The International Steam Pages


Once upon a time, long ago,
A Couple of Days on the Coast Part 1
24 & 25 February 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.


Steam was on the way out in New Zealand's South Island. To try and make the most of what was left two young, near penniless, Christchurch lads caught the early morning railcar (1.50am I think) to arrive in Greymouth just after 6 for an early start to two days rail fanning. The plan was to spent time around Greymouth getting photos of the comings and goings with forays elsewhere if the opportunity presented. 

By now all brass plates had been removed from the Coast engines (for safekeeping?) and replaced by painted numbers cab side and in some cases on the smokebox doors. There was no consistency with the smokebox door numbers though: some engines had numbers where the plates had been, others didn't. Similarly some engines that had never had a smokebox plate now had numbers painted there.

The first job on a Coast trip was usually to go to Rewanui and back on the miners passenger train that left soon after the railcar arrived. This took about two hours and we must have done that as my first photos were taken around 9 that morning.

A602 makes a big fuss as it staggers across the wooden Cobden bridge with a load of empties for the mine at Rapahoe. Bridge Number 1 seemed to have a permanent speed restriction on it but was made of stern stuff lasting just over 100 years before being replaced in 2006. Amazing when you consider that the original engines to use it would have been late nineteenth century ones, the A pictured here weighed in at 80 tons and in its final years the bridge had to support double headed diesels weighing a combined 164 tons.

Two North Island Rail fans, plus car, had joined us at the Cobden Bridge photo spot and offered a ride to Rapahoe following the train.....an offer not refused as the next four photos show! 
Well into its stride now the train approaches Camp, a station open for passenger traffic only. If I remember correctly the name Camp was written on the side of the road bridge that passed over the rail line but there was no track down to the railway, no station building and no platform!

The train has left the Rewanui line and is now on the 2 mile long Rapahoe Branch. Its load consists of empties to be filled with coal and one sheep wagon behind the loco. The 1952 Working Timetable said Rapahoe had a local goods siding, although no sheep or cattle yards, so presumably the sheep wagon was able to be loaded there.

Journey's end at Rapahoe.

Back in Greymouth, later that morning, and J1209 is seen arriving with 761 goods from Otira. Immediately behind the loco is a car-van. Although mixed trains on the Otira line had finished over a year ago the car-vans must still have been used although now solely as guards vans. In the days of the mixed train 761 was allowed to run with the car-van behind the engine for steam heating purposes so maybe this tradition was being maintained. On the left A423 waits for the J to pass by.

On the outskirts of Greymouth was Wharemoa seen here with Ab743 in charge of the afternoon goods bound for Ross. The station building is just behind the loco with a path and white guard rails leading down to it from the nearby road. There were still railcar services on this line so it was possible that the occasional passenger may have left or joined a train here.

The sun is almost directly into the camera as Ww480 leaves Greymouth with the evening 'office workers' service to Dunollie. The fireman has just collected the tablet, for the first stage of the journey, off the tablet winch which is now being wound back to the signal box to the right of the picture. On the second pole, behind the engine and above the signal, is the small wheel the winch ran around. Allowed 23 minutes for the five miles to Dunollie this train was not exactly a speedster!

Late afternoon and the evening glint sparkles off Ab704 as it enters Greymouth with train 834 from Ross.

That was Day 1 of our two day trip to the Coast. There was quite a reasonable (meaning cheap) bed and breakfast place overlooking the Greymouth station yard so that was the overnight accommodation with hopefully the front room for the best views.

The next morning looked as if it was going to be another beaut as the first rays of sun just manage to catch Ww678 as it storms away from Greymouth's Riverside station with the Miners' passenger service to Rewanui at 06.35.

Round the corner at the main station the sun still hadn't reached Ab704 as it waits to leave for Ross. In fact this scene looks positively wintry!

Shortly after the Ab had gone south it was back into the sun for a shot of J1212 leaving town. The Cobden bridge can just be seen in the background.

By now it would have been getting close to 8am and breakfast time at the B&B so I reckon that's where we would have headed for next.


Rob Dickinson

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