NZR DF class (1954)

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New Zealand DF class (English Electric)
English Electric DF 1501 on display outside Sims-PMI in Otahuhu, Auckland. The locomotive has since moved to the Diesel Traction Group, Ferrymead Historic Park.
Type and origin
Power typeDiesel-electric
BuilderEnglish Electric, United Kingdom
Build date1954
 • AAR2-C+C-2
 • UIC(2'Co)(Co'2)
Gauge3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm)
Length18.7 metres (61 ft 4 in)
Adhesive weight73.4 tonnes (72.2 long tons; 80.9 short tons)
Loco weight110 tonnes (110 long tons; 120 short tons)
Prime moverEnglish Electric 12SVT Mk 2
RPM range750 - 850 rpm
Engine typeV12 Diesel engine
GeneratorEnglish Electric 828A
Traction motorsSix