The International Steam Pages

Steam Holiday on North Island, New Zealand 2002

In October 2002, I accepted an invitation from John Raby to take advantage of his temporary posting to New Zealand to have a look at the steam scene there. Links to the various preservation scheme's web pages are given in my introductory notes. Not every site could be visited in the time available, I am sure the others would have proved equally interesting. Compared to UK preservation sites, I found those here to be relatively undeveloped, underfunded and undervisited. On the other hand, universally they still maintained the enthusiasm and friendliness to visitors that characterised the UK scene some years ago. Like my recent Java trip, this one embraced steam power in all its forms and hidden in here you will also find some strange 'steel on steel' vehicles.... The MOTAT pictures from John Raby were added on 12th December 2002.

There are separate pages on:

Steam Holiday on South Island, New Zealand 2002 

Mainline Steam on South Island, New Zealand 2002 

Mainline Steam on North Island, New Zealand 2002 

The Kingston Flyer 

See also for general information.

On 17th October, we returned to North Island. We had a few days to kill before meeting up with the Mainline Steam train which was no longer able to reach Gisborne owing to a landslip. So (18th October) we visited the attractive Coromandel Peninsular and to maintain railway interest spent an afternoon on the Driving Creek Railway,, a whacky 15 inch gauge line recently built to transport clay to a pottery and visitors round the hillside. The picture shows their articulated 'Snake' diesel multiple unit at one of the upper reverses - built in the best tradition of local bush railways!

The next day, we called in at the Waihi Goldfields Railway, a short section of the ex-main line which operates daily, alas mainly if not exclusively, with a 'heritage' diesel shunter...  Best steam action of the day was the geyser at Rotorua:

We stayed in Turangi where the attraction was a home-brew hotel, again it was a bit of a disappointment with bland fizzy beers. By now the Mainline Steam tour had reached Napier, there being relatively less active steam on the North Island so this was our focus for the next few days

On 21st October, we visited the Tokomaru Steam Museum which is some 20km south of Palmerston North. This has a short oval section of track which is operated on selected Sundays by an ex-Napier Harbour Fowler 0-4-0T. A Manning Wardle 0-4-0ST was also said to be serviceable and they also have a Climax and Price C in 'unrestored condition'. More impressive is their collection of nearly a dozen operable stationary steam engines (and more waiting their turn). 

Star of the show is a huge American engine built in 1906 for a meat chilling plant, the detail shows the Corliss valves on one of its compressors:

Among several Tangyes is this large two cylinder machine:

Also present are New Zealand's oldest steam engine (1868) and two steam rollers (a rare Marshall and an Aveling and Porter). See also their website -

Alternative steam interest at Wanganui centres on Paddle Steamer Waimarie which operates cruises on the river. While we were, there these were weekends only (daily later in the southern Summer), but you can get up-to-date information by visiting the web site link found broken on 27th October 2017, now or emailing

At Waitara, north of New Plymouth, we briefly visited (23rd October) the embryonic preservation site which will eventually operate the branch to Lepperton Junction/Sentry Hill, A workshop was being erected and there were pieces of 2/3 'river' locomotives on site. Early days!

After a day travelling up the deserted and scenic back roads of the west coast we popped into the Bush Tramway Club Railway near Huntly, This operates only on the first day of the month (April to December - not high Summer owing to fire risk). The F class looked serviceable, the Climax Cb was awaiting final boiler repairs and a Pecket 0-6-0ST was in pieces. All the other classic steam locos were 'unrestored'. Also on site is a large assortment of small diesels in states varying from derelict to running. The picture shows a Climax (right) and a Price derivative of it (left).

My final weekend was spent based in Auckland. On 26th October it was the first day of Glenbrook Vintage Railway's new season. This is by some way the 'premier' preserved operation in the country, attracting some 30,000 visitors a year. Ww 4-6-4T 480 was working the trains on a blustery day when the rushing clouds always seemed to appear at the same time as the train. The first picture shows 480 being coaled with a compressed air crane:

And then in action on the line:

Glenbrook's Mallet is now stored pending boiler repairs:

The steam tug William C. Daldy operates out of Devonport during the Summer season and is kept there normally: The following websites may help: and broken by 25th October 2016) 

On Sunday 27th October, we made the short journey north to the 15 inch gauge Whangaparaoa Steam Railway, a friendly family run affair catering for families every weekend, 2-4-4T Little Toot was in action as usual running round a loop in recreated bush country:

MOTAT in Auckland had no steam railway activity today, but one of their ex-Auckland trams was running: 

They have several working exhibits as well as a Baldwin steam tram which is used occasionally. (If you like trams there is a tram museum in Wellington too at Paekakriki.) During our brief visit, several of their stationary engines were working including this Tangye compound pumping engine:

This is John Raby's picture of MOTAT's tram engine running in November 2002. It started work in Sydney before coming to Wanganui from where it was recovered and restored. It needs a trailer! The flag celebrates the fact it was built by Baldwin.

This is John Raby's picture of MOTAT's L class in typical Auckland weather earlier in 2002.

Reservoir railways are very much 'history' in most parts of the world, but Auckland still has no less than three, all 2ft 0in gauge, diesel powered. Two of them offer trips to the public. The Waitekere Tramline Society runs trains most Sundays, but we travelled on the 'Rainforest Express' or email 5km to the Upper Nihotupu Dam through ten tunnels and nine bridges to a bring your own barbecue. Highly recommended with lots of glow worms in the tunnels on the return trip. Advanced booking is essential for both excursions. 

Auckland definitely has 'traffic problems' and is turning into an international city, but John's pad across the harbour in Devonport gave me a very civilised base. Elsewhere, I found North Island attractive, but nowhere near as laid back and relaxing as South Island. 

Click here for the Australasian Steam Page

Rob Dickinson