NZR A class (1873)

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New Zealand A class (1873)
NZR A67 Ocean Beach Railway.jpg
A67 at Ocean Beach Railway
Type and origin
Power typeSteam
BuilderDübs & Co. (12),
Yorkshire Engine Company (2)
Build date1873 (12), 1875 (2)
 • Whyte0-4-0T
Gauge3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm)
Driver dia.30 in (762 mm)
Wheelbase5 ft 7 in (1.70 m)
Length18 ft 0 in (5.49 m)
Loco weight11 long tons (11.2 t; 12.3 short tons)
Fuel typeCoal
Fuel capacity0.4 long tons (0.41 t)
Water cap330 imperial gallons (1,500 l; 400 US gal)
 • Firegrate area
4.2 sq ft (0.39 m2)
Boiler pressure120 psi (827 kPa)
Heating surface269 sq ft (25.0 m2)
CylindersTwo, outside
Cylinder size8 in × 15 in (203 mm × 381 mm)
Performance figures
Tractive effort3,072 lbf (13.7 kN)
OperatorsPublic Works Department, NZGR
Number in class14
LocaleNew Zealand
PreservedFour (62, 64, 66, 67)
DispositionFour preserved, ten scrapped

The NZR of A class of 1873 consisted of three types of similar specification but differing detail. The first and most numerous from Dubs and Yorkshire Engine Co., the next from the Wellington firm E.W. Mills Lion Foundry, and the last from the Scottish firm of Shanks. The specifications are for the Dubs/ Yorkshire engines.


The A class was the second class of steam locomotive (after 1872's F class) ordered to work on New Zealand's national railways. Initially ordered by the Public Works Department for use in the construction of lines in Cantebury and Taranaki, the A class was a small tank locomotive with a wheel arrangement of 0-4-0T. An initial twelve were constructed by Dübs & Co. in 1873 and two more were built in 1875 by Yorkshire Engine Company. They were not just used by the Public Works Department; the New Zealand Government Railways also utilised the class to operate revenue services on smaller branch lines. Quickly outmoded for use on the lines they helped build, only one (A62) remained in government service by 1905, used on the Piha Tramway and later on NZR's Stores Branch tram line at Piha. Their small size made them perfect for use on bush tramways and small private industrial sidings. Many members of the class survived for decades in private use, and although all are now retired from commercial service, four have survived to be preserved by railway enthusiasts and two of the four are currently in full operational condition. One of these preserved locomotives, A 67, was the first in a cavalcade of locomotives at the celebration of the hundredth birthday of the Dunedin Railway Station. [1]


A batch of A class engines, with differing external details was built at Wellington by E.W. Mills' Lion Foundry in 1873, for use on the Foxton Section.[2] These appear to be the first NZR locomotives actually built in the country. Like other so-called contractors engines they were quickly outmoded for line haulage and were sold to industrial operators. "Opossum" was sold in 1877 and served industrial and timber companies for eight decades. The other two were likewise sold by 1885.[3]


A further batch was built by Alexander Shanks and Company, of Arbroath, Scotland in 1876 on behalf of the Otago Provincial Council for construction work on the Riverton and Otautau lines in Southland. Both were sold by 1882 and one, Mouse spent the next four decades in the local timber industry. The other went to similar work in Westland.


The term "Dido", as applying to New Zealand shunting locomotives, can be traced back to the small A class. Crew members from the ship Dido, moored at Bluff Harbour, in May, 1875 were looking for a night on the town, while in port. They took a small 4-wheeled rail trolley, and taking turns, both rode and pushed the trolley into Invercargill. When the southern enginemen saw the first A class locomotive arrive for use as a shunter, the name "Dido" was given as a nickname because of its diminutive size. This size led British Journalist Charles Rous-Marten to describe them as "a most absurd dwarf". Today, the term "Dido" is used to describe any small shunter on the NZR network.[citation needed]

Class register[edit]

Key: In service On lease Out of service Preserved Overhaul or repair Scrapped
Road number Renumbered Name Builder Builder's number In service Withdrawn Notes
Kangaroo Alexander Shanks and Sons 1876 1878 Subsequent harbour board and forestry work on the West Coast. Abandoned Ruru in 1941.
Mouse Alexander Shanks and Sons 1876 1883 Subsequent forestry work in Southland. Last used at Aramoana in 1931.
Opossum E.W. Mills 1875 1878 Subsequent harbour and forestry work on the West Coast. Preserved, West Coast Historical and Mechanical Society.
Skunk E.W. Mills 1875 1882 Subsequent forestry work. Last used at Wanganui in 1918.
Wallaby E.W. Mills 1875 1885 Worked on Sanson Tramway until 1889.
43 21/192 Fox Dubs and Co. 646 1875 1889 Used on Sanson Tramway from 1889 to 1910.
44 22/215 Ferret Dubs and Co. 645 1875 1888 Kaihu Valley Railway from 1888 to 1893. Sold in 1896. Last used in Rotowaro in 1937.
60 193 Dubs and Co. 655 1875 1894 Industrial used from 1894 to 1934. Dieselised by Union Foundry. Preserved, Gisborne City Vintage Railway.
61 161/23 Dubs and Co. 650 1875 1904 Industrial use from 1904- to 1955.
62 196 Dubs and Co. 656 1 January 1875 3 February 1906 Non-revenue NZR service from 1906 to 1926. Preserved, Packard & Pioneer Museum, Whangarei, Whangarei.
63 237 Yorkshire Engine Company 256 1875 1891 Industrial use from 1891 to 1950. Dieselised after 1950.
64 Dubs and Co. 651 1 January 1875 1890 Industrial use from 1890 to 1960. Preserved, The Plains Railway.
65 Dubs and Co. 653 12 June 1875 1896 Industrial use from 1896 to 1936.
66 Dubs and Co. 648 1 February 1875 1904 Industrial use from 1904 to 1920. Preserved, Ocean Beach Railway. Currently on loan to the Waimea Plains Railway.
67 5 Dubs and Co. 647 2 February 1875 1896 Industrial use from 1890 to 1891 and 1896 to 1968. Preserved, Ocean Beach Railway.
68 Dubs and Co. 652 1 June 1875 1900 Industrial use from 1900 to 1929.
69 1/220 Dubs and Co. 654 1875 1891 Industrial use from 1891 to 1925.
70 Dubs and Co. 649 1875 1886 Industrial use from 1886 to 1925.
71 Yorkshire Engine Company 255 1875 1905 Industrial use from 1905 to 1930.


  1. ^ Stewart, W.W (1970). When Steam Was King. Wellington, NZ: AH&AW Reed. ISBN 0-589-00382-8.
  2. ^ The first of the three . . . The Evening Post page 2, 22 June 1875
  3. ^ Millar, Sean (2011). The NZR Steam Locomotive. NZR&LS.

External links[edit]