The International Steam Pages


Once upon a time, long ago,
The Last Mixed Trains in Canterbury 1967/68
162 Springfield to Christchurch Mixed - and its return working - 185 Christchurch to Springfield Mixed

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.


Sometime in 1968 the Railways District Traffic Manager at Christchurch announced that the passenger accommodation on 162 would be withdrawn and 185 cancelled altogether after December 14. Reasons given, in The New Zealand Railway Observer No118, were that 'over the past few years fewer and fewer passengers had used these trains and recent passenger counts had been in the twos and threes. To make the situation even more uneconomic the Christchurch - Springfield train had now been rendered unnecessary by dieselisation."

Any time I saw 185 in 1967/68 it consisted of a pair of guards vans, a carriage and sometimes a wagon to be shunted off at Sheffield. 162 was a better looking train though and, apart from the Monday service, it usually bought a full load down to Christchurch. I haven't managed to find any pictures of 185 in my collection but I did go out and chase 162 three times. Twice it was diesel on the front end but now those diesels are long gone themselves. So enjoy some NZR diesel nostalgia with Canterbury's Last Mixed Train.........plus there has to be a steam engine in there as well of course!

Monday was the only day of the week that Springfield supplied the loco for train 162; the rest of the week it was a Christchurch job. Now Springfield was home to the Kb class, and most of the time the only class of loco based there, so it was logical that there would be a Kb on 162 on Mondays, wasn't it? As it turned out this didn't always happen as the first two photos taken on a fine May morning in 1968 show.

Dg787 waits in the loop at Kirwee as classmates 785 & 751 roll past with the Mixed.

Later that morning and the train passes through Islington, an outer suburb of Christchurch. 162 was allowed exactly three hours to cover the forty four miles from Springfield to Christchurch with up to fifteen stops along the way to pick up or set down passengers if required. That's about 15 miles an hour or 24 kilometres an hour.....not exactly a speedster by anyone's imagination!

A month later I was back trying again for the Monday Kb. This time I was lucky with Kb967 doing the honours but the weather was shocking: extremely cold with a heavy mist which was only just starting to clear by the time Rolleston was reached. It's an interesting look at the Rolleston station facilities of the time though: a luggage & parcels trolley, a dogbox for passengers to wait in and another dogbox for the station staff. 

In the middle of winter the carriage was immediately behind the loco for steam heating purposes.

Pretending it's heading the Express, rather than a lowly Mixed, the Kb blasts out of Rolleston in fine style. Who can remember what 'Matinee' was?

Another fine performance from 967 as it pulls away from a station stop at Islington and heads past the Freezing Works Baguley shunter. This was 17 June 1968 and the last time I saw 967 at work.....it was last steamed on 1 August and then withdrawn from stock in October. 

A week before the passenger car was taken off 162 I went out again to try for some photos. By now the Midland Line had been fully dieselised so it was a surprise to see a steam loco in the trains consist even if it was a dead one. It had rained heavily earlier that morning but by the time the train reached Sandy Knolls it looked as if the rain was over. I didn't bother recording the numbers of the three Dg though as was more interested in the Ab.

162 slowly winds its way into the Christchurch goods yard. The steam loco is Ab723: North British built in 1922 it was written off in October 1968 and by December was already taking its final trip to the scrap merchants. 


Rob Dickinson

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