The Plains Vintage Railway & Historical Museum is a heritage railway and recreated historic village located inside the Tinwald Domain, Tinwald, New Zealand. The railway (operating as The Plains Railway) operates on approximately three kilometres of rural railway line that once formed part of the Mount Somers Branch. The entire village site and the railway are open regularly to the public, the railway operation utilises preserved and restored locomotives and rolling stock once used on New Zealand's national railway network while the village allows people to see how life was lived in New Zealand's pioneering past.
The Ashburton Railway & Preservation Society Inc. (AR&PS) was founded in 1971 by James and Samuel John French, a father and son with the goal of purchasing a section of the former Mt Somers Branch railway on which to run restored locomotives alongside preserving heritage farm machinery fast disappearing from the surrounding district. To meet the goal the AR&PS founded The Plains Vintage Railway & Historical Museum and began to acquire exhibits – of both railway, agricultural and other locally historical items – and to erect buildings for storage and display purposes. The museum also acquired three of its most significant buildings, namely the cottage, church and railway station, by relocating existing buildings to the site of The Plains Vintage Railway & Historical Museum.
K 88 in operation at The Plains Railway on 28 October 2013.
The K 88 Trust Board was formed on 23 May 1995 and ceased to exist on 3 November 2015. Their overarching goal was to restore and overhaul K's 88 and, perhaps, 94 to operating condition. It was a legal charitable trust along with The Friends of K 88 (a parallel support group).
The plan was to:
Lease K's 88 and 94 from the Ashburton Railway & Preservation Society
Construct a shed as a base and where 88 will be restored
On 10 April 1996 The locomotives were formally leased to the K 88 Trust from the Ashburton Railway & Preservation Society, the K 88 Trust Board had purchased the former AshburtonCountdown Supermarket in January 1996 for the restoration base for the locomotives and the trust as a whole.
Fundraising was well under-way before September 1996 and the first goal of restoring K 88 was achieved in 1997 with the construction of its new tender tank well under-way.
After being in storage for many years at The Plains Railway with a condemned boiler, K88 was leased to the Trust Board for restoration to working order. This restoration included a new boiler and tender tank. The 1903 belpaire boiler condemned on 24 September 1987 due to thinness in the firebox. The original tender tank was badly rusted out. Restoration commenced in 1997 with the new tender tank being built at Helmack Engineering in Ashburton. The tender tank was copied from its original tank. The building of the newly welded belpaire boiler was planned from the 1903 boiler. Funds were made for $100.000. The new boiler was built by Lyttelton Engineering Limited and cost $151.000. In December 1998 K 95's tender frame and bogies were recovered from the Branxholme locomotive dump in the Oreti River. K 88's original tender frame was badly bent and the bogies were ex-NZR wagon bogies. The building of the new boiler took a year and four months to complete. The boiler was fitted to the frame of K 88 on 1 July 2000 and the tender tank was fitted to the tender frame not long after. A new funnel was made by a local engineer. It was first steamed on 14 November in the same year. K 88 was recommisioned on 30 March 2002 where it showed off her new kaleidoscope that she had worn when she arrived in February 1878. Today K 88 is in active service at The Plains Railway and still is notable for hauling the first inter city express in New Zealand between Christchurch and Dunedin, being one of the original Kingston Flyer locomotives, the first ever locomotive in the world to be restored from a river bed and the oldest ex-NZR tender locomotive in New Zealand.
K 94's never re-commenced (even though its restoration commenced in April 1986 but was put off). Most parts that were in good order were used to replace parts in poor order on K 88. K 94 today sits behind the carriage shed at The Plains Vintage Railway & Historical Museum and is can be used for comparison purposes when compared with K 88 as it was recovered on 19 January 1974.
On the morning of 17 January 2015, the old workshop building burnt down after an arsonist set light to it. The fire destroyed most things contained within the shed (mainly tools, parts, nuts and bolts, boxes, potato equipment, etc.) with only few very of the contents able to be recovered. The fire was reported at around 5:00am that morning. Five fire engines and a water tanker attended the blaze to bring it under control. The fire was labelled suspicious and a Police investigation is ongoing. The locomotive shed alongside the workshop was damaged, but has been made safe with minor repairs to secure the building.
The Plains Railway came to world attention when a member of the Rogers K class, K 88, was recovered on 19 January 1974 from the Branxholme Locomotive Dump in the Oreti River in Southland. Transported by truck to The Plains Railway in July 1974 and restored to a fully operational condition on 27 November 1982. This has set a pattern other railway enthusiasts recovering a number of locomotives of various classes from where they were dumped including two other K's. One of them being K 94 was recovered by a private owner and transported by truck to The Plains Railway. Restoration commenced in April 1986 but was later cancelled. It is presently in storage in an unrestored condition and is used as a comparison as it vividly illustrates the condition in which K 88 was recovered and the work required to bring the locomotive to running condition. K 88 received a second restoration beginning in 1997 by the K 88 Trust Board. It was completed on 30 March 2002. The second restoration saw her receive a brand new Belpaire Boiler and tender tank.
