The International Steam Pages

Once upon a time, long ago,
Lurking at Linwood,
The Steamy Heart of the Railways at Christchurch

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.

The joys of sixties railfanning.....turn up at the loco shed, go to the office, ask permission to wander round (always given) and off you went. I can't ever remember being refused although I think it was customary to visit when the big brass weren't around with weekend and night being favored times. The rules, as learnt from my peers, were quite simple: look but don't climb on the locos, keep well clear of anything about to or on the move and act responsibly. There was also the blend in principle but that was a bit hard to follow if you were toting a camera and tripod. You were always aware that if you did something stupid yourself and others, by your actions, could be barred from the premises.

Sunday afternoons were a prime time to visit and there was always something different from your last visit. I never gave the surrounds and background much thought at the time, it was just something that was there, but looking at some of these photos now there can much of interest other than the locos.

Take this shot of Ab660 waiting cutting up on 24 November 1968 for instance. I would have been taken it as I hadn't seen the loco before and to help complete my collection. It was purely an engine shot with no thought given to any of the surrounds. Check out the large quantity of lighting up wood surrounding 660, then in the background the depot coal ramp with an empty wagon on it. There doesn't seem to be much coal underneath the ramp but then the days of steam were fast drawing to a close. Behind the coal ramp lies the Christchurch Gas Works for so long a part of the Christchurch scene.

It looks as if it had been raining in the previous photo and the rust on the rails in this one confirms it but by now the sun had come out. On the left is Ja1270 with smokebox door open with fire obviously lit and then Ja1253. A small amount of smoke seems to be coming from just behind 1253's headlight so there must have been a fire in her as well. The night express to Dunedin was due out at 10.55pm that evening so I presume one loco would run the train and the other would be the spare. Representing the future of the Railways are Dg785, now over ten years old, and two year old Di1104.

Linwood Loco faced west and on a sunny day, late in the afternoon, the light could be good. In this instance though it's just a shame the photographer didn't bother to remove the sheet of newspaper from the bottom right of the photo! From the right we have Ab692, J1227, Ja1269, Ab724 and Ab798.

Come 28th January 1969 it was two months closer to the end of steam but some of the Christchurch Ja's and Ab's were still in daily use. It only took eight seconds at f4 to capture Ja1266 resting between labours.

There wasn't quite as much light outside the shed and it took four minutes to take this shot of Ab798. Probably a minute too long but with the help of modern technology its become quite a presentable photo. With that length of exposure you lived in hope another nearby loco wouldn't move and cause the tripod to shudder. These days you can look at the digital result immediately and reshoot as necessary. In the sixties film was expensive, well on my income it was, and you never saw the result until sometimes weeks later when the film was developed.

I've looked closely at this shot and am sure Ja1247 is in steam. On an eight second exposure there seems to be just a slight heat haze coming from the chimney.

It's now a Friday night in August 1969 and J1234 simmers outside Linwood flanked on either side by diesels. The J would have either arrived off the northbound express or would be waiting to head off later that evening with the overnight express to Dunedin.

On the far right of the loco shed was a two road shed, joined to the main shed, where the six Ec electrics lived when not shuttling back and forwards between Christchurch and Lyttleton. First in line were Ec12 and Ec9 in a shed that looks as grimy and grubby as its steam counterpart.

Of the steam locos pictured Ab660 & 692 had already been withdrawn from service while J1227 and the other two Ab would be withdrawn in March 1969. Four of the Ja would also be withdrawn during 1969 although 1253 and J1234 would remain on the books until the final end of steam in 1971. It would soon all be over.......... 

Rob Dickinson