Canterbury Rails is the brainchild of North Canterbury man Don Scott – “The Pole Man”.
Seven years ago the pine trees on his eight-hectare agri-forestry block needed to be thinned out.
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Don had the removed trees processed into treated fence posts.
Three years ago his slower-growing macrocarpa were coming up for thinning. They were too small for sawmilling and Don was looking for some way to add value to trees that would normally be removed for firewood.
Jumping rails were suggested as an option.
It set Don off on a journey that ended in him buying an old British-made Newbold Machine Tool Company lathe from a Mid-Canterbury sawmill that had no further use for it.
The lathe was unbolted and lifted by two diggers on to a transporter for its trip across the Canterbury plains.
Don modified his covered sheep yards to accommodate it.
He also had to convert the lathe from running off three-phase power to a six-cylinder Fordson-Major diesel engine. It took 18 months before all modifications were complete and he was able to turn his first rail.
Douglas fir is generally considered the best timber for turning jump rails, being light and strong, while pine is best for construction poles.
Don found a suitable source of trees and The Stick Man has been busy ever since. He has continued to update and improve the performance of the Newbold lathe, including a brand new diesel power plant.
After a 35-year career as a Press photographer, Don has now re-modified the lathe and branched out into larger turned pine poles.
The old lathe, which was almost certainly steam-operated in its early years, is now humming at a pace that the Newbold factory team could not have envisaged – let alone more than 100 years later!
However, with an established source of douglas fir thinnings in place, Canterbury Rails is hardly likely to run out of raw materials.