The International Steam Pages

Once upon a time, long ago,
The Seasider Mixed, Saturday 22nd March 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.

The New Zealand Railway Observer 120 from 1969 reported that: '....our Otago Branch used Ab693 at the head of an excursion from Dunedin to Palmerston and back. On the outward journey six four wheel wagons were added to the three open platform cars and van to simulate a mixed train of earlier days. This enjoyable excursion was planned at such short notice that it was impracticable to give it much prior publicity, but 54 enthusiasts nevertheless were able to take part.'

A group of us travelled from Christchurch down to Dunedin on the overnight express and after, most likely, a Railway Refreshment Room breakfast consisting of pie, sandwich and cuppa we headed off down to the loco shed.

There a very tired looking Ab693 was being prepared to work the excursion.

The first of many photo stops was at Blanket Bay. I'm not sure why the telegraph pole looms so large in the picture....was it an error on my part or an attempt at being artistic? Whatever the reason it's not an unpleasant feature in the shot.

The day alternated between sun and shade. Some of my photos are quite dreary but when the sun did make an appearance it would make all the difference. Here the train has just exited the soon to be daylighted Little MacGregor tunnel.

One of the highlights of the trip were stops at some of the more remote rural stations like Mihiwaka which boasted a very small platform and shelter. In the background, between the shelter and station, is the siding serving the cattle and sheep loading facilities.

Next station along, a mere 66 chains (1.4km) further on according to the 1952 Working Timetable, was the more substantial Purakanui.

Shortly after that a stop at the entrance to the Cliffs Tunnel.

The goods wagons were left behind at Palmerston and the train returned to Dunedin with the carriages and van only. On the climb to Seacliff the sun came out and stayed out for the next stop as well......

 .....which was taking water at Seacliff.

Addington built Ab693 was written off in March 1969 whether prior to or after the Seasider Mixed I'm not sure. The following month though it again ran a mixed excursion, this time to Middlemarch, and then on May 3 went out on the road one last time with a Balclutha bound mixed. Regrettably finances were tight and I was unable to go on either of those trips.


In the mid-1960s until their final demise in the 1970s the few remaining mixed trains, or goods with car attached, were very much anomalies from a bygone era. Those still running seemed to carry no passengers apart from an occasional rail fan so I was more than interested to receive the following from Euan McQueen. Euan tells of a time when a mixed was truly mixed and still being used by the travelling public... For non- Kiwis, Wikipedia states that "A crib in New Zealand is a small, often very modest holiday home or beach house."

I spring into print for the sheer pleasure of writing about the Dunedin- Palmerston services.

First, some background. My family is of Otago stock. In the 1930s my father built a crib at Karitane some 35km north of Dunedin. Neither of my parents ever owned or drove a car so all travel was by train to and from Dunedin. There was an earlier period when my father was teacher at Evansdale School when he variously caught the "Miner's train" from Dunedin early on Monday morning (the miners were heading for the Shag Point mine) or cycled over the Kilmog. He usually caught the train into town on Friday afternoon with his bike.

Then we moved to Wellington and from 1942 until the early 1950s we commuted to Karitane each summer.

We travelled from Wellington, using the Johnsonville train to Wellington, the Ferry to Lyttelton, the Boat Train (hauled off the wharf by two F locos), and after breakfast at the Christchurch station dining rooms we caught either the South Express to Palmerston or occasionally the relief express which stopped at Waikouaiti (and a lot of other places as well). We then took the afternoon mixed train from Oamaru (which followed the expresses south) to Merton (the station was then by the level crossing) where the local storekeeper met us and took us over to the crib. We lived at the Merton end of the township, had good views of the railway across the flats, and from the street frontage we could see and hear the trains taking a run at the Puketeraki bank.

Each holiday we went to Dunedin to see our many relatives. The morning mixed from Palmerston, always hauled by an A class loco, reached Merton at 7am. It was always on time. It was usually about half a dozen wagons, three or four carriages (less out of the holiday season) and the guards van. It was a through run to Dunedin, arriving about 0840, although on one occasion we stopped at Puketeraki to pick up a wagon containing fish for sale in Dunedin.

The train stopped at most of the many stations on the way. There were 17 stations between Palmerston and Sawyers Bay, five of them just shelters with no siding. Passenger traffic was moderate until Warrington, with lots of holiday cribs there, but really picked up after Waitati. Road access to the bays around Purakanui, and particularly Mihiwaka, was not good and if there was a car in the family father often had it in Dunedin for work....or left it behind and used the train.

There was not much goods traffic along the line except at Waikouaiti and Palmerston. Puketeraki handled fish and fertiliser for local farms, Merton had occasional loads of fertiliser though when the "Mental Hospital" was relocated from Seacliff to Cherry Farm, near Merton, coal for the hospital was steady traffic until it was moved to Waikouaiti station. Seacliff saw little traffic after the coal moved to Merton, Evansdale had the occasional wagon of coal for the dairy factory, Waitati loaded some livestock, as did Mihiwaka.

The homeward trip on a Friday was a passenger train of 6-8 carriages in mid-summer. The coast was a popular weekend spot with many beaches to choose from. The northbound trip through the Mihiwaka Tunnel was memorable; the old wooden carriages leaked smoke heavily even after the warning from regular passengers to "Shut the windows! The smoke entered in tune with the loco's exhaust. All windows were flung open as we emerged from the tunnel but then the train stopped at Mihiwaka and the carriages did not clear for some minutes after we moved on.

We sold the crib in the early 1950s. More cars became available then the trains were replaced by twinset railcars and by the 1960s buses or private cars looked after the customers.

It was truly a local service. Until 1946(?) when the forty hour week became the new standard working week there was a passenger train leaving Dunedin on Saturdays about 1220 for passengers along this route.

And if the crew saw someone running, the train waited.

Rob Dickinson