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Remote-controlled shunter drives into harbour

A remote-controlled locomotive operated by KiwiRail has driven off a linkspan and into Picton harbour, taking a wagon and two tank containers with it.

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The rail ramp at Picton
The rail ramp at Picton

An investigation is underway at Picton, New Zealand into how a remote-controlled shunting locomotive came to drive off a linkspan for loading KiwiRail’s Inter-Island ferry service and into the harbour. The locomotive was pushing one wagon with two empty tank containers at the time.


KiwiRail has been using remote controlled locomotives for shunting for around 10 years. The locomotives are controlled by an operator with a belly pack, who can view shunting operations from the ground and travel on the locomotive’s foot plate.


No one was injured in the incident and the diesel locomotive is not leaking fuel. As the tank containers were empty the wagon holding them is partially afloat, and has been secured to the linkspan.


It appears that the locomotive was not under operator control when the incident occurred. “For some reason, the shunt locomotive, pushing the wagon, has travelled across the marshalling yards to a linkspan – a ramp that connects the land to a ship – and fallen in to the water. There was no ship at the berth at the time,” Kiwi Rail’s chief operating officer told Television New Zealand.


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