  suffered  severe  shock  from the concussion caused by the collision.     In  the  railway  yard  opposite  the  Commercial  Hotel  (the  nearest  Hotel  to  the Ashburton  Railway  Station  and  very  popular  for  many  years)  a  goods  train  with  an Avonside  'J81'  2-6-0  of  1874  at  the  head  had  been  shunted  from  the  through  line  to admit  the  passage  of  the  express  to  the  passenger  platform.  The  points  were  not returned  to  the  main  line  position  afterwards,  so  when  the  express  came  into  the town,  instead  of  coming  straight  up  to  the  station  as  was  normal,  it  ran  down  the siding and then into the stationary goods train.

        As  was  usual  with  an  train  entering  a  station,  speed  on  the  express  had  been reduced,  -  the   steam  had  been  shut  off  for  the  purpose  of  stopping  at  the  Station platform  -  but  she  carried  sufficient  impetus  with  her  to  do  a  good  amount  of damage when she struck 'J81'.      The  locomotive  at  the  head  of  the  south  bound  express  which  happened  to  be K88  Washington  had  the  whole  of  her  front   bogie  carriage  smashed,  her  cylinders damaged, and the rest of the locomotive generally disabled.

        K88's front bogie wheels were derailed in the event.

        The  goods  engine  'J81'  had  her  cowcatcher  destroyed  but  otherwise  the  damage done was light except some of the wagons in her train more or less suffered.

        The  carriages  on  the  express  were  also  injured  to  some  extent,  particularly  the traveling Post Office carriage.

             The  railway  men  hurriedly  prepared  another  train  from  uninjured  carriages and  after  a  short  delay  of  about  15  minutes  the  passengers  were  sent  on  their  way once  more  none  the  worse  for  their  recent  adventure.  The  accident  did  not  interrupt traffic  beyond  the  stoppage  of  the  goods  train,  and  the  disabling  of  the  rolling stock.

        This  occurrence  caused  quite  a  sensation  in  the  town,  with  quite  a  crowd collecting around the scene within a few minutes.

        It  is  somewhat  surprising  to  realize  that  the  shunter  whose  duty  it  was  to  have seen  that  all  the  points  were  locked,  was  an  old  hand  on  line,  and  thoroughly familiar with the rules regulating the working of points.

        Ben  Verdon  (Express  driver)  was  reprimanded   for  not  showing  sufficient caution  when  approaching  Ashburton   Station  with  the  Express  train.  For  this  error Verdon was demoted from Express engine driver to driver of local goods trains.

    Confidential Information

        On  19th  May  1879  Allison  D.  Smith  wrote  to  the  Foremen  and  other  railway officials saying to them:

        "The  practice  of  communicating  Departmental  information  to  the  newspapers is  becoming  very  general  and  details  are  often  furnished  with  which  the  public have no concern and which ought to be dealt with as confidential.

        "This  practice  can  be  productive  of  no  benefit  and  detriment  to  the  interests  of the Department may result from it.

        "In  future  I  have  to  request  that  no  information  relative  to  the  business  of  the railway  be  given  to  any  newspaper  directly  or  indirectly  until  the  same  has  been submitted for my approval."

        This  order  was  given  to  protect  the  Railway  Department  from  scandal  -  even Allison  Smith  could  never  guess  that  150  odd  years  later  people  would  cherish every word that those early newspapers wrote.

    Was this really to be the end?

        After  much  use  on  the  main  trunk  line  between  Christchurch  and  Dunedin  on  the express  train  services,  K88  and  most  of  the  other  K  engines  were  put  onto  less important  duties,  like  goods  train  work.  Later  on  still,  7  of  the  class  were  sent  down to  Southland  where  they  worked  the  branches  from  Gore  to  Lumsden  and Invercargill  to  Lumsden;  both  routes  joining  there  and  going  as  one  line  to Kingston.

        Eventually  K88  and  the  other  K's  reached  the  end  of  their  lives.  They  were  left for  a  couple  of  years  after  they  were  written  off  the  NZR  books  on  "Rotten  Row"  in Invercargill.

        Finally  on  a  lovely  June  day  -  the  5th  actually,  in  1927,  K88  was  rolled  into  the Oreti  River  in  Southland;  put  there  as  riverbank  protection  with  about  14  other aged  locomotives;  not  one  of  them  ever  intended  to  be  driven  again.  But  fate  is  a strange  thing.  47  years  was  to  pass  before  anything  would  happen.  At  last  K88s  day of hope came. 








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