The International Steam Pages


Once upon a time, long ago,
A Little Loco goes a Long Way!

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.


Monday 26th and Tuesday 27th May 1969.

When I first met Ww480, in late 1967, she was based at Greymouth and being used on the eight mile long Rewanui branch. Sometimes she worked the miners passenger train, sometimes a mixed and other times a goods but always between Greymouth and Rewanui, (see the Back on the West Coast & Riding the Rails Part 1, 1969 tale of a month earlier.). During her lifetime though 480 had been around. In 'The NZR Steam Locomotive' by Sean Miller there's mention of her working the Rimutaka Incline during World War I, pictures of her at Wanganui circa 1914 and at Auckland in 1961. Finally in 1963 she was transferred from the North Island to Greymouth.

In late 1968 the Auckland based Railway Enthusiasts Society decided to purchase Ww480 for use on their proposed Glenbrook Vintage Railway. I would imagine it took a lot of planning and negotiations with the NZR but the OK was eventually given for 480 to work a railfan special all the way from Greymouth to Auckland: a distance of around 790 miles and taking seven days. Another two days were allowed for crossing Cook Strait.

It took two days for 480 to reach Christchurch and that night I went down to Linwood Loco to see if she had been left in a reasonable spot for photos. Sitting outside with nothing alongside on one side was fine by me: this exposure took 2 minutes at f2.8.

Mixing it with the big boys! On the other side of the Ww was Ja1248: 51.5 tons compared to 109. This shot was a 3 minute exposure.....just what the deciding factor was to make one photo 2 minutes and the next 3 I can't recall....most likely it was a case of guess and hope for the best! With film speed of either 25 or 64ASA it probably would make very little difference to the end result anyway.

Inside the shed was Ja1267 and one of the Linwood Loco coaling cranes. Cran Julian, who was working at the loco shed at the time, recalled: "......Linwood had two coaling cranes. The photo shows one has come into the loco shed for washout and running repairs and you can see the red 'do not move' sign attached to the crane. When locos received a washout, the sign was always attached as a precaution." This exposure was a mere 8 seconds.

Next morning 480 was heading north to Kaikoura and I was able to scrounge a ride in a friends car to chase the train part of the way. Little tank engines can't get very far without replenishing their water supply with the first top up coming at Kaiapoi only 13 miles from the days starting point.

At speed on a lovely little wooden trestle bridge near Amberley. I understand this structural gem was replaced by a concrete one some thirty years ago now. Train consist was a water tank wagon, three wagons of coal (pity about the orange tarpaulins , the older black ones would have fitted in better), two passenger cars and a van.

Big sky country as the train heads towards Waipara. 

North of Waipara the scenery wasn't dramatic.....just pleasantly rural with hills in the background.

Rattling through Spye......

The glorious weather didn't last though and by Mina, seventy five miles from Christchurch, it had made a definite turn for the worse. Mina was a small town country station, typical of the sixties, with a fair sized station building (now relocated to the Weka Pass Railway), crossing loop and wagons sitting in the goods shed siding. Local school children had come down to the station to see the steam train: possibly the first one some had ever seen as this section of line had been dieselised some years previously.

The southbound railcar was due in just after two to make a quick stop before continuing on to Christchurch. By now the children were lined up to climb into the cab of 480. How many of today's safety rules would have been broken by allowing them to leave the station platform, walk across three lines of track and now standing between the tracks? The Bedford school bus fits rather nicely into the scene and was very much part of the rural New Zealand scene back then.

The weather didn't improve as 480 headed further north that day....we chased the train a bit further north and then returned to Christchurch.

The New Zealand Railway Observer, No120 from Winter 1969, reported that Ww480 successfully reached Auckland the following Monday arriving exactly one minute early. It was the only steam train to run on the North Island Main Trunk in 1969 and its journey north set a precedent for others to follow. As they were no longer needed by the NZR a number of South Island engines found new owners in the North, steamed there on delivery runs and entered into the preservation era. 


Rob Dickinson

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