The International Steam Pages


Once upon a time, long ago,
Diesels in the Bay of Plenty
May - August 1971

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.


It's a popular misconception that the sun always shines on the Bay of Plenty in the North Island of New Zealand as these photos, taken on three separate occasions in 1971, show. Mind you it could be something to do with the fact my visits were in late autumn and winter.

Most New Zealand branch lines were built to open land up for farming or to access coal deposits. The Murupara Branch was different though as its main function was, and still is I think, the transport of logs from the Kaingaroa Forest to a pulp and paper mill at Kawerau just under sixty kilometres away. The line was also the last lengthy branch to be built in New Zealand opening as late as 1957.

Arriving at Murupara around lunchtime I found two Da class locos and a van alongside the goods shed. I'd always thought the line was solely for logs but there must have been some other traffic as you can see a La wagon in the goods shed.

After forty years I can't recall whether a secondary road ran alongside the railway all the way north from Murupara to Kawerau or just part of the way. I do remember that, although gravelled in parts, there was quite a lengthy section that seemed to comprise hardened mud which I wouldn't have fancied driving in wet weather. In these two photos, at Mangaone, though the road looks quite reasonable. When two Da are running together and both are short hood leading they make for quite an attractive photo. According to my NZ Railway and Tramway Atlas Mangaone is thought to have closed the following year.

There must have been an obvious and easy way to get to this position as I can't imagine myself being sufficiently enthusiastic about the diesels to 'bash' through the forest in the hope of getting something reasonable. Two things of interest in the shot are a four wheel wagon well back in the consist of what I thought was supposed to be an express goods and the trackbed of the old Matahina tramway on the right of the railway embankment.

The weather was much improved when I revisited the Bay in July and found Db1013 trundling along somewhere between Taneatua and Edgecumbe.

At the Auckland Farmers Freezing Co at Rangiuru I spotted this brightly painted little loco which, by the look of the paint pots on the right, the painters had just finished decorating. Apart from the location I'd written nothing on the slide but after scanning it I remembered a recent article in New Zealand Railfan Magazine (December 2011) on North Island industrial locomotives which helped me track some details down. Although looking very much like a steam engine it isn't a rebuild being built by JF Fowler & Co, England in 1928. It worked for AFFCO at Auckland until 1970 and then at Rangiuru until 1984 and today can be found at the Rotorua Ngongotaha Rail Trust.

Third visit and a gloomy August day found English Electric built Df1304 passing through Otamarakau with a goods bound for Taneatua.

Only ten of these elegant looking machines were built and I must have been sufficiently impressed with my first sighting as this shot was taken only a few kilometres further on in the vicinity of Pikowai.

Last but not least Df1304, later that afternoon, returning from Taneatua which can be seen in the background. Once regarded as part of the East Coast Main Trunk the track in front of the loco seems to have very much a branch line look about it. Taneatua's importance to the network had already been overshadowed by the Murupara Branch some years previously although I understand it lingered on for around another thirty years before closure.


Rob Dickinson

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