Weight test for new rail bridge
A small, but heavy, work train made history on Saturday when it chugged along the new tracks at the Riverside Railway bridge.
The 5 tonne train (equivalent to the combined weight of 10 cars) successfully drove onto the bridge which crosses the Taylor River in Blenheim.
The 46-metre-long bridge carries the Omaka Spur track from Brayshaw Park to the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre.
The bridge is part of expansion plans that will connect the aviation heritage centre with the centre of Blenheim when it is completed next March.
Blenheim Riverside Railway Society president John Orchard said he was pleased with the first run and was confident it would be a success.
"Since the Canterbury earthquakes everything is strengthened more, there is no way that was going to come down.
"History has been made again, for the first new bridge over the Taylor River for a few years. The last one was the foot bridge in town about 14-15 years ago."
Orchard said it was the third railway bridge over the river and was the only one made of concrete.
The work started in February and the bulk of it was complete in May, Orchard said.
Nineteen volunteers gave up their Saturdays and any other spare time to work on the bridge, he said.
The rails were laid on recycled, reinforced, concrete sleepers, except over the bridge, where they were fastened to the bridge by threaded metal rods and bolted on.
The Riverside Railway has a 25-year-old, 5-kilometre, 60cm wide (24-inch) track that runs along the Taylor River from the main station at Brayshaw Heritage Park to the River Queen berth beside Horton St in Blenheim.
The new track is 960 metres long, and will end in a turning area, or passing loop, outside the aviation heritage centre and classic car museum.
A grand opening would be held in the middle of March 2015, a fortnight before the Classic Fighters airshow.
The train, which could carry 100 passengers, would be running for the airshow, between the aviation centre and the town, but there was also a rail car that could shuttle people between the airshow and Brayshaw Park, to help move people in and out of the airshow without them needing to drive and walk.