I’ll try again with this one, too; it is one that vanished in the past week. Rather frustrating!
This story really starts back in January. We were on our way south and passed a big yellow railroad track fixing machine. We’ve seen those a lot of times, since we drive along the railway so much (it parallels Highway 1, which is the main highway on this island and we drive on it practically every time we go anywhere; the railway is visible from the highway probably half the distance from Christchurch to Kaikoura). That day, my 8-year-old asked me how those machines work. I told him I didn’t know, but that if we saw one sometime that was at a place we could pull off, and if there were workmen there who seemed to have time to talk, and if we had extra time, we would stop and ask. Well, one Sunday morning soon after we moved, all those things came together. As we were driving to church, we reached the coast after coming down out of the hills, and approached the first tunnel that the highway goes through. Ahead on the other side of the tunnel, we saw one of those track-fixing machines, and I told Gayle what I had told our son. As we came out of the tunnel, we saw that the machine was right at the end of a short passing lane, with a pull-off right there beside it, and there were two men standing behind it on the track, talking; one was obviously the operator of the machine! We had a rare extra 15 minutes, so Gayle pulled off and asked the man if he would tell us how it worked. Sure, he was glad to! He explained it all, and then took us up into the cab to show us the computerized controls. That machine clamped onto the rails and pulled them in or pushed them out to make them exactly the right distance apart. There were two or three other machines that traveled in a unit with that one, which did other jobs, leveling the track and I’m not sure what else, but they were ahead, through another tunnel. We thanked him and went back to the van as he started moving ahead again. When he came out of the next tunnel, we got to watch as they coupled that machine to the next one. What a great field trip! It was especially meaningful to me because a man in the church I grew up in, someone I knew all my life and who died just about six months ago, had spent a lot of his life building that type of machines. He didn’t build this one; it’s Austrian-built; but it was the same basic idea.