The museum's rail rolling stock contains several historically important items. These are A 64 which is currently the second oldest operating steam locomotive in New Zealand; JA 1260 which was the last steam locomotive to haul the last night train out of Invercargill and the last steam locomotive to haul trains out of Christchurch; K 88Washington – which hauled the first inter city express in New Zealand between Christchurch and Dunedin, being one of the original Kingston Flyer locomotives, the first ever locomotive in the world to be restored from a river bed and the oldest ex-NZR tender locomotive in New Zealand; Vulcan RailcarRM 50 which holds the official New Zealand Railways speed record of 78 mph and TR 38 which is the first petrol locomotive in New Zealand.
Rail Heritage Trust of New Zealands F 163 "Ivanhoe" visited the railway in February 1979 for display in a festival, the locomotive did not run on the Railway.
K 92 from The Waimea Plains Railway Trust came to the railway in early 2004 where it regularly operated on their open days, including on several occasions with K 88 until 2007, when it was transferred to Oamaru Steam and Rail
Another RHTNZ locomotive, W 192 visited the railway on a number of occasions from 1992 to 2001.
Entered NZR service in on 1 January 1875 for branch line duties. Withdrawn in November 1890 and was sold to Canterbury Frozen Meats (CFM), Fairton. Replaced by a Ruston & Hornsby shunter No. 458956 in 1960 and kept as a stand-by locomotive until 1965 where it was donated to the Ashburton Steam and Model Engineers Club and displayed at the Tinwald Domain. In 1971 it was leased to the AR&PS for restoration. The A was the main workhorse from 25 November 1973 until the completion of the first restoration of K 88 and again once the K was out of service pending a new boiler. In 1988 the locomotive received new firebars and in October of the same year it participated in the Ferrymead 125 cavalcade. In 1991 it was removed from service for a 10-Year Overhaul to take place, during which some tubes were replaced. In the summer of 1997 A 64 was taken out of service for a second restoration where it was repainted into a pleasant green livery with the wooden side tanks (fitted while at CFM) replaced by steel round-ended tanks, the locomotive returned to service on 7 May 2000. In 2012 after K 88's 10-year boiler survey was completed A 64 was taken out of service and put through its first 10-year boiler inspection/general overhaul since re-entering service in 2000. It returned to service in time for the New Zealand Rail 150 celebrations on 26 October 2013, and as such was the oldest operating steam locomotive in the country for the event. From 24 September 2014 until 28 January 2015 it was placed on loan to the Canterbury Railway Society for operation on their Ferrymead Heritage Park until the restoration of their locomotive, F 13 was completed. It is now currently the second-oldest operating locomotive in New Zealand, after F 13 of the Canterbury Railway Society (built in 1872).
Entered NZR service in 1880 until 1958 when it was withdrawn. Stored until 1961 when it was moved and put on displayed at a park in Invercargill until 1974. Purchased by the Ocean Beach Railway (OBR) later that year it was kept in storage at the railway. In 1986 the OBR leased F 150 to The Plains Railway for eventual restoration. Restoration commenced in 1988, but however it was put aside for the restorations of A 64, K 88 and TR 119. There are currently no plans for restoration to re-commence at this stage.
Entered service in November 1952 for the NZR where it hauled passenger and freight trains until 1971 when it hauled the last steam hauled express out of Dunedin and hauled the last steam hauled express's out of Christchurch. In August of that year was withdrawn from service. Sold to the AR&PS on 10 May 1972 Ja 1260 was originally stored in Ashburton in the locomotive shed until such time as the AR&PS could take possession. In February 1973 where it was towed to The Plains Railway where it was returned to operational condition and used from December 1975. In September 1986 it was leased to the Weka Pass Railway until 1988 where it was returned to the Plains. In 1990 full restoration commenced. After a long hiatus restoration work began again in earnest in 2007, re-entering service on 25 April 2008. The Ja was removed from service in 2013 requiring new tubes and fire-bar replacement and returned to service in March 2018.
