The International Steam Pages

Once upon a time, long ago,
A Couple of Days on the Coast Part 2
(24 &) 25 February 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.

Click here for Part 1 of this tale.

By the time breakfast was over the day had clouded over. When I scanned this shot of J1216 rolling into town I didn't think much of it but then I started to notice all sorts of interesting things. From the left: the branch line to Rewanui and Rapahoe heading to the Cobden bridge, gangers transport in the form of the jigger, the crossing keepers hut with its pile of wood and coal to help ward off the effects of the Coast weather, the crossing keeper having a quick chat with the engine driver and the wagon immediately behind the engine: a Ug horse box. The Ug's were built to carry four horses and their attendants so if anyone was on board it would have been a long cold night coming over the Southern Alps from Christchurch. Apparently, well through the '50s, any race meeting on the Coast would result in a special train before and after, taking race horses across from Canterbury then bringing them home again. As far as possible Ug wagons were used as they could be run faster than four-wheeled wagons. I can't imagine there would have been much demand for this type of wagon by 1969 though.

The next bit of action was Ww678 blasting out of town with train 865, the 08.30 Mixed to Dunollie. The carriage is behind the guards van and can't be seen in this shot. What can be seen though is the Signal Box, Riverside station and a couple of diesel shunters doing their thing.

I think we must have used our thumbs to hitch a ride to Kumara, a crossing station 10 miles south of Greymouth. First train through was the morning railcar seen arriving to collect passengers heading to Greymouth and Christchurch. 

Imagine in today's world being allowed to climb a railway water tank? Back in '69 you didn't bother asking you just went ahead and did it taking due care plus hoping no one told you to get down! The result was Ab743 climbing the grade with a rather small train.

A couple of hours later and Ab816 arrived with the afternoon goods to Ross. To my mind this shot gives Kumara a rather cold and derelict look. Chasing the train were those two North Islanders, from the previous day, with their all important car. We were again offered a if we would turn that down!

Heading south to Hokitika. 

The day looked as if it could finally brighten up a bit so it was decided to drive further south and then follow the Greymouth bound goods north. Ab704 was in charge of the north bound train seen here between Ross and Hokitika. The day hasn't brightened up much at all so far! 

There was a lengthy shunt at Hokitika and a much larger train eventually headed towards Greymouth. Finally the day had improved and we got some of that lovely late afternoon light that can make for such a good photo. 

Kumara again and 704 gets underway after a brief station stop. Back then the railways were still transporting a large number of sheep and these would continue their journey on an overnight train to Christchurch. The Coast was one of the last strongholds of stock traffic on the NZR with sheep and cattle being railed to the saleyards or freezing works. Arthurs Pass was not a good place to take trucks until the Otira Gorge viaduct was built. Hence the longer continuity of stock traffic on rail.

Last shot of the trip as J1208 attempts to fill the sky with smoke as it gets underway with a late afternoon goods leaving Greymouth.

A short time later the two likely lads were onto the evening railcar for the journey back home to Christchurch. An exhausting but most successful couple of days!

Less than four months after this trip it was all over. The Coast had been dieselised and the last fires were thrown out on Thursday 19 June 1969. The locomotives were withdrawn from stock and with the exception of two eventually cut up. Ww480 and A423 were the lucky ones with both eventually heading to the North Island and preservation.

Locomotive Details:

A423 and 602 were 4-6-2's built by the New Zealand firm of A&G Price in 1909 and 1914 respectively as part of a 57 strong class. When these pictures were taken there were only three or four still working.

The Ab class Pacific's were first introduced in 1915 and over the next eleven years 141 were built by a number of different manufacturers. They ruled the rails until larger engines appeared in the 1930's and by the 1960's a large number were still in everyday use on secondary main lines and branches. Ab704 was A&G Price built in 1923 whilst 743 and 816 were both North British (22871, 23179) built in 1921 and 1925 respectively.

The J class 4-8-2 were North British built in 1939 and all 40 members of the class arrived safely in New Zealand by early 1940.
Makers numbers were:
J1208 24531
J1209 24532
J1212 24535
J1216 24539
Twelve North Island engines were converted to oil firing in the late 1940's/early 1950's but the South Island ones were always coal fired.

The 4-6-4T were both New Zealand Railways built at their Hillside Workshops in the South Island. 480 was originally built as a Wg in 1910 while 678 was a Ww from nine years later. Extensive modifications and rebuilds over the years meant the remaining class members, now all called Ww, were still extremely useful locomotives on the West Coast in the 1960s.

Locomotive details taken from: Register of New Zealand Steam Locomotives 1862 - 1971 by WG Lloyd
Cavalcade of New Zealand Locomotives by AN Palmer & WW Stewart
The New Zealand Railway Observer Magazines of the period. 

Rob Dickinson