he International Steam Pages


Once upon a time, long ago,
Town and Around, Christchurch, New Zealand, 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.


There was still a reasonable amount of steam being used around Christchurch in May and June 1968. The diesels that would soon take over the majority of South Island workings had been arriving since the start of the year but so far had not made much of an impact on the local scene.

A couple of C class 2-6-2 could still be found shunting at Addington or elsewhere close to town. The Ab 4-6-2 were being used on local shunting services out to Kaiapoi and Templeton with occasional journeys further afield. The larger J & Ja 4-8-2 could be seen on anything heading south: shunts to Templeton, long distance goods trains and of course the South Island Limited Express. To complete the picture there were still four Kb 4-8-4 in service on the Midland Line: usually they only came down to Christchurch when repairs and washouts were needed but with a little bit of planning (and luck) you could be in the right place at the right time and catch one.

It was still possible to head out any time of day knowing you would be extremely unfortunate not to see steam. Of course a little bit of timetable knowledge helped as well! None of these shots are dramatic, scenic or exciting.......they're just the town and around steam scene as I managed to catch it back in the time of 'real steam' operations.

Heading north out of Christchurch the second station, Riccarton, was only three miles away. Early one morning and Ab718 waits in the crossing loop whilst working a No2 Kaiapoi Shunt.....whether it was about to shunt the station yard or cross another train I can't remember. Riccarton was always a neat and tidy little station though with a well cared for flower garden.

Another shot of the No2 Shunt. It could run to a sizable load but Ab780 seems to have everything under control with barely a wisp of steam visible.

On Saturday 18 May 1968 the local branch of the NZR&LS arranged for a C to work No2 Shunt with a carriage attached behind the loco. Still looking rather clean after its recent excursion to Cass two weeks previously. C864 has its fire attended to at Belfast before commencing shunting. If I remember correctly the load out of Christchurch was very close to, if not over, the limit and a diesel push from behind was needed to get under way. Once moving however the C put in a sterling, if somewhat slow, performance...... 

Even a Shunt could perform a photo run and 864 pushes back over the Waimakariri River to get into position.

While shunting Kaiapoi yard the C put on a great show storming across the Main North Road. Were those really the sort of cars we drove back in sixties New Zealand.......and how many kids have trikes these days?

My mate Cran Julian and I were out chasing train 147 in my father's car this particular morning: with my youthful style of driving we'd managed three shots since Islington and were aiming for a fourth at Rolleston; a distance of about seven miles on a gravel road. Travelling at speed a hard left entering Rolleston saw the car veer over onto the wrong side of the road, then back to the correct side, followed by a hard right (still at speed and with more veer) into the station yard. Heavy brake application and the two of us bailed out heading track side with cameras. Following sedately into the station yard came a big, old Jag....it stopped near our car and out got a Mr Plod! My memory now becomes a little hazy....well it was a long time ago and I don't want to admit to too much anyway.....but he allowed us to take our photos before getting down to business. Matters discussed were my style of driving followed by the lack of a Warrant of Fitness on my father's car. The upshot was I needed to get a warrant that day and then drive down to Burnham (18 miles from Christchurch) for it to be sighted by this country policeman if no further action was to be taken. And that's what happened....old style policing in action! Now if Cran has a different take on this tale then so be it.....and I may or may not pass it on, depending. The resultant photo at Rolleston, and representing the 4-8-2 wheel arrangement in this selection, shows J1217 leading a dead Dj1209 with a south bound goods train. In my defence 1217 had a fair turn of speed itself that day!

Early afternoon and Ab820 is just about to arrive at the main Christchurch yard with a returning No2 Shunt from Kaiapoi.

A few weeks ago, in my article about the Last Mixed Trains in Canterbury, I wrote: 'This was 17 June 1968 and the last time I saw 967 at work.....' At the time I thought this was correct but have since discovered I went out again that afternoon to catch 967 on its return working to Springfield. These next three shots are all Agfa rather than my preferred Kodakchrome so quality not quite so good regrettably. This first shot, taken from the platform at Christchurch station, sees 967 waiting in what looks to be an unusually empty yard before joining its train.

The Kb took half a dozen loaded wagons the few miles out to Middleton where tonnage was built up with empties destined for the West Coast mines. It then proceeded to blast its way out of town......it almost looks as if there was a third man in the cab that day, I wonder who the lucky guy was?

Engine details with help from 'Register of New Zealand Steam Locomotives 1862 - 1971' by WG Lloyd and 'The New Zealand Railway Observer' magazines of the time are:

Ab718 & 820 were products of the North British Locomotive Company (22848 & 23193) from 1921 and 1925 respectively. 780 was a local product built by the NZR (237) at their Addington Workshops in 1926. All three were written off in March 1969. One hundred and fifty two Ab class locos had been built with thirty being written off that month. That left a mere eleven on the books: such is progress...... 

C864 was built in 1931 by NZR Hillside (272) and officially written off some time between 26 May and 22 June 1968. Cran Julian writes: 'On 28th May C847 was on the Woolston Shunt while C864 was on Addington Shunt - last time there would be two C in steam out on shunts the same day at Christchurch. So surviving two C continued on the shunts with C864 in steam for last time in 1968 on 10th June 1968....' 864 wasn't prepared to go quietly to the scrap yard though as Cran recalls: '......C864 being used on a special passenger train to Methven on 21st June 1969. She was on the Addington Shunt on 10th, 11th and 12th June 1969 especially so any repairs required could be attended too.' Today C864 can be found at the Ferrymead Historic Park in Christchurch.

J1217 was built by North British (24540) in 1939. It was another casualty of March 1969 withdrawals.

Kb967, built by NZR Hillside (350) in 1939, was last steamed on 1 August 1968 and then written off in October of that year. 


Rob Dickinson

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