The International Steam Pages

Once upon a time, long ago,
A West Coast Miscellany
August 1968 - April 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.

Nice and simple this week as it's just a few photos from New Zealand's fabulous West Coast that haven't fitted elsewhere in my tales. There are no exciting steam scenes just basic everyday stuff from long ago. Look beyond the steam engines though at all the long gone infrastructure and relics of the steam age railway that we all once took for granted............ 

On 30th August 1968, J1212 worked train G44, the Greymouth to Christchurch relief express, as far as Otira. I covered the entire trip in an earlier posting but if you missed it then just click the link. 
Here the train has just drawn to a halt at a rather wet Otira. It's refreshment time for the passengers and 1212 will be replaced by three electric locos for the next part of the journey through the Otira tunnel to Arthurs Pass.

Parked out in the rain at Otira were four of the recently withdrawn Eo class electrics: from the right we have No 2, then 4, 5 & 6. There were only ever five built and the missing one, No 3, is today preserved in working order at the Ferrymead Historic Park.

This shot, again at Otira, was taken the following April: there's a J at the loco shed, another at the station and four Ea class electrics in a siding in the foreground. I passed through Otira in late 2013 and was surprised at just how little now remains of the railway and township.

On 25th February 1969 Ab816 worked train 835, the afternoon goods from Greymouth to Hokitika, seen here having just dropped off a cattle wagon at Arahura.

At short time later and 816 arrived at Hokitika and the start of a noisy shunt. On the right is Ab704 which has just arrived from Ross. After a crew change 704 will move its train into the yard and itself commence shunting. Spoilt for choice, with an Ab working both ends of the yard, I opted to record the sound rather than photograph and then over the ensuing years lost the tape!

At the southernmost extremity of the NZR on the West Coast was the small township of Ross. It's 8th April 1969 and Ab778 was in charge of the day's Greymouth to Ross and return goods. 778 has already run round the triangle and is now heading through the loco shed to collect 792 which it had moved to the end of the triangle.

Double headed Ab's on the Ross line? No such luck I'm afraid! Traffic was quiet that day and the morning Ross to Greymouth goods had been cancelled. That left a dead Ab792 in the Ross shed which was on one leg of the triangle. 778 needed to push 792 out of the way, turn on the triangle and then come through the shed again in order to drag 792 back into the shed.

The following morning saw Ab663, on a Work train, waiting to leave Greymouth. How this scene has changed!

A visit to Elmer Lane Loco and I was lucky enough to catch Ds210 and a dead Ww574 on the turntable.

All the steam locomotives pictured were written off between June and July 1969 when steam finally succumbed to diesel on the West Coast. Two were preserved: Ab663 belongs to the Mainline Steam Heritage Trust and is restored in working condition whilst as of early 2014 Ab778 faces an uncertain future as part of the ongoing Kingston Flyer debacle.

Rob Dickinson