The International Steam Pages

Once upon a time, long ago,
And then there was one.......We375

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.

30th August 1968

Before I get started with this tale a warning.....the quality of these shots is pretty poor even by my standards. They were taken using Kodacolor print film and then made into slides after which I managed to lose the negatives. When I first started scanning they came out as almost sepia with minimal colour but as my ability with the scanner and other tools on the computer improved so I've managed to get a reasonable amount of colour back into the shots......they still aren't marvellous but considering the rarity of the loco worth sharing.

There were only ever three We 4-6-4T locomotives and all were rebuilds from the Sharp Stewart built B 4-8-0 class. Two had been converted by the NZR in 1902 specifically for use on the Rimutaka Incline: one was then sent south to Greymouth to work the Rewanui Incline in 1913 with the other following in 1927. Both of these locos had been withdrawn from service by the time I became interested in railways in the mid sixties.

In 1943 a third Sharp Stewart B, with makers number 4510 from 1899, was converted by the NZR at their Hillside Workshops making the class three strong. This loco became We375 and in August 1968 was still hard at work on the Greymouth to Rewanui Branch. Sixty nine years young and still going strong!

It had been the usual start to a Coast trip: the railcar from Christchurch arriving Greymouth in time to catch the Miners Passenger train to Rewanui at 6.35am. Train engine that day back in 1968 was We375 and there's a fair chance I'd scrounged a cab ride on the way up.....on a cold, wet Greymouth morning there was nothing like a cab ride to help keep you warm or at least to keep one side warm.

By the time the train reached Dunollie, on the return journey, there was sufficient light for the first photo of the day. 375 and train are sitting in the loop waiting to cross the second Rewanui bound train of the day.

Hauled by an unknown Ww the second train has come to a halt just before the entrance to the loop.

The We then reversed back up the loop allowing the Ww to bring an empty wagon forward before shunting it back into the siding.

Greymouth was reached at 8.20am. Ten minutes were allowed for 375 to leave its train at the Riverside platform and collect wagons from the yard. In this shot the wagons are being pulled forward before being backed down onto the carriage and van to complete the Dunollie bound mixed due out at 08.30am.

With time to kill before the We arrived back at Greymouth a tour of the wooden trestle bridges over the Grey River was in order. I probably walked over the railway bridge and returned via the road bridge seen in the background. I believe the disused siding heading off to the right belonged to the Greymouth Harbour Board.

Just before 10.00am 375 returned with a loaded coal train plus van and carriage tagging along behind. The bridge over the Grey River has now been in use for seventy years and according to the 1952 Working Timetable all trains were restricted to ten miles an hour on it. With dieselisation much heavier trains would continue using the bridge until 2006 before it was finally replaced. A lifespan of 108 years: things were built to last back in 1898!

The fireman adds human interest to the shot as the train crosses the road and rolls down into the Riverside yard.

Rods down and smoke billowing from the funnel.......a fitting shot of the last time I saw 375 in steam. After this photo it was back to using Kodachrome!

According to the 'washouts book' at Greymouth We375 was last steamed on 13 January 1969. The loco was officially withdrawn from service in March, towed to Christchurch later that year and soon cut up. There was a discussion about 375 earlier this year on one of the Yahoo groups I belong to. It turns out the smokebox door was salvaged and is in storage at the Mainline Steam depot in Auckland....nothing else from the loco apparently, just the smokebox door. I wonder what the reasoning was in saving it all those years ago? 

Rob Dickinson