The International Steam Pages


Once upon a time, long ago,
Timaru in New Zealand's South Island, December 1968

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.


Paul and I headed south to Timaru on the Friday evening railcar from Christchurch. The plan was to spend the night getting sound tapes of the steam action and then return to Christchurch the next morning. I no longer have the tapes and I can't for the life of me remember how we got back to Christchurch the next day. The highlight of the night though was cab riding the express 25 miles south to Studholme and returning back to Timaru. Ja 1253 was a real rough riding rattletrap on the run south in the middle of the night but, on the return leg, I have no idea which Ja was in charge but it was certainly a lot smoother!

What I do have to remember this trip by are some rather pleasing shots of Ja's and the infrastructure that was all part of the railway scene back on the evening of 13 December 1968 and the following morning. Not a lot of smoke and steam but pleasing all the same.........

For the non New Zealanders, Timaru is 100 miles south of Christchurch on the South Island Main Trunk line. It was a major station and in steam days all goods trains changed engines and crews so there was a large yard and stabling point there. The Ja's were a 4-8-2 type, thirty five were built at Hillside Workshops Dunedin between 1946 and 1956, for service on the South Island Main Trunk and the Midland line as far west as Arthurs Pass. They were a modernised and modified version of the 1939 North British J class. 1245 & 1269 were withdrawn from service six months after these pictures were taken: 1247 lasted until November 1969. Ja 1240 and 1267 remained in use until steam finished on New Zealand Railways in 1971; both engines have since been preserved.


Northbound 144 express must have been running late as it crossed the railcar at Chertsey rather than the usual Rakaia. The express was stopped at the home signal while the tablet was taken from the railcar, put through the machine and then taken out again for the express. This allowed sufficient time to run down to the end of the crossing loop and get this shot of Ja 1267, in the evening light, restarting its train.

Another crossing: this time at Ealing with Ja 1269 on 136 goods. Again due to the time it takes to change tablets when crossings occur I was able to get a reasonable sort of picture. The railway house, the railway station, the Ja, the semaphore signal in the background, the railcar, the goods shed, crossing loop and siding..... is any of it left apart from the main line?

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Ja 1245 and 1247 waiting their next assignments outside the Timaru loco shed. The shed door, held open by a metal rod, obscures past of 1245's tender.

The next morning, just after sunrise, Ja 1245 waits to head north from Timaru. A young Paul Markholm chats with the level crossing keeper. We've both been awake for around twenty four hours now so the photo positions are pretty unimaginative! The Railways buses and the diesel shunter add to this scene from long ago.

Ja 1240 arrives at Timaru with a goods from Christchurch. In the background you can see the signal box and semaphores that were at the north end of the yard. The shunter could be telling the fireman about the 'idiots' taking photos...

... as here the driver seems to have come over to have a look.

Now the fireman is keeping an eye on us again!

Finally the loco is down at the shed and the job of servicing it begins.


Rob Dickinson

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