Canterbury Railway Society Inc
Photo Gallery: Short Vans
F 624 South Island Fell Centre-Rail Brake Van
British Railway Engineer John Barrowclough Fell's centre-rail system for increased traction on steeply graded railway lines was used in three places throughout the world (including New Zealand's famous Rimutaka Incline) for locomotive traction, but in many more locations for braking-only purposes. In the South Island of New Zealand, centre rails were laid on the Roa and Rewanui Inclines on the West Coast near Greymouth for braking coal trains down these steeply graded lines (each around 1 in 25). The Roa Incline closed in 1960 due to falling coal orders, while the Rewanui Incline was converted to air-only braking with removal of the centre rail in 1966.
Van F 624 was built for service in the South Island and finished its work with NZR on the Rewanui Incline. The van is fitted with special horizontal brake shoes which are forced onto each side of the raised centre rail by large handwheels. In normal service the centre-rail brakeblocks wore rapidly and had to be changed often. The need for the centre rail diminished when the use of airbraking became commonplace on the coal lines and the van was no longer required for this work. It arrived at Ferrymead by road and has been on display and occasionally used on auxiliary passenger services. A Fell brake van from the Rimutaka Incline is on display at Featherston's Fell Engine Museum.
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