The International Steam Pages


Once upon a time, long ago,
Super Power on the Canterbury Plains

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.


After Springfield Loco Depot closed in June 1968 the two Kb's that were still operational spent the next few months running goods trains over the Canterbury Plains between Christchurch and Oamaru. Not since World War II had these 146 ton 4-8-4 locos been seen on a regular basis on the South Island Main Trunk (apart from the first fourteen miles between Christchurch and Rolleston).

Although scenically uninteresting it was good territory to chase trains by car with the main road being close to the rail line most of the way. On a Saturday morning in November 1968 two of us chased 224 goods the forty miles from Ashburton north to Rolleston. We had left Christchurch later than planned and were surprised to find the train still in Ashburton yard taking on water. An even bigger surprise was Kb 968 up front as this was usually a Ja job.

Due out of Ashburton at 07.05 224 was about half an hour late getting under way. The crew were obviously in a hurry to get home to Christchurch and turned on a spectacular show getting their heavy train under way. On the left is the empty loco shed: until recently home to two steamers but branch line closures and dieselisation had made it surplus to requirements.

The funnel talk continued as the train slowly drew closer making another photo essential. A Kb was allowed to haul 1000 tons on this section.....200 more than the Ja normally used. How close to the limit the train was I don't know but the sight certainly was impressive!

Still leaving Ashburton and still giving a fine display! This time on the outskirts of town and probably no more than a mile from where the first two pictures were taken.

A side on shot as the train continues its northbound progress.

Just a hint of steam as 968 rolls through Chertsey. There may have been a speed restriction in force causing the lack of funnel display. This section of line was tablet protected and the semaphore shows Chertsey is switched out.

With the regulator again open the big 4-8-4 crosses the Rakaia River. At just over a mile long this is the largest railway bridge in New Zealand. The Southern Alps can be seen, in the distance, between the river bed and the bridge.

Still steaming.....this time climbing the short grade near Bankside.

Taking the loop at Norwood: a typical country station with both goods shed and loading bank neither of which was likely to be getting much use by 1968. As 224 was running late we thought it was being looped to cross the south bound express but no, along came a diesel hauled train of empty carriages, and within a few minutes the Kb was out of the loop and on its way again.

The train finally enters Rolleston yard. On the right the Ja hauling the South Island Limited Express waits . Not scheduled to stop here it had obviously been delayed by the late running goods. Train 224 should have been well north of Rolleston on double track by now allowing the express an unhindered passage south. By the look of the smoke coming from the Ja's funnel I would suspect its crew were impatiently waiting to get under way.


Rob Dickinson

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