New Zealand DB class locomotive

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New Zealand DB/DBR class
DBR 1199 at Westfield.jpg
DBR 1199 at Westfield
Type and origin
Power type Diesel-electric
Builder General Motors Diesel Canada (builder)
Clyde Engineering, Australia (rebuilder)
Model EMD G8
Build date 1965–1966 (built)
1980–1982 (rebuilt)
UIC class A1A-A1A
Gauge 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm)
Length 14.0 m (45 ft 11 in)
Adhesive weight DB 47.0 t (46.3 long tons; 51.8 short tons)
DBR 46.0 t (45.3 long tons; 50.7 short tons)
Loco weight DB 69.0 t (67.9 long tons; 76.1 short tons)
DBR 68.0 t (66.9 long tons; 75.0 short tons)
Prime mover DB GM 8-567C
DBR GM 8-645C
Engine type V8 Diesel engine
Aspiration Roots-type supercharger
Displacement DB 74.33 litres (4,536 cu in)
DBR 84.56 litres (5,160 cu in)
Traction motors Four EMD D29
Cylinders 8
Cylinder size ? x ?
Performance figures
Maximum speed 100 km/h (62 mph)
Power output DBR 709 kW (951 hp)
Tractive effort 100 kN (22,000 lbf)
Number in class 17
Numbers DB 1000–1016 (original)
DB 1001–1180 (TMS)
DBR 1199–1295
First run DB 1965 – 1966
DBR 1980 – 1982
Last run DB 1986 – 1989
DBR 2002 - present
Disposition 1 DBR in service
7 DBRs stored
7 DBs and 2 DBRs scrapped

The New Zealand DB class and DBR class locomotive is a type of diesel-electric locomotive built for service on New Zealand's rail network. They were built by General Motors Diesel (GMD) of Canada as a narrow-gauge version of the EMD G8 model, with seventeen locomotives constructed. Ten of these were later rebuilt into the DBR class, of which only one is still in service today.


The DB class was introduced to the rail network in 1965-1966 as a result of a requirement for a modern locomotive that could operate on the North Island lines that the DA class was excluded from due to their weight and axle load. While these were mainly branch lines, it also applied to the East Coast Main Trunk line, particularly the section beyond Paeroa through the Karangahake and Athenree gorges, until the opening of the Kaimai Tunnel in 1978. The class was virtually indistinguishable externally from the DA class, being of the same basic design and dimensions, and wearing the same livery. They were some 13 tonnes lighter with a V8 prime as opposed to a V12, though they shared the same A1A-A1A wheel configuration and traction motors for commonality with the DA fleet.

Rebuild to DBR[edit]

DBR 1254 at Westfield

In the late 1970s the decision was undertaken to rebuild the DB class along similar lines to that being undertaken for the DA class into the DC class. However, as the rebuild was not as extensive and did not involve conversion into another GMD model the rebuilt DB units were designated as DBR (R = rebuild). The work was undertaken by Clyde Engineering in Australia and involved the lowering of the short hood to improve visibility for the driver, new cabs and the installation of a new EMD 8-645 engine. Ten units were rebuilt between 1980 and 1982.

In service[edit]

The DB class was employed primarily freight duties, though they did also see occasional service hauling passenger trains. As lines and bridges were upgraded, and in the case of the ECMT the Kaimai Tunnel opening, the weight advantage the locomotives had over other classes used in the North Island became less of a factor and the locomotives were operated as part of a general pool. The lightweight nature of the locomotives was called upon again however to operate some South Island lines following the withdrawal of the DI and DJ classes. The last DBR returned north from the South Island in 2008.[citation needed]


The remaining locomotives are all employed in the upper North Island. Two units were leased to Auckland Transport for suburban passenger services until 2014, with the remaining locomotives primarily employed in freight operations.

Auckland Transport[edit]

From 2006 to 2014 two locomotives were leased to the Auckland Regional Transport Authority and then its successor, Auckland Transport, with the services operated under contract by Transdev. The two locomotives, DBRs 1199 and 1254, are operated in a top and tail configuration with the five car SX carriage set, and wear the full MAXX Blue livery. A third unit, DBR 1226, is also painted in MAXX Blue but without the MAXX logo. DBR 1226 is usually used for freight services or work trains by KiwiRail, but was used as back up for DBR 1199 or DBR 1254 as it has the necessary modifications to work with the suburban carriages. The leases expired in 2014 and the locomotives returned to freight service.[1]

Wellington Bankers[edit]

For many years two DBR class locomotives formed the basis of a banker set out of Wellington, primarily assisting trains between Wellington and Paekakariki but also performing multiple other jobs including the Hutt Workshops shunt, work trains around the region and any unusual movements. DBRs 1199 and 1200 were the initial pair, becoming known as the "Bobsy Twins" (sp), likely a reference to the Bobbsey Twins due mainly to their consecutive numbers (a rarity under the TMS numbering system). In the early 2000s DBR 1199 suffered a failure and was withdrawn from service and laid up, replaced on the banker set by DBR 1267. DBR 1199 was later sent to Hillside for repair and use on the Auckland SX set commuter trains, by which time the pairing of DBRs 1200 and 1267 had become known simply as "The Twins". Following prolonged electrical trouble, in July 2013 DBR 1200 was taken out of service, and was replaced with other locomotives that were available.[citation needed] DBR 1267 was later transferred to Auckland to replace DBR 1282,[2] with the Wellington banking role taken over by other locomotives.


The class was initially numbered DB 1000 to DB 1016, this being in common with NZR practice of the time to number locomotive classes with reference to the power output. Upon the introduction of the computerised Traffic Management System the class was renumbered and the designation capitalised. The class received new four digit numbers beginning with 1, in which the last number is a check digit for the whole number. Under the new system DB 1001 retained its number, becoming DB 1001, with DB 1000 becoming DB 1018. The rest of class was renumbered in sequence, with DB 1016 becoming DB 1180. The units being rebuilt to DBR received a new TMS number in the 12XX range when they entered the rebuilding cycle. The exception to this was the first unit rebuilt, DB 1076, which retained its original designation for a number of years before being redesignated DBR and renumbered 1199.


The locomotives were delivered in the same overall deep red livery as the DA class, with the same white stripes along the sides and 'wings' on the ends. With the introduction of TMS the locomotives road numbers were applied in large white numbers to the long hoods. This livery was worn by many of the unrebuilt DBs until their retirement, while the DBRs were returned to service in the International Orange or "Fruit Salad" scheme (red and grey with yellow safety ends) being applied to most classes at the time. DBs 1082 and 1099 also received this livery in the 1980s.[3]

DBR 1295 was repainted into the Toll Rail "Corn Cob" scheme (yellow and green), and the three units used on Auckland services have received the MAXX Blue livery (deep blue and yellow). More recently DBR 1267 has received the KiwiRail grey, red and yellow scheme.


DBR 1267 at Whangarei

As of February 2017, 16 units have been withdrawn from service. All of the withdrawn units were withdrawn on account of being surplus to requirements or poor mechanical condition. All of the DB locomotives were withdrawn by February 1989. In 2002, DBRs 1199, 1239 and 1241 were withdrawn and placed into storage at Hutt Workshops. 1199 was returned to service a year later. 1239 and 1241 were scrapped in 2008 due to a tidy up of the storage yard at the workshops.

Withdrawals didn't begin again until October 2013, with 1200 being the first. 1213, 1267 and 1295 followed over the next few months. In February 2014, 1267, 1282 and 1295 were reinstated due to the DL class locomotives were taken out of service due to samples from one locomotive after tested positive for asbestos. Withdrawals began again in May of that year when 1282 was laid up. 1199, 1254, 1267 and 1295 have been laid since then.


According to KiwiRail, the DBR class was to be withdrawn by the end of 2015.[4] Despite this 1226 and 1267 lasted into 2017, with 1226 now being the remaining DBR in service.

Class register[edit]

Key: In service On lease Out of service Preserved Overhaul/Repair Scrapped
Original no. TMS no. Introduced Withdrawn Rebuilt to Current livery Status Allocated to Notes
DB 1000 DB 1018 June 1965 February 1989 Scrapped
DB 1001 DB 1001 May 1965 December 2013 DBR 1213 International Orange Withdrawn Stored at Hutt Workshops.
DB 1002 DB 1024 June 1965 May 1986 Scrapped
DB 1003 DB 1030 June 1965 2002 DBR 1239 Scrapped
DB 1004 DB 1047 May 1965 April 1988 Scrapped
DB 1005 DB 1053 October 1965 July 2015 DBR 1254 MAXX Blue Withdrawn Stored at Hutt Workshops
DB 1006 DB 1076 September 1965 April 2016 DBR 1199 MAXX Blue Withdrawn Stored at Hutt Workshops.
DB 1007 DB 1082 October 1965 February 1989 Scrapped
DB 1008 DB 1099 October 1965 February 1989 Scrapped
DB 1009 DB 1116 October 1965 February 2017 DBR 1267 KiwiRail Withdrawn Stored at Westfield Yard.
DB 1010 DB 1122 December 1965 DBR 1226 MAXX Blue In service North Island
DB 1011 DB 1139 December 1965 2002 DBR 1241 Scrapped
DB 1012 DB 1145 December 1965 May 1986 Scrapped
DB 1013 DB 1151 December 1965 August 2015 DBR 1295 Toll Rail ("Corn Cob") Withdrawn Stored at Hutt Workshops.
DB 1014 DB 1168 January 1966 July 2013 DBR 1200 International Orange Withdrawn Stored at Hutt Workshops.
DB 1015 DB 1174 January 1966 May 2014 DBR 1282 International Orange Withdrawn Stored at Hutt Workshops.
DB 1016 DB 1180 February 1966 February 1989 Scrapped


  • "NZR Locomotives and Railcars 1983". T A McGavin. New Zealand Railway and Locomotive Society : Wellington, New Zealand : 1983.
  • "New Zealand Railway Diesels". E J McClare. Southern Press : Wellington, New Zealand.
  • KiwiRail Locomotive and Rolling Stock Register 2011
  1. ^ "Railfan". 20 (4). Triple M Publications. September 2014. ISSN 1173-2229. 
  2. ^ "Railfan". 19 (2). Triple M Publications. March 2013. ISSN 1173-2229. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Current Status on DC/DFT Locomotives (Official Information Act request)". KiwiRail. 22 July 2015. Retrieved 28 July 2015.