he International Steam Pages

Once upon a time, long ago,
Back on the West Coast & Riding the Rails Part 2, 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.

Day 2 continued: 9th April 1969

In the previous 'Once Upon a Time...' I ended with a shot of J1232 at the Greymouth coaling stage and assuming it was being serviced prior to being put away. I started walking back towards Greymouth station with the intention of cadging a ride up to Otira that afternoon on 776 goods but that was about three hours away. I'd just about made it to the station when 1232 stormed by in a cloud of steam and then reversed back into the Riverside yard. To my knowledge nothing was due out so with curiosity aroused increased my pace. 

1232 had backed down onto a loaded coal train, the train examiner was walking the train and a guard was heading for the van. To my mind the possibility of a ride now was preferable to waiting for mid afternoon so I asked the guard if I could join him. Yes, as long as I had a ticket and the form needed to indemnifying the railways should there be an accident. The ticket was no hassle, I already had that, but not the indemnity form so was told where to get it and too hurry as departure was imminent.

That all important form was gained, just, and once underway I found I was riding train 770RR: a goods run only as required when traffic levels were high. First stop was Stillwater where Ab663 was waiting in the loop with a work train. 

Once away from Stillwater the cloud cover started to disperse and the sun put in an appearance......the weather was finally improving! Now when the sun comes out on the Coast, which wasn't as often as folk would have liked it, then it was a glorious place.....fabulously scenic and a great place to photograph trains in.

At Moana J1216 was already waiting in the loop with a Greymouth bound train.

Once J1216 had left J1232 was able to access the goods siding and lift two empty sheep wagons and an empty flat out. 

The extra wagons weren't going far and just over a mile further on, at Ruru, the empty flat was shunted off at the local sawmillers. I contented myself with getting a shot of their disused Andrew Barclay built 0-4-2ST (No718 of 1892). Some time later this loco was moved to Havelock and is now on display outside the local museum. 

Next stop was Te Kinga a mere one and a half miles further on. This time the sheep wagons were pushed back into the siding.

Standing nearby was the bush locomotive previously used by United Sawmills to take sawn timber the short distance from their mill to the rail siding. Sadly this lokey was scrapped.

Away again and we managed ten miles before being stopped at Inchbonnie: this time for a crossing with the railcar from Christchurch. 1232 and its train was held on the main while the railcar went through the loop.

From Inchbonnie it was a non stop run the remaining fourteen miles to Otira. The weather was again deteriorating though..........

: ......and by the time Otira was reached it was raining. J1232 was turned and then serviced, at the one engine shed, whilst J1208 shunted the yard. I'd run out of Kodachrome and was now using Agfa for the remainder of the trip.....not one of my better decisions. 

In what was now pouring rain J1208 sits at at platform with a van whilst J1232 comes round on the loop.

J1232 hooked onto the van and prepared to leave for Greymouth as an 'Engine & Van' service. J1208 would then follow as a light engine running tender first down to Jacksons. I'd already spoken to the crew on 1208 and had been given the OK to join them in the cab.

Once at Jacksons 1208 ran into the siding and attached to excess tonnage left by an earlier train. A short time later and J1212 arrived with train 776, took on water, then detached from its train and ran far enough up the main to allow 1208 plus tonnage to come out of the siding. 1208 backed down onto the train followed by 1212. This shot was taken as 1212's fireman climbs back aboard after coupling the two locos together. 

Although the working timetable blandly said 'An engine will assist No776 Jacksons to Otira'........what happened next would have to have been one of the most dramatic rail events to occur on a daily basis in New Zealand at that time. It would take some solid work from these two large engines to haul their train the ten uphill miles to Otira and then reverse it back into the flat of the goods yard. I'd like to show shots of what happened that evening at Jacksons and onto Otira but poor light and Agfa has beaten me..........suffice to say that from the fireman's seat of the second engine it was a phenomenal experience! 

After that it was time for a quick visit to the double storey 'tearooms' opposite the station followed by a pie and cuppa at the station refreshment rooms before joining the railcar home to Christchurch. 

The J class 4-8-2 were North British built in 1939 with makers numbers:

J1208 24531
J1212 24535
J1216 24539
J1232 24555

All four engines lasted until the end of steam on the West Coast and were written off in July 1969 about three months after these photos were taken.

Ab663 was built at the NZR Addington Workshops in 1917. It too was written off in July 1969 but then stored and used as a spare parts bank for the Kingston Flyer locomotives. It was purchased, minus tender, by Ian Welch in the 1980's, restored and today is operated by the Mainline Steam Heritage Trust (http://www.mainlinesteam.co.nz/).

Locomotive details were taken from the 'Register of New Zealand Steam Locomotives 1862 - 1971' by WG Lloyd and 'The New Zealand Railway Observer' Magazines of the period. My thanks to those who helped in identifying the two bush lokies.

Rob Dickinson

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