The International Steam Pages

Once upon a time, long ago,
A Sixth Look at New Zealandís Last Great Steam Train,
26 August 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. There are a series of pages on this train:

This week it's time to step back forty four years to some more 'real steam' and take another look at New Zealand's last great steam train. I won't use the terminology 'good old days' but, looking back over the years, the freedom we enjoyed then to wander around the railway and pursue our hobby was absolutely amazing. To illustrate this just consider what I got up to, on 26th August 1969, when traveling on 144 Express north from Invercargill to Christchurch. I got off at passenger stops to take photos, I got down at crossings for more photos, I crossed the tracks and all was well with the world......... 

The previous evening though I went down to Invercargill station for a shot of the Express on arrival. The platform lights and wagons in the yard made for an attractive time exposure. The shot after 143 arrived though was a dud.....not enough time.......the train drew to a halt, the loco was immediately uncoupled and then headed for the shed. The crew were in a hurry to get home!

Next day and Ja1258 takes water at Gore. Two things caught my eye in this scan: the precarious position the fireman has adopted up on the tender and the tablet sitting on the exchanger.

Ja1261 took over the train for the run from Dunedin to Oamaru. A stop was made at Waikouaiti to cross what is, despite the stock wagon in the consist, most likely to be the stone train.

Two more shots at Waikouaiti. An unusually clean engine for Dunedin, red carriages, a sunny retrospect this really was railfan heaven!

Refreshment stop at Palmerston, the passengers head for a cuppa, the loco crew enjoys the sun and I score another photo. To the left of 1261's headstock you can just see the Palmerston Loco shed in the background.

Katiki and 1261 was put in the loop to cross the southbound express. 1261 had arrived first so time for another photo as Ja1251 arrived and drew to a halt. With a crew change about to happen there was no great hurry.

Arrival at Oamaru and 1261's work for the day was done. For the ongoing journey over the plains the third loco of the day, Ja1246, will take over.

Studholme always seems to give an attractive photo....there just seems to be so much of interest there. The island platform with a curve on one side, the position of the station building and signal box, the overhead bridge and most importantly, for what was just a small country station, passengers off the train being met on the platform. Nothing like some human interest in a photo! 

With the afternoon shadows lengthening I now put the camera away and enjoyed the next three and a half hours of fast running onto Christchurch.

None of the four Ja pictured in this tale survived the demise of steam in New Zealand with all being written off in 1971 and doubtless cut up a short while later.


Shortly after this tale was first circulated I was contacted by Euan McQueen regarding my Studholme photo. Firstly though some additional information for readers who may not be familiar with the location: Studholme had been a railway junction up until 1966 when the branch to nearby Waimate, just over five miles away, closed. Passenger services on the branch had ceased as early as 1931 though and been replaced by buses which connected with the main line expresses: 143 and 144. 

Euan writes: In 1960-61 I was the relief driver for the NZ Railways Road Services bus (an elderly Bedford) which met 143 and 144 at Studholme.

To work from left to right of your photoÖ...the gate across from the main line led to the Stationmaster's house. Trevor Garland held the position then, and there were two traffic assistants as well. Studholme was a station open in signalling terms for all trains unless they were running on a train advice, which could happen on a Sunday.

The number of passengers in the photo was unusually high, though some of the people may have been meeters and greeters. Usually there were one or two going south on a Saturday (the day I did most of my relief work), and 143 would produce between a few and up to a dozen at Christmas. 144 was very quiet on a Saturday, but about the same numbers as 143 during the week. There was a lot of mail for Waimate though, about 6-8 trolleys on a normal Saturday and up to a dozen at Christmas. We had to make a heap on the platform often, load the bus, then go back to get the rest. Although the bus had a big boot, often mail was taken into the back of the seating area, and filled several rows. And there was passengerís luggage as well, usually a full load for one trolley.

The signal box was a great place to watch 143/144: when I was "off duty" I took some photos from there. The footbridge was not often used unless there was a train in the loop around the station, or the Waimate shunt was on the loop when 144 went past.

The stock wagons to the far right were held there for the occasional order. What could not be shown in the photo was the Waimate bus at the back of the station, along with the dog kennels and a men's toilet. The road access to the station was at the back of the building.

Rob Dickinson