For a country, that oficially do not have railways, railroad or trains or whatever you would like to call them, we've found practically the whole country criss-crossed by narrow gauge 'sugar-train' tracks, railway crossings and a variety of rolling stock, including the very versatilly adopted tractors, (more about them later).
I am facinated by trains, well, I'm facinated by trams too and many other things, but right now let us concentrate about trains.
I've already knew about Fiji's 'sugar-trains' before our arrival, so it is not suprising, that I was looking out for them with a keen eye. Before I get into this much further, I have to mention, that there are a few other trains around Fiji than the so called 'sugar-trains'. Hui Chin and I have only visited Viti Levu, the main, largest, most inhabited and only one of the more than 300 islands in the Fiji group and here we found two other train line and service, that's not 'sugar-train', but tourist oriented, passenger services on a small routes. One running around at the Pacific Harbour Resort, the other one is at Sigatoka.
There's also a semi preserved engine on display, just outside the Ba 'sugar works', where a rude security guard was screaming at me to stop photographing the beautiful steam engine.
I did manage to take a few shots and scamper, before the screaming idiot managed to get near me and biff me of the grounds or damaging my camera. He was screaming, "No photos", "No photos".
He must have been an idiot, because I can not see any security risk in taking photos of an engine, long way from the factory, or anything for that matter. He did not see me taking the two little 'hootakies' or whatever they are, those white things on wheels, that were near the weighbridge or weighhouse or whatever.
I suspect they are used to compact the loads on the trucks on the wighbridge, before they are sent probably inside the factory, where they will not be unloaded unless they look tidy, prim and proper.
Also, he was the only unfriendly person we've met in Fiji. Even the couple of shop people, that ripped us of, were pretending to be friendly.
Let us get back to the trains though.
There may well be some other trains we did not hear about or see.
Driving around Fiji we have encountered some sugarfields with rolling stock, but no established track system in sight, so one of our mission was to solve this problem, so we went to see for ourselves. As Hui Chin and I walked towards the people cutting the sugarcanes in one of the sugarfields we passed (#9 & #13), a nice chap, - the supervisor - came to our assistance, who explained the whole story, history, workings etc of the sugarfields, people, trains, tractors, trailers, wagons etc.
Somewhere, nearby every sugarfield there is a permanent track that leads to the factory in Ba or Lautoka (#8).
The local farmers get some empty trucks (#9, #10, #13, #18, #21, #22 & #23), which they can shift anywhere on their property with a especially adopted tractor and trailer (#12, #13, #14, #24, #25 & #26).
The tractor, can push the trucks - when loaded - around (#26). The trailer, with tracks built on and part of it is hinged, and can be lowered on the ground for the loaded truck to be winched on board (#12, #24& #26). The hinged tracks can be lifted up and the tracktor-trailer move the loaded wagon to a track to be lowered down on to the tracks in a similar manner.
The truck can push the trucks to a siding near the main tracks until the train comes along to take it to the factory (#22).
Some farmers have portable tracks too, that can be laid down to suit the circumstances.
Hui Chin and I was offerred a ride the first time (#19 & #20) we encounterd the little contraptions, but we did not have the time for it at that instance as we were on our way to Suva in our hired car and the train was heading the opposite direction.
We did not have the time factored in our schedule right than, and also we did not know how we could be reunited with our car, as we were all heading in the opposite directions.
So we flagged our chance away, but a few days latter we were lucky enough to get another opprtunity to ride on one of this miniture trains, with a 'long tail' (#28), about 70 wagons, chugging along at 30 km/h., some places (#1 to #7).
The little train did have to slow down for a sharp bend to about 5 km/h and the driver and his assistant (Tevita) were anxiously watching a little red flag at the end of the last wagon, whether it was still to following us.
Our driver was a very friendly and talkative chap (#7, the fellow hanging out of the door, Sundresan), who explained to us everything we wanted to know and more. Our greatful thanks fellas.
We enjoyed our ride very much from near the Nadi Airport to just outside Lautoka, I would say, roughly about 25 km, perfect, actually, bloody great. Thanks again.
We've also seen some terrific maintenance vehicles (#15, #16& #17).
We've also seen a couple jiggers, but caught us off guard both times and they disappearred before we could take pictures off them.
The other thing I did not manage to photograph, although I have seen it done in the distance, while I was taking a picture of an engine in front of me, the tractor-trailer carrying a loaded wagon, at the time I thought, I'll catch one latter, but I never had the chance again.
o O o
Here I would like to mention and express our grateful thanks to some very nice people we met working on the trains.
I am very interested in trains and the Fijian 'sugar trains' are really one out of the box.
Our grateful thanks to the many friendly people we talked to working on and with the trains, especially to Sundresan the driver and his deputy Tevita, who were kind enough to let us ride their train and give us a lenghty run down of the train's working, about their job and many other interesting insight into many other subjects as well.
Thank you very much fellas.
Hui Chin and I sure appreciate your kindness and friendliness.
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