The International Steam Pages


Once upon a time, long ago,
The Double Headed Kb Excursion 
Christchurch to Arthurs Pass, July 1967

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.


This week another look at what must have been both a major railfan event and organiser headache: the double headed Kb excursion on Saturday 29th July 1967. I reckon it must have been the largest train ever arranged by the Canterbury Branch of the New Zealand Railway & Locomotive Society but the organisers did a great job and I'm sure those involved still look back with pride on their achievement to this day. I first wrote about this excursion some time back so won't repeat the four pictures used then. 

Kb968 and Ja1244 worked the train from Christchurch as far as Springfield. Another Kb had been failed the previous day and the Railways were unable to supply a second until Springfield. This shot shows the Kb and Ja combination soon after arrival at Springfield. Both drivers are looking back at one of the firemen signalling them to nudge back to uncouple from the train.

Shortly after, at the far end of Springfield yard, the two Kb make ready to back onto their train. Kb968 is separated from sister 969 by two runner wagons, necessary to help spread the weight for the next stage of the journey.

People were everywhere at the photo stops and not a hi-viz jacket was seen! Here a photo run on the Avoca Bank..... 

The two runners were left in the siding at Avoca and with 968 recoupled the train readied to leave again.

Clear skies and cold winter weather gave some glorious steam effects at the photo stops. This one along the Craigieburn straight.........

 .....and another leaving Cass. Even with a large number of photographers on the trip it was still possible to get people free shots.

More great stack talk crossing the Bealey bridge.

Once into Arthurs Pass a quick walk to the end of the yard caught Rm126 crossing Rough Creek with train 149 to Ross.

Back at the station and two railcars were at one platform and the excursion, in the background, on the other. I can't recall how both railcars got there though: I can only assume one ran through the loop on the far side of the excursion and then backed down into the platform. For the record the other railcar is Rm50 on 176 service from Ross (south of Greymouth) to Christchurch.

This trip was to be the last time 969 was ever in steam. Prior problems with the loco had not been reported and by the end of the day the damage had been compounded to such an extent it was found to be uneconomic to repair. Kb969 was withdrawn from service soon after. Kb968 was luckier though working on for a further two years and on being withdrawn was preserved for future generations. Now, over forty years later, she is being restored by Mainline Steam Heritage Trust and no doubt, some time in the future, will again be running excursions through the Southern Alps to Arthurs Pass. 


Rob Dickinson

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