Four men sit on a red railway jiggerA bright red railway jigger has taken pride of place in the foyer of the Selwyn District Council offices in Rolleston.

No, it’s not a new transport initiative – but a commemoration of Selwyn’s rich railway history, jointly organised by the Council and KiwiRail. The 1960s jigger was unveiled at a ceremony on Wednesday [4 May] and will be housed at the Council premises temporarily, before eventually being moved to a permanent home in the new Rolleston town centre.

Selwyn Mayor Sam Broughton says the jigger is part of an important project that celebrates Selwyn’s history and cultural heritage.

“Rail is a huge part of Selwyn’s story,” he says. “Our main town, Rolleston, sits at the junction of the Midland and main south lines and traces its foundation as a town to the opening of the railway terminus in October 1866.As we’ve been developing our new town centre we’ve had a focus on capturing what’s important about Selwyn’s history – and the railway is a key element,” he says.

“We’ve been delighted to partner with KiwiRail to see the jigger restored and presented to the district. Eventually it will be displayed in the new town centre, near Te Ara Ātea, to recognise the district’s rail heritage, and to honour the workers who built the Midland and main south lines. In the meantime it’s great to see it on display at Council HQ, and we hope visitors will enjoy seeing and learning about this slice of Selwyn history.”

The jigger has been painstakingly restored by KiwiRail engineers, and local residents, Graham Lawn, Ian Dixon and Danny Leonard.

The restored jigger is Graham’s pride and joy. He comes from a rail family and remembers travelling up and down the rail line with his father on the jiggers.

“My Dad worked in rail as a signals maintainer, and both my sisters and my two sons have also worked in rail. Very soon with my service we will be celebrating 100 years in rail as a family,” he says. “That’s why when I was asked to do this project, I didn’t hesitate. It’s an icon for Rolleston, as well as for KiwiRail. I want families to be able to view the jigger and read and learn about the history of rail.”

With the disruptions of Covid-19, it took three years for the trio to restore the jigger. For Graham it’s been a project that he has felt proud of, both because of the rail connection as well as the personal significance, having been a resident in Rolleston since 2006.

“I’m proud to be part of the rail industry. It’s a project that all of us in the rail industry can feel proud of, that a part of our history has been preserved.”

Jiggers have been part of rail history since the early days of rail in New Zealand, providing transport for workers undertaking track repairs and inspections.In the late 1800s jiggers (known as velocipedes) were operated by hand, and motorised models were introduced in the mid-1900s. They were eventually withdrawn in the 1980s, replaced by road vehicles with rail wheels fitted.

This particular jigger was built for use on the Midland Line in the 1960s. It has a petrol motor with a three-speed gear box and was designed to carry four people. It carries the identity number WW7840, signifying the Ways and Works division of New Zealand Railways, and was the 40th jigger built of that model.

The jigger was withdrawn from service in the late 1980s and sat unused in a jigger shed at the famous Cass railway station until it was recovered in 2019.

Last modified: 04 May 2022 4:33pm