Old school trucks: Transwest Freighters

By: Dean Middleton, Photography by: Dean Middleton


Old school trucks: Transwest Freighters Old school trucks: Transwest Freighters
Old school trucks: Transwest Freighters Old school trucks: Transwest Freighters
Old school trucks: Transwest Freighters Old school trucks: Transwest Freighters
Old school trucks: Transwest Freighters Old school trucks: Transwest Freighters
Old school trucks: Transwest Freighters Old school trucks: Transwest Freighters
Old school trucks: Transwest Freighters Old school trucks: Transwest Freighters
Old school trucks: Transwest Freighters Old school trucks: Transwest Freighters
Old school trucks: Transwest Freighters Old school trucks: Transwest Freighters
Old school trucks: Transwest Freighters Old school trucks: Transwest Freighters
Old school trucks: Transwest Freighters Old school trucks: Transwest Freighters
Old school trucks: Transwest Freighters Old school trucks: Transwest Freighters
Old school trucks: Transwest Freighters Old school trucks: Transwest Freighters
Old school trucks: Transwest Freighters Old school trucks: Transwest Freighters

Check out these old school Transwest Freighters

Back in the day, or at least when I first started photographing their trucks, Transwest Freighters (TWF) trucks were as common on the West Coast of the South Island as torrential rain and whitebait patties. The cream, brown, and red trucks were one of the largest of the Greymouth-based transport companies and provided services to much of the West Coast, including the towns and rural sectors. Mercedes-Benz trucks ruled the roost for many decades, largely due to the connection with sister company Northern Southland Transport Holdings (NSTH) who also ran a Mercedes-Benz dominated fleet.

One of biggest challenges faced by Transwest Freighters for many years was the two main arterial routes used to travel to and from Christchurch, which involved climbing over the Southern Alps via Arthurs Pass or the longer Lewis Pass route. These two mountainous routes still exist and are challenging for transport operators even today, however, there is now one major difference. Prior to 1999, the Otira gorge, which was a 14-km long road between the Otira and Arthurs Pass townships had a vehicle length restriction of 13 metres. This was due to the numerous treacherous sharp bends and steep climbs and descents. Essentially this meant that any heavy vehicles longer than 13 metres in length were required to utilise the Lewis Pass, which added 88km to the trip from Greymouth to Christchurch (an extra 176km for each round trip). However, Transwest Freighters were able to get around this with the B-train combinations in their fleet. To do this, the B-train units would travel from Greymouth to Otira where they would drop the rear trailer and drag the front unit over to the Arthurs Pass township and disconnect it. The tractor unit would then return to Otira for the rear unit and take that across to the front unit, drop it, and reconnect the B-train and continue on to Christchurch. The process was repeated on the return leg back to Greymouth. This only added another 28km each way as opposed to 88km utilising the Lewis Pass. It was, however, often challenging with wintery ice and snowy conditions when returning with only the tractor unit for the rear semi-units. The length restrictions were thankfully lifted in 1999 with the opening of the Otira Viaduct, which at 440 metres long replaced the most hazardous portion of the old road.

Northern Southland Transport became more ingrained in the Transwest Freighters brand in the late ’90s when the Northern Southland Transport colours were adopted in the fleet. In late 2011, the freight division of Northern Southland Transport was sold to Toll New Zealand. Albeit with different colours, the Transwest Freighters name was to re-appear in the same year as Phillip Wareing Limited acquired the rural portion of the former company.

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