The International Steam Pages

Once upon a time, long ago,
West Coast Wanderings 1967/8

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.

Every so often there seem to be too many scans in my pictures folder and a tidy it up needs to be done. Usually I'll scan, adjust and email out within a couple of months but sometimes scans that haven't fitted into a previous tale will build up and that's when it's time for a Miscellany......or in this instance a 'Wanderings' from September 1967 & February 1968. Once done the pics folder looks a lot neater for a short time!

It's mid afternoon on a Friday in September 1967 and with shadows already lengthening Ab723 is heading towards Greymouth with another load of coal from Rapahoe.

A must on any Greymouth visit was Elmer Lane loco depot although on a Friday afternoon most of the residents were likely to be out earning a living. Ww679 was home though and made for an attractive side on and rods down shot.

In the late sixties most Kiwi trains ran on a Monday to Friday basis with the stragglers usually back home some time on Saturday. So any time Saturday or Sunday was a good time to visit loco sheds to catch the locals in and a return visit to Elmer Lane Saturday midday proved worthwhile. The largest roundhouse in the country was an eighteen staller and this shot has engines in nine. From the left are Ww679 & 480, then two J class, two Ab, another J, and then finishing with We375 and Ww672.

A closer look at three of the residents: J1232 in Stall 9, We375 in Stall 10 and in Stall 12 Ww672.

In February 1968 I was back on the Coast on a day visit to Otira. It was a Saturday and at this stage in my railfan career I didn't realise just how few trains there could be on Saturdays. I arrived on the railcar from Christchurch around 5am and until my homeward departure that night three railcars passed through, two steam trains arrived and left and the electrics made three return trips. In other words not much happened: for the first six hours only one railcar passed through and it wasn't until lunchtime that the action started.

I actually missed J1237 arriving with a late morning goods....very little sleep the previous night meant I was having a siesta in a van somewhere in the yard! I did manage this shot of it creeping around the triangle........

.......and then a short time later drifting out of town with a Greymouth bound freight. Some enthusiastic person at Greymouth must have decided that the smokebox plate details would look better highlighted in white paint rather than the usual unpolished brass.

One train into Otira and the electrics needed to run two trips up to Arthur's Pass to clear the tonnage. Early afternoon and Eo 4, 3 & 2 start their slow climb on the 1 in 33 to Arthur's Pass.

There must have been no tonnage waiting at Arthur's Pass as they returned as an 'engine and van only' service.

The sun was fast disappearing as J1210 made a very unimpressive entrance into Otira. The white paint artiste had done his thing on this loco as well although only highlighting the number this time. What drew my attention in this shot was the Otira township in the background. In 1968 it was a fully functioning railway town complete with families, houses, washing out drying on the very little remains.

Locomotive details taken from 'Register of New Zealand Steam Locomotives 1862 - 1971' by WG Lloyd and 'The New Zealand Railway Observer' magazines of the period are:

Ab 723 was North British built (No22860) in 1921, entered service in 1922 and written off in October 1968.

The three Ww class: 480, 672 & 679 were all built by New Zealand Railways at their Hillside Workshops in 1910, 1916 and 1919 respectively. Ww672 was written off three months after my photos were taken but the other two lasted until June 1969 and the end of steam on The Coast. Ww480 is preserved at the Glenbrook Vintage Railway outside of Auckland.

We375 was built as a B class 4-8-0 by Sharp Stewart (No4510) in 1899. It was rebuilt as a 4-6-4T in 1943 at Hillside Workshops and written off in March 1969.

J1210, 1232 & 1237 were North British built (No 24533, 24555, 24560) in 1939. All were written off in 1969: 1210 & 1237 in March and 1232 in July.

There were five Eo built by English Electric in 1922 for the eight mile section between Otira and Arthur's Pass. They were replaced later in 1968 by new electrics with Eo3 being preserved at the Ferrymead Railway in Christchurch 

Rob Dickinson