Entering service on 18 March 1878, K 88 is famous for having hauled the first 'Express Passenger' train between Christchurch and Dunedin on 6 September that year. In November 1926 K 88 was withdrawn and dumped in the Branxholme locomotive dump in the Oreti River on 5 June 1927. The locomotive was removed from the mud at Branxholme on 19 and 20 January 1974 and trucked to The Plains Railway in July that year. This is where restoration began by members at The Plains Railway led by the late Mr. Bob Anderson. It moved under its own power, for the first time since November 1926, on 7 November 1981 before re-entering service 27 November 1982. The K was used extensively in the filming of "Hanlon: In Defence of Minnie Dean" a TV mini-series filmed in 1984. The K was used to promote Monteiths Beer between May and October 1986 running extensively on the mainline around Christchurch and Dunedin and was again used on film January 1987 when it was hired for filming of the New Zealand film "Starlight Hotel". K 88's boiler, which was the boiler the locomotive was recovered from the Oreti River with, was condemned on 24 September 1987 removing the locomotive from service. The K was then stored until 1998 when the second restoration began with a construction of a new boiler and tender tank, the locomotive was re-commissioned on 30 March 2002. K 88's first 10-year boiler inspection of its new boiler took place on 19 May 2012, out of action for just a few months it was back in service on 14 September 2012.
Rogers Locomotive Works
21 April 1986
Entered service in December 1878. K 94 was withdrawn in November 1926 and dumped in the Branxholme locomotive dump in the Oreti River on 5 June the same year. Recovered privately and transported to The Plains Railway on 21 April 1986 for restoration. Work commenced by the late Mr. Bob Anderson, but ceased after his death and later the locomotives owners death. Stored in a partially dismantled state since with a number of parts removed for use on the other preserved K class locomotives.
Entered NZR service in December 1953 for shunting duties. Withdrawn in August 1982 and sold to the Ohai Railway Board, Ohai for shunting use for coal trains. Used until July 1989 when it was sold to the Oamaru Steam and Rail Restoration Society. Swapped for Hudswell Clarke built B 10 from the Pukeuri Alliance Freezing Works, Pukeuri in November the same year. Used there since then until the arrival of DSC 2067 in 2007. Purchased by the AR&PS in January 2014 and was transported to The Plains Railway on 4 April 2014. DSA 218 is now under short to mid-term restoration.
Entered service in 1938 as WW 4048 for the NZRs Ways and Works Department. Later it was reclassified TR 38. The TR was the first petrol locomotive in New Zealand. Withdrawn in 1974 and was purchased by the West Coast Historical and Mechanical Society and transported to the Shantytown Heritage Park. TR 38 was purchased by the AR&PS on 4 January 1982 and transported to The Plains Railway in February the same year. Whilst in an operable state, TR 38 awaits an engine overhaul.
Entered service in on 7 September 1961 to replace A 64 at the Canterbury Frozen Meats (now the Fairton Silver Fern Farms), Fairfield (now Fairton). The Ruston is now on long-term lease to The Plains Railway and sees use shunting light locomotives and rolling stock as well as regular use on work trains.
It entered service for the Department of Public Works in 1930, later transferred to the Smithfield Freezing Works in Timaru. Donated to the AR&PS in 1986 and was used for shunting purposes for many years until the arrival of the Price. Since arrival it has been reclassified as TR 12. It entered active restoration in early 2012.
The Price entered service in 1960 for Kempthorne Prosser & Co. of Hornby, Christchurch for shunting their private sidings. Sold to the Weka Pass Railway in 1985 and later sold to the AR&PS in August 1995. It arrived on 12 September the same month and restoration commenced in the same month. Restoration was completed in 1996 and was repainted into the Midland Red liver and reclassified as TR 119. In 1997 the TR won the annual A & G Price restoration award. TR 119 now see use shunting JA 1260 and other rolling stock, as well as semi-regular use on works trains.
Entered NZR service in October 1940. RM 50 achieved a speed of 125.5 km/h (78 mph) on a section of the Midland Line east of Springfield on 25 the same month. This remains the fastest speed officially attained on New Zealands railway network. RM 50 was involved in a runaway in the Otira Tunnel on 23 April 1957 alongside RM 58 which left both units damaged in the resulting derailment and lead to alterations of the railcars including the fitting of a second air compressor. Taken out of service in July 1978 and written off in September 1978 RM 50 was sold to The Ashburton Railway & Preservation Society in February 1979 – it arrived at The Plains Railway the next month. It sees regular use in the summer months.
Spare power bogies, frames and engines for the railcar are currently in outside storage.
Entered NZR service on 21 June 1913. Withdrawn on 20 June 1970. It took part in the Hanlon: In Defence of Minnie Dean TV mini-series in 1984. It participated in the Ferrymead 125 celebration being used on shuttle trains from Christchurch to Rangiora. It was repaired and repainted in the "Midland Red" livery in October 2004.
NZR Addington Workshops
43' 9" wooden body, passenger coach
2 December 1988
Entered NZR service in 1900. Withdrawn on 26 June 1954. Kept on a farm in Mount Somers. Stored outside bogie less until 2018 moved under-cover.
NZR Addington Workshops
47' 6" wooden body, passenger coach
Entered service in 1903. Withdrawn on 15 October 1955 and kept on a private property. In outside storage.
NZR Addington Workshops
47' 6" wooden body, passenger coach
Entered NZR service on 13 November 1915. Withdrawn on 18 June 1977 and was originally allocated to Invercargill. It was also used in the Hanlon: In Defence of Minnie Dean TV mini-series in 1984. It also participated in the Ferrymead 125 celebration being used on shuttle trains from Christchurch to Rangiora. In 1991 it was repainted in a lighter shade of red and was repaired and again repainted in 2002 in the "Midland Red" livery.
Entered NZR service on 10 October 1908. Worked in the North Island until July 1950 when it was moved to the South Island. Purchased by the AR&PS on 22 February 1974. Withdrawn on 30 March 1974. Used occasionally prior to withdrawal from active service and being placed into storage. Restoration commenced in 1988, but was later cancelled due to other projects. Although it was repainted in a protective coat of dull red/brown 'roof paint' to seal the timber from moisture. Active restoration commenced on 17 September 2008.
Entered NZR service in March 1907. Withdrawn on 10 November 1979. In 1984, F 322 was restored and repainted. Also in that year it was used in the Hanlon: In Defence of Minnie Dean TV mini-series. It participated in the Ferrymead 125 being used on shuttle trains from Christchurch to Rangiora.
Entered NZR service on 31 March 1931. Withdrawn in 1988. Scrapped due to an arson attack in April 2007 whilst under restoration. Its frame and bogies are now stored and used for a supply of parts. Formerly owned by the Ocean Beach Railway, and then privately, the van has since fallen into the ownership of the AR&PS.
Entered NZR service prior to the 1890 renumbering program as an N class wagon, it was renumbered as N 212 in 1890. Reclassified and renumbered as E 852 on 8 January 1938 when it was fitted with the tank it now carries. Withdrawn on 9 November 1974 and sold to The Plains not long after. It worked as a water supply for the neighbouring farm paddocks and as a platform for tree pruning until the 1990s. In January 2011 restoration work started for The Plains Railway's 40th Anniversary. E 852 is now back in service and sees occasional use on public running days. Won the 2012 FRONZ Goods or Service Vehicle Restoration Award.
Entered NZR service on 18 July 1970. Renumbered as UCT 170 in 1978. Used for the transportation of Tallow. UCT 1603 is the only one of its class to be preserved, sees occasional use on public running days. Owned by the Rail Heritage Trust of New Zealand.
2 October 2015
Entered NZR service on 31 March 1903. It received an A-Grade overhaul in May 1970 and its Westinghouse brakes overhauled in January 1973. Written off on 21 June 1975 and was sold to the Tinwald Ravensdown Fertilizer plant. Donated to the Plains in 2014, and arrived on site on 2 October a year later.
Entered NZR service in 1958. Renumbered as VS 898 in 1978. Withdrawn on 19 September 1979. Used for transportation of chilled meats. Arrived with spares for Vulcan RailcarRM 50. It is used also to store other locomotive and railway equipment parts.
Renumbered as YB 375. Withdrawn on 22 June 1985. Used for ballast trains, sees occasional use on public running days.
NZR Addington Workshops
Entered NZR service in May 1961. Renumbered as YC 2272 in 1978. Used for ballast trains, sees occasional use on public running days. Owned by the Rail Heritage Trust of New Zealand.
Formerly used by the NZ Electricity Department for their Islington siding.Purchased by the Canterbury Railway Society, mid-1960s. On long-term loan to the AR&PS.
Originally constructed as crane 301 in 1911 the crane was written off as damaged in 1925. However, it was rebuilt and renumbered as 360 and was back in service in 1926 and seems to have spent most of its life at Invercargill. It is now awaiting restoration.
5 Ton Lift Steam Crane
Used by the Oamaru Harbour Board, sold to The Plains Railway and used for re-laying track and other lifting work. Retubed in 1990 and 1993. Now stored, out of service since the 1990s after part of the slewing gear became seized
The society has three tractions engines and one portable engine in their collection.
The traction engines consist of a 1/3 scale Burrell Traction Engine built by a local engineer the late Hughey Rainey, a McLaren NO. 1718 (owned by the Ashburton District Council) and a Marshall NO. 59534. In the past some AR&PS members have loaned their engines to the museum for extended periods, but these have since gone elsewhere.
Owned by Ashburton District Council. On long-term loan to the AR&PS. Used on open days and rallies. "The Mac", as the engine is commonly referred to as, is the only engine remaining in New Zealand to still be owned by the original purchaser – the Ashburton County Council (since renamed the Ashburton District Council).