The International Steam Pages

Once upon a time, long ago,
The Last Run of the Last Kb,
22nd June 1969

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.

When the last two Kb were written off in March 1969 one was rushed to its final destination in the scrap yard whilst the other was placed in storage at Linwood Loco. I can't quite recall the how and why of it but, prior to withdrawal, the railways had said they would allow the Canterbury Branch of the New Zealand Railway & Loco Society one final Kb excursion to Arthur's Pass. This was to be in June and despite the locos already being written off the Railways honoured their commitment.

In the March 2001 edition of the New Zealand Railfan magazine John Cooke wrote:

'In the week leading up to the 22nd June excursion, Kb968 was passed on the various inspections to ensure she was fit to run..............Two days prior to the excursion 968 was fired up and towed J1210 and J1212's tender to the Pacific Steel siding at Sockburn for scrapping. Presumably this short haul run qualified the Kb for its final main line excursion.'

Then on the Saturday it was time for Kb968 to perform one last time and perform she did...........

Steam everywhere as 968 pushes back at the Otarama Bank photo stop. The loco was displaying standard NZR grime and obviously no effort had been made to clean it up for the occasion. Can anyone recall what the young fella', sitting down at trackside, with a piece of paper was doing...had he been drawing the loco perhaps?

On a photo run between Avoca and Craigieburn......

OK, I'm a sucker for this photo spot....I like it! A while ago I used a similar shot of the double Kb excursion and a tongue-in-cheek comment came back that 'there was too much livestock in the shot!' This time I considered cloning the livestock out but then decided it would be too much work and anyway it does add a bit of human interest.

Another photo run: this time on the climb to Cora Lynn with the Waimakariri River in the background.

Another fine performance from the Kb just before Siberia Curve. Back in 1969 we all had hand knitted woollen jerseys as part of our wardrobe: times have changed and I can't recall the last time I saw anyone wearing one.

On the return journey a photo run was held on the Bealey bridge. I can't recall this position being previously used and certainly the sun was not at a good angle. I did manage to capture too much of the power lines but for all that the pictures aren't unpleasant.

And so ended the 'real steam' era of the 4-8-4 on the New Zealand Government Railways. Kb968 was preserved and is presently being restored to main line operating condition (at Mainline Steam's Christchurch Depot) so no doubt will be back running sometime in the future. It won't be 'real steam' as we knew it forty four years ago but it's definitely a much better option than no steam. I'd certainly like to still be around to see 968 back in action again on her old stamping ground!

Rob Dickinson