NZR C class (1873)

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NZR C class (1873)
Silver Stream Railway - 2002-03-06.jpg
C class loco 132 on the Silver Stream Railway, 6 March 2002
Type and origin
Power typeSteam
BuilderDübs & Co. (6),
Neilson & Co. (10)
Serial numberDübs 800–804, 885,
Neilson 1764–1773
Build date1873–1875
Total produced16
 • WhyteOriginally 0-4-0ST
Rebuilt 0-4-2ST
Gauge3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm)
Driver dia.2 ft 6 in (0.762 m)
WheelbaseCoupled: 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m),
Total: 13 ft 0 in (3.96 m)
Length21 ft 2 34 in (6.47 m)
Adhesive weight14.20 long tons (14.43 t; 15.90 short tons)
Loco weight15.7 long tons (16.0 t; 17.6 short tons)
Fuel typeCoal
Fuel capacity0.45 long tons (0.46 t; 0.50 short tons)
Water cap300 imperial gallons (1,400 l; 360 US gal)
 • Firegrate area
7.3 sq ft (0.68 m2)
Boiler pressure120–140 lbf/in2 (0.83–0.97 MPa)
Heating surface392 sq ft (36.4 m2)
CylindersTwo, outside
Cylinder size9.5 in × 18 in (241 mm × 457 mm)
Performance figures
Tractive effort5,198 lbf (23.12 kN)
OperatorsNew Zealand Railways
LocaleAll of New Zealand
DispositionTwo preserved, remainder scrapped.

C class tank locomotives operated on New Zealand's national rail network during its infancy. They are sometimes referred to as the little C class or the original C class to distinguish them from the C class of 1930.


With the construction of a national network under Julius Vogel's "Great Public Works" scheme came the requirement of motive power. Train sizes at the time were small and terrain was difficult, so the C class was ordered, ten from Neilson and Company and six from Dübs and Company. The initial duties were to aid in the construction of lines, where the wheel arrangement of 0-4-0 and the light weight were a particular asset.

Once main lines were open, the class was utilized to haul general freight and passenger trains, but it was quickly superseded by new locomotives that were larger and more powerful, with greater coal and water capacity. The class was found to be unstable at speeds higher than 15 mph (24 km/h), and by 1880 all had been converted to 0-4-2 wheel arrangement.


The class was numbered between C 1 and C 577. Numbering was often illogical and locomotives changed numbers multiple times, partly because the railway network consisted of many isolated sections using different numbering schemes. As the class was used all around the country, from the Kumeu-Riverhead Section north of Auckland to the under-construction Seddonville Branch in Westland, they acquired a range of numbers. Sometimes a locomotive on one section would have the same number as a locomotive on another, or when a locomotive was transferred to a new section it received a new number in line with that section's numbering scheme. When standard nationwide numbering was introduced, numbers were modified again.

Withdrawal and preservation[edit]

By the commencement of the 20th century, some of the class, too small for the national network, had been sold to operators of private industrial lines. By the early 1920s all had been sold, and many gave decades of good service on industrial lines and bush tramways. Their small size was a considerable asset and C 132 survived long enough to be saved for preservation. It operated on the Silver Stream Railway until December 2008 when it was taken out of service for a major overhaul. Another C was recovered in 1993 from where it had been dumped in the Buller Gorge, Westland and is with the Westport Railway Preservation Society, whose goal is to return it to operating condition.

Class Roster[edit]

Key: In service On lease Out of service Preserved Overhaul or repair Scrapped
Builder Builders
number or
Dübs and Company 800 239 10-1875 1890 Auckland section C 51. Industrial use 1890-1936.
Dübs and Company 801 167 1915 Industrial use Ohai Railway Board 1915-1950
Dübs and Company 802 Westport C3 1887 Industrial use 1887-1961
Dübs and Company 803 Westport C2 1887 1887-1921 Westport Harbour Board, 1921-1925 NZR Maintenance Branch, 1925 Public Works Department No.549. Dumped at Te Kuha, 1929. Recovered 1995.
Dübs and Company 804 158 1920 Industrial use 1920-1933
Dübs and Company 885 132 1885 to Public Works Department No.512. Industrial use 1927-1971. Preserved at Silver Stream Railway
Neilson and Company 1764 Belmont 1882 Industrial use 1882-1926
Neilson and Company 1765 166 4-1874 1896 Industrial use 1896-1956
Neilson and Company 1766 148 1922 Renumbered 577 in 1912. Industrial use 1922-1953
Neilson and Company 1767 147 1915 Industrial use 1915-1930
Neilson and Company 1768 C5 1893 Industrial use 1893-1957
Neilson and Company 1769 168 1919
C class steam locomotive, New Zealand Railways number 168 (0-4-2T). ATLIB 276275.png
Industrial use 1919-1930
Neilson and Company 1770 C6 1888 Industrial use 1888-1960
Neilson and Company 1771 194 1893 To Public Works Department No.505, 1893-1945.
Neilson and Company 1772 Ahaura 1885 To Greymouth Harbour Board 1885-1940.
Neilson and Company 1773 53 1920 Industrial use 1920-1941. Scrapped at Finegand, 1955.


  • Heath, Eric, and Stott, Bob; Classic Steam Locomotives Of New Zealand, Grantham House, 1993

External links[edit]