The International Steam Pages

Once upon a time, long ago,
The Great Linwood Loco Line Up
Saturday 13 September 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.

Another very appropriate title for this tale could be 'Big Boys and their Big Toys' but we'll keep the title succinct and to the point. It was all so long ago my memories are a bit vague anyway but I think it all happened something like this.........

I'd got a phone call the previous evening, I know I wasn't expecting it, and I can't remember who called but the message was full of intrigue and certainly no further details were forthcoming. 'Come down to Linwood tomorrow morning at such and such a time. Bring your camera and don't let on to anyone else where you're off too.'

Meet up time must have been shortly after the Express headed south so most likely around nine. I can't recall who was there......probably only three or four plus Master of the Intrigue and Event Organiser, Cran Julian, who along with one of the Drivers intended to create a line up of steam locos the variety of which Linwood had probably never seen for many a long year if at all.

A Dj was used to position the steamers with the Driver at the controls, Cran was the shunter and for some reason I became the Loco Assistant.......well if truth be known all I did was sit in the LA's seat and keep a watch on my side of the consist to make sure no one got in the way. Even managed to push the vigilance button a couple of times!

It wasn't so long ago that this sort of photo would have been the Linwood norm with four different classes lined up.

And then there were five but I doubt if Greymouth loco We375, on the left, had ever been in steam at Christchurch.

The final line-up in all its glory. From the left we have:

  1. We375 was converted at Hillside in 1943 from Sharp Stewart B309 of 1899. 375 was written off in March 1969 and cut up soon after these photos were taken.

  2. C864 was built at Hillside in 1931, written off in May 1968, and now in storage at Ferrymead.

  3. Ab754 was built by North British in 1921. Although being written off in March 1969 it was still in use for steam heating duties and even as late as August 1969 assisted Ja1267 on an excursion to Waipara. Sadly though 754's final destination was the scrapyard.

  4. Another North British product: this time J1234 and the only locomotive actually in steam. The others have had oily rags lit and then thrown down their funnels to create the illusion. 1234 was one of the last steam locos to be written off lasting until the very end in November 1971. Today it is owned by Steam Incorporated and in storage.

  5. Kb968 was built in 1939 at Hillside, written off in March 1969 although used in June on an excursion to Arthur's Pass. Presently being restored by the Mainline Steam Heritage Trust at their depot in Christchurch.

  6. Wf403 was built at Hillside in 1907 and written off in July 1969 although I doubt if it had been used for some time prior. In this picture there seems to be a fire on the right of the engines funnel: the first oily rag must have missed the funnel and was happily burning alongside. Today 403 is under restoration by the Nelson Railway Society at Nelson: a city where the Wf class ruled supreme for many years until the railway's closure in 1955.

You could almost believe that the line-up, along with diesels, could be for real but from a different angle the lack of coal in the steamers' bunkers gives the game away and shows it's all just pretend!

The 'fires' have all gone out and only the wisp of steam from 1234 reminds that one engine was 'for real'.

And doesn't that one engine look magnificent!

Event over and the boys have to put their toys away! The lead engine is 1234, the rear 968 and the one in the middle.....I don't know.

Dj1244 pushes the two tank engines back to where they came from. It looks as if someone is riding in the We cab and others between the runner wagon and the steamers. Doubt if that would be possible today!

In the interests of accuracy I ran my tale past Cran last week and he expanded on my recollections: 'Those involved were top roster engine and railcar driver Ron Sinclair and myself. Ron and I had worked together for few days earlier in the week when the plan was hatched. The deal with Linwood Loco Dayshift Shed Driver Ted Bishop was we’d shunt the steam shed and outside tracks to his list requirements afterwards. The only local steam enthusiasts to know in advance was yourself and three others otherwise it was very hush hush.

It was certainly a big shunt before and afterwards to get the required classes together. Just a pity room wasn’t also available to incorporate other famous locos such as J1212 and Kb965. Work on cutting up 965 started on 22nd Sept 1969.

Well Cran yourself and Ron certainly organised a brilliant event, thank you......when can we do it again? 

Rob Dickinson