The True Story!
The following is the answers to questions we have been asked regarding the ins and outs of the Omoto Locomotive Salvage. In all fairness we ask that it be read in its true context, and if it is copied elsewhere the same must apply. Thank-you.
The site on the Grey River where the Salvage took place
Where is the site?
Just outside Greymouth on the road to Dobson and Stillwater at Omoto on the Grey River.
What exactly is happening? I have heard a lot of stories, but what is the true story?
Shortly, 3 old Steam Locomotives are to be removed from their watery grave in the Grey River. These are namely Uc 369, Uc 370 and La 312. It is to the good of all rail enthusiasts that we remove these locos. Yes, we know what many of you are saying... "Leave them where they are! They are our heritage and by removing them future generations will never see the loco's as we have seen them."
But, is it not better to remove them, so that more people can enjoy what, up until the locomotives are removed, only a select minority could appreciate? To leave them where they are, to our way of thinking, and many other folks way of thinking, is truly a selfish idea.
Uc370 being rolled into the Grey River at Omoto
We would like you to realize that the Omoto dump site is the last place in New Zealand where so many railway items rest, but having said that, it is a very hazardous place for them to stay because the likelihood of these items being accessible for the those select minority of selfish so-called railway heritage enthusiasts is absolutely nil. With the new Cobden Bridge presently being built just upstream a little from the old bridge, the excavations have crept to within yards of the western most edge of the Omoto dumpsite. These excavations involve the realignment of the railway embankment, which will shortly affect the whole dumpsite. When this happens it will mean good-bye to the whole Omoto site as it will be buried forever... from everyone! It would indeed be nice to leave them there, and truly, we too will feel a bit sad at lifting them but sadly for everyone they cannot be permitted to rest where they are for very much longer. It just isn't safe anymore.
Uc369 underneath the surface of the Grey River
Who owns the locomotives at Omoto?
WHITE BUS FAMILY PRODUCTIONS currently holds a resource consent to lift the locomotives at Omoto. So as the current resource consent holder we are the owners of whatever that resource consent covers. This means that Uc 369, Uc 370 and La 312 are owned by us and nobody else.
Who is lifting the locomotives?
It is to be a combined effort between WHITE BUS FAMILY PRODUCTIONS and MIDLAND RAIL HERITAGE TRUST with help from various other personalities and groups.
Uc369 under the surface
What is going to happen to the 3 locomotives that will be lifted?
We were approached by the recently formed "Midland Rail Heritage Trust" at Springfield, Canterbury, and the outcome of this was an agreement that the ownership of Uc 369 and Uc 370 would be transferred to the said trust, with ownership returning to WHITE BUS FAMILY PRODUCTIONS in the (unlikely) event of the collapse of the above Trust. This is not of course to any gain for us, rather it is intended to benefit the whole rail movement in New Zealand because this agreement has been made with the aim to keep the old loco's safe from the scrappers torch. We are merely overseers. After the restoration of the Uc locomotives it is intended that they run on the Midland line.
What will happen in the event of the (unlikely) collapse of the Midland Rail Heritage Trust?
The ownership of Uc 369 and Uc 370 will return to WHITE BUS FAMILY PRODUCTIONS who will immediately set about finding a new group to look after the old loco's... but the locomotives will always remain in the South Island.
What right does WHITE BUS FAMILY PRODUCTIONS have in being overseers?
We have all rights as the re-discoverers of the 3 submerged locomotives. Remember, they were believed to be buried under tons of rock... (Nobody cared about them then!!!) Since we located them and made the video "Beyond All Reason" and now hold the resource consent we have the say in where they go. Some time ago we got the resource consent to lift La 312 for the Reefton group, but after a couple of years they had still done nothing to lift her. We finally decided to give the money to them to remove the La but they declined our offer. You see, it's very important to us that these locomotives come out. They are a link in the chain of heritage locomotives in New Zealand. When the Midland Rail Heritage Trust approached us we were more than happy. It meant our dream was to be fulfilled at long last. The engines we had explored under the river were finally to be raised up where other folk could see them. So, that's why we are overseers at this site... not in a nasty bossy way, but in a friendly good-natured manner. In the railway preservation scene we are all friends working for the good of each other - at least we ought to be!!!
Do you claim that the Uc's and La are in good order?
We don't claim anything. We made the video "Beyond All Reason" to show what the locomotives were like. The "Midland Rail Heritage Trust" experts have viewed the video many times and have seen the items we have salvaged. They can tell they're as good as we have shown them to be.
What order are the locomotives in? How good is the metal?
They are all in surprisingly good order considering the length of time they have spent in the river. As our video (Beyond All Reason) shows, the quality of the metal is very good. For those of you who prefer to disbelieve our word, why not have a look at the items we have retrieved from the site. After all, it's no good debating about something you know nothing of. As far as we know, no one with a speck of "Kiwi Ingenuity," has ever had an honest look at the sunken locomotives. It was all hearsay from the inexperienced until we showed the world our video "Beyond All Reason."
Some of the parts we salvaged from Omoto
It is claimed that WHITE BUS FAMILY PRODUCTIONS have butchered locomotives. What butchering have they done?
This is where rail preservation gets really interesting. There are so many "Do-Gooders" out there who make all kinds of silly childish claims. This is one really worth laughing at. It has come from the uninformed that, it appears, never learnt the difference between salvaging and butchering. There is a world of difference between the two that many of us learnt before we knew our 12 times table. We have salvaged many parts from the Omoto dump site and from other places with the intention of them being reunited with the locomotives someday. Gate Guardians, trophies and the like. They are all silly stories from stagnant minds. The rail heritage movement will fall to pieces if we allow such people to make such untrue statements. They ought to be banned from our midst.
How good would you say these locomotives are compared with others that have been salvaged in the past?
Well, to give you an example, we have a bolt that came from one of the Rogers K's at Branxholme and another that came from La 312 at Omoto. The bolt from the La was in much better condition than the one from Rogers K. Of course, one was American made whilst the other was British but it still explains the problem. K 88 was restored from a mess much greater than the Uc's at Omoto. Remember too that K88 was not so complete as the Omoto loco's. We have spent a great deal of time at Ashburton - more time than we care to remember actually - and know just what is involved in getting a steam locomotive back to running condition. To those pessimists out there we have to say we are sorry, you needn't be the wet blanket you were with the late Bob Anderson and his K 88. It never got you anywhere then and it won't now or in the future. It just makes you unpleasant to work with.
La312 in her "heyday" at Stillwater Junction c1889's
What about La 312? What's happening with her?
La 312 will be lifted with the other two locomotives but will remain in our ownership for the present time.
Where will the locomotives go to once they are lifted?
They will (all three of them) be taken to Springfield and put into storage.
When will the locomotives be lifted?
We are "under sealed orders" because as we, WHITE BUS FAMILY PRODUCTIONS, are the resource consent holders we are liable to any accidents. During operations the whole site will be cordoned off as a "high risk area" to prevent unauthorized access, and it must be remembered that the railway line is private property and must not be trespassed without authority. The railway track past the dumpsite will be manned by official personal to prevent would-be sightseers from entering the high-risk area. We apologize that we cannot name a day or a date as in the interests of safety we cannot permit a crowd to develop. The dangers involved in the recovery make the job extremely hazardous. However, the newspapers will cover the whole event and we will also be releasing a sequel to the video Beyond All Reason that will cover the events.