Train ploughs through deep snow

Hokitika train driver Donald Hibbs had a "pretty good day in the office" on Thursday, ploughing through metres of snow in the Arthurs Pass to clear the train tracks.

Hibbs was one of three drivers whose task it was to clear heavy snow from the tracks so that maintenance crews could get through.

"The snow was really powdery and the train weighed about 200 tonnes, so we just ploughed right on through it. The track maintenance vehicle followed us and we communicated with them about what was on the tracks,'' Hibbs said.

The trio had a chainsaw with them and often stopped the train to jump out and clear fallen trees out of the way. They were also on the lookout for fallen power lines.

At times, the snow was so high it covered the windscreen of the train's cab.

"A couple of times we had to stop and open the door to see what was ahead, but we know the track very well anyway so we always knew where we were. We slowed down if there was any doubt. We already knew the power lines had turned off so that wasn't a danger.''

The trip from Arthurs Pass to Cora Lynn, which usually took 25 minutes, took the team two hours.

"It was a long one, but it was pretty good for a day in the office,'' Hibbs said.

It was the first time he had been on such a job in his six years as a train driver.

Footage of the train's journey was captured by filmmaker Geoff Mackley and has had over 4000 views on Youtube. You can watch his video below.

"It looks quite spectacular on film. It's good to show us getting out there and getting the job done,'' Hibbs said.

A separate train cleared the track from Christchurch to Cora Lynn.

Mackley, an intrepid Christchurch-born cameraman has shot some footage from some extraordinary adventures. You can see them on his website


The Press