he International Steam Pages


Once upon a time, long ago,
1968 NZ Railfans Reunion, Part 3

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.


Click here for 1968 NZ Railfans Reunion, Part 2.

Day 3: Sunday 14 April 1968

Today was branch line day! From Invercargill along the Kingston branch as far as Makarewa (8miles), then the Tuatapere branch to Thornbury (11 miles) before joining the Wairio branch for the trundle out to Wairio (23 miles) and back. Once the Tuatapere branch was regained at Thornbury there was another 37 miles to cover to Tuatapere before returning to Invercargill for the night. All up around 160 miles of branch line travel. All that's left of these three branches today is the line from Invercargill to Wairio, now called the Wairio Branch, and the section between Fairlight and Kingston used by the Kingston Flyer.

It was hoped to use an A for the first part of the day but, if I remember correctly, by the time of the tour Invercargill only had two remaining on the roster: one was under repair while the other was based at Clinton for use on the Tapanui Branch. So it was going to be another day with that New Zealand branch line mainstay the Ab class.....not that I was overly concerned as the Ab were always a firm favourite of mine.

The sun was shining in Invercargill and for the first photo stop but by the time the train reached the Oreti River conditions had deteriorated and we were back in the more accustomed gloom. Rivers crossed during the day were all handling large volumes of water as a result of the recent heavy rains.

I'm sure it was raining at Thornbury. Certainly I could see no striking shot so settled for one of the goods shed instead.......

Otautau and still an 'atmospheric' murk........ 

For the run out to Wairio and back to Thornbury Ab725 had been in charge. After that Ab778 took over for the remainder of the day and is seen here in brilliant sunshine during the lunch break at Riverton. It's a pleasing branch line scene......a freshly painted goods shed with wagon alongside, gangers trolleys in the foreground and of course the Ab.

I must have taken this at the end of the photo run judging by the wildlife jumping out from the undergrowth on the left! The line ran very close to the sea, seen above the loco, at Colac Bay.

I used to think I kept fairly good notes as to where I took my photos. ....on this occasion I didn't. Suffice to say these two were taken somewhere between Colac and Tuatapere and that will allow me around a 20 mile leeway!

To access the turntable at Tuatapere the loco had to run through the single loco engine shed, its usual overnight occupant having been left out in the yard for the weekend. 

Day 4: Monday 15 April 1968

The last day of the reunion was a Ja hauled jaunt up the South Island Main Trunk to Christchurch. The train left Invercargill an hour after the Express and even allowing for refreshments stops and a few photo stops along the way the very light load meant it was able to reach Christchurch just minutes after the Express.

At the Clinton refreshment stop the reunion train sits in the loop whilst the southbound railcar arrives at the platform. I would imagine, back in 1968, we just wandered across the main line and then climbed onto the platform to reach the refreshment rooms!

Locomotives featured in this writeup, with details being taken from 'Register of New Zealand Steam Locomotives 1862 - 1971' by WG Lloyd and The New Zealand Railway Observer Magazines of the period, are:

Ab725 was North British built in 1921, entered service in 1922 and was written off in March 1969.

Ab778 was Addington built in 1925. Observer 115 reports it was one of only three Ab to receive an A grade overhaul at Hillside in 1967. Sometime between the Railfans Reunion in 1968 and April 1969 778 found its way from Invercargill to Greymouth as I rode it down to Ross in April 69. The old girl must have then found her way back across the Southern Alps to Christchurch as, despite being written off in July 1969, she ran an enthusiast excursion to Arthur's Pass (Observer 122) in October 1969. The following month she was back in action again with an excursion to Methven (Observer 122) and another to Tinwald (Observer 125) in February 1970. Ab778 was definitely not going to go quietly and was rewarded by being chosen as one of the two locos for the Kingston Flyer Vintage Steam Train.

Ja1263 was Hillside built in 1953. It only had a lifespan of sixteen years being written off in July 1969.


Rob Dickinson

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