The International Steam Pages


Once upon a time, long ago,
The Glen Afton Branch, November 1971
North Island, New Zealand

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.


One of the earliest New Zealand Railway Observer magazines I got my hands on was No102 from the summer of 1964-65. The leading article was about this strange little branch line in the North Island: well it seemed strange to me back then as a fourteen year old who was only just becoming interested in railways and had very limited knowledge of the subject. It was the story of a nine mile branch, its passenger and coal services, the connecting mine railways and all illustrated with pictures of steam locomotives I'd never heard of before let alone seen.

The story must have had an impact on me as it was one of the first lines I visited after moving north in 1971. By then the steam engines had all gone and like all my diesel railfan activities in the North Island my visit was only fleeting.........

I can only think I must have followed the line by car to Glen Afton just to see what there was to see before bothering to take the camera out. When I scanned this photo I realised there was more of interest in it than just the station building but those other things are just tantalising and partial glimpses. For example in the background the little diesel must be the Price used by the Glen Afton Colleries but what of the bus parked alongside the goods shed and is there only one passenger carriage in the yard as my later pictures would suggest.

A very short goods train nears Glen Afton behind Db1006. The rail looks to be pretty light weight with a fair amount of vegetation in the ballast: in other words a typical branch line.

I must have then headed back down the line as I've written on this slide 'Db1001 leaving Rotowaro'. Certainly, by the look of the exhaust, the loco is working hard on what is a typical coal train of the era consisting solely of four wheel wagons.

A rural Waikato scene near Weavers Crossing as 1001 continues towards the main line junction at Huntley.

HUNTLY CHANGE FOR GLEN AFTON BRANCH. There used to be similar signs throughout New Zealand........I can recall them at Timaru for the Fairlie Branch and Rakaia for the Methven Branch but there were no passenger services on those lines by then. At least here a change could still be made although any intending passengers may have a long wait.

From the main line island platform an intending passenger could access the branch passenger service, which had its own platform on the branch, by the overhead bridge seen in the background. Db1001 is waiting to leave with train 268: the afternoon passenger service.

Totally dwarfed by the surrounding countryside the train climbs towards Glen Afton. There even seems to be a few passengers onboard.

Later that afternoon the return service, now including the carriage seen earlier at Glen Afton, trundles through Pukemiro Junction with Db1006 in charge.

And that was my sole visit to the Glen Afton Branch. The passenger service was discontinued in June the following year and the five miles beyond Rotowaro to Glen Afton closed in 1975. This section became home to the Bush Tramway Club (http://www.bushtramwayclub.com/) who run trains over a portion of the line. 


Rob Dickinson

Email: webmaster@internationalsteam.co.uk