The International Steam Pages

Once upon a time, long ago,
The West Coast of New Zealand's South Island, September 1967

Wilson Lythgoe has been circulating friends with some steam pictures taken some time back and with his permission and encouragement they are reproduced on these pages and will be added to from time to time. Click here for the index.

My first visit to the West Coast of New Zealand's South Island was with three mates in early September 1967. Alastair, Paul and Ken helped open my eyes to the railways that existed on the other side of the Southern Alps and the different types of steam locos I had only previously heard about.

Other things of interest were the Vulcan railcars and goods trains with car attached. Sadly these were not to last as the following weekend all local passenger services, on the Coast, were cancelled apart from those to Rewanui and the daily railcars through to Christchurch.

For the benefit of those not familiar with New Zealand locomotives:

J 1212 & 1237 were 4-8-2 locos built by North British in 1939 and withdrawn from service in 1969. They were the largest and most modern steamers used on the West Coast.

We 375 was a 4-6-4T loco built in 1899 by Sharp Stewart as a B class 4-8-0. It was altered to We class at Hillside in 1943.

A 423 was 4-6-2 built by A & G Price in 1907 and withdrawn from service in mid 1969. A year later it was back in action running an enthusiast trip through to Christchurch as part of its delivery for eventual preservation in the North Island. 

A 423 with a load of coal and timber, in the standard NZR four wheel wagons of the day, between Ngahere and Stillwater. 

J 1237 waits in the crossing loop at Kaiata, about 2.5 miles from journeys start at Greymouth, with a short train heading eastwards. The engine crew sits by the track enjoying that rare event for the West Coast: sunshine!

Shortly after the previous picture was taken A 423 plus van roll through Kaiata crossing J 1237. A 423 has left its loads at Stillwater and most likely they will be added to the consist of J 1237s train.


We 375, the last remaining member of a class totalling 3, heads along the Rewanui branch with a guards van in tow. 375 will collect a train of coal at Dunollie for the return trip to Greymouth.


A Vulcan railcar waits in the early morning light to run the morning service to Westport. Passenger count appears to be minimal.

 Soon after the railcar had left J 1212 headed out of town with an Otira bound goods.

Later that morning J 1237 arrives at Stillwater with a mixed train from Otira. The Christchurch bound railcar is already waiting its arrival. The mixed is running late this morning, possibly due to speed restrictions caused by the three new diesel shunters in tow. If I remember correctly these were the first diesel locos to arrive on the West Coast.....they certainly were not the last!

A short while later the mixed crosses over Stillwater Creek. It looks as if some windows in the leading carriage have been opened compared with the previous picture. I wonder if there were some passengers on board?

That afternoon the railcar from Westport stops at Raupo to pickup a passenger. The service has only another week to run and then Raupo station will no longer be needed. Alastair's car sits off to the left of the picture....thanks for the experience!

Rob Dickinson