The International Steam Pages

Once upon a time, long ago,
South of the Waitaki

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.

Now it would be very easy to use the word 'miscellany' in the title of this tale but to try and make it sound a little more interesting I'll use 'South of the Waitaki' instead. To clarify for those outside of New Zealand the Waitaki is the river separating the provinces of Canterbury and Otago in the South Island and all three locations in this tale are 'South of the Waitaki'.

Dunedin Loco Shed, 23rd May 1969

Late on Friday afternoon you were still able to see two Ja in steam at Dunedin Loco. It doesn't sound like much but remember Dunedin was supposedly dieselised although, like Christchurch, steam was still needed to haul the Expresses.

In a rods down shot the last steam engine built for the NZR, Ja1274, waits for call to duty on the night express north to Christchurch. Dunedin obviously liked to fill loco tenders to overflowing: the coal is heaped so high 1274 would have been unable to fit into the shed.

Ja1261's tender was being given a similar amount of coal and it almost looks as if the crewman on top of the tender was positioning each lump individually. 1261 had arrived on 143 Express and after being serviced would, most likely, not be needed until the following day.

The elegant lines of an A! 71 had been built by the NZR in 1906 and lasted through until March 1969 before being written off. I doubt whether she had been used since October the previous year though when she ran the last steam hauled goods on the Tapanui branch. No doubt the old girl was just biding time until her final date with destiny.

Pukeuri Freezing Works, 25th August 1969

The first major station south of the Waitaki was Pukeuri Junction. The Kurow branch headed off to the west and at the north end of the yard was the Pukeuri Freezing Works. The Works owned two small steam engines: the B10 and D16 both of which I've previously featured. The B10 was regarded as the workhorse with D16 being the spare so it was a pleasant surprise to find the D in steam when I visited on my way south.

In the first photo the D is out in the NZR yard collecting a wagon. It's not a great shot of the D but quite a reasonable one of what a largish country station looked like back in the sixties.

The wagon was then taken to a loading bank in the Freezing Works yard. What was going to be loaded I can't recall but it all looks pretty uninspiring.

Back in 1969 D16 was a mere 91 years old. It had been built by Neilson (No 2306 of 1878) for the NZR and sold into industrial service in 1918. It continued its occasional work at Pukeuri until 1973 and was then placed on static display. Donated to the Pleasant Point Museum & Railway in 1986 it was restored to working order and since then has been a regular performer on their railway. Now the loco is 136 years old!

State Mines Department, Kaitangata, 7th July 1970

Forty nine miles south of Dunedin lay Stirling and a four mile line, operated by an Improved F called Kaitangata, to the nearby coal mines at Kaitangata. Members of the Otago and Canterbury Branches of the NZR&LS joined forces to enjoy a mid winter trip in open wagons over the line. From the pictures the day certainly looks cold but I suppose we were lucky it wasn't raining......we must have been hardy folk back then!

The loco had been built by Sharp Stewart & Co (No 4270 of 1896) and based on the successful NZR F class hence being called an 'Improved F'. It spent all its life at Kaitangata until the last mine closed in late 1970. Soon after it was donated to Shantytown, near Greymouth on the West Coast, and today works their Infants Creek tram line.


Rob Dickinson