The International Steam Pages


Once upon a time, long ago,
Southern Sundays,
Dunedin & Invercargill in December 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.


Back in the sixties nothing much happened on the New Zealand Railways on Sundays. It was a good time to visit the loco sheds though as the inhabitants would be at home rather than out and about and usually a J or Ja would be in steam in preparation for running trains that evening.

The excursion to Lake Wakatipu had arrived back in Dunedin around midnight with some exhausted travellers on board. After a good night's sleep and feeling suitable refreshed it was off out to see what Dunedin could offer the rail fan tourist from Christchurch. Naturally enough the loco shed was of major interest............

It must have been late morning when we reached the shed as by the look of this picture the sun was well and truly up. This was the first time I'd seen Ab608 the class leader of New Zealand's most numerous steam locomotive. In the 1920s 608 was named "Passchendaele" in memory of the New Zealand railwaymen who lost their lives in World War I and carried memorial plaques for a number of years. Having been written off just over a year earlier 608 was a rusting hulk and certainly didn't look like a memorial locomotive at this stage of its life.

From the first of the Ab class to the last of the Ja. Bordered on either side by unidentified 4-6-2s and 4-8-2s is Ja1274 the last steam locomotive to be built for the NZGR.

On the left Ab793, then Ba552 and finally diesel shunter Dsc460. It was definitely a morning of firsts with Ba552 being the first Ba I'd seen. It was also the last of the class still in service not being written off until the middle of 1969.

Dunedin loco in the days of steam! I can spot twelve engines in this shot: either in entirety or just a glimpse. Of those I can only positively identify six....such was my record keeping ability at the time which even today hasn't improved overly much. On the left, on the one track, are Ab694, Bb626 and Bb633. The two Bb were the last of a thirty strong class when they were withdrawn from service in August 1968. The engine in steam is Ja1254, being prepared to run the express to Invercargill later that afternoon and then to the right of the car-van are Ab793 and Ba552.

According to the station clock it's 4.35pm and Ja1254 has just collected a roadsider wagon from the dock and was soon to attach it to the Invercargill bound express. On the main you can just make out the Vulcan railcar about to leave for Alexandra. The wooden carriages on the left remind that Dunedin once had a suburban train service whilst in the yard, in the background, are an interesting variety of carriages and wagons.

Minutes later Rm56 hurries past heading for Central Otago. There seem to be a reasonable number of passenger aboard the railcar this afternoon.

Final action photographed was Ja1254 heading away with train 427 the Sunday only Dunedin to Invercargill Express at 5.15pm. Mind you with three or possibly roadsiders tagging along behind the guards van it may be more accurate to call it the Dunedin to Invercargill Mixed! Still it was a typical train of the period.

Three weeks later I was back down south again this time at Invercargill. Early evening saw Ja1273 waiting to leave with train 190 the Friday and Sunday overnight express to Christchurch.

And then the off........

Hiding out the back of Invercargill Loco was a very derelict Wf433: written off in March it was still waiting its appointment with the scrap man's cutting torch. In the background are members of the newly arrived Dj class now responsible for practically all train workings in the South.

Of the ten steam engines identified in this 'Once upon a time....' three made it into preservation. Ab608 is presently being restored to running order by Steam Inc, Ba552 has been restored but is presently undergoing its ten year boiler survey and Ja1274 is on static display at Dunedin. 


Rob Dickinson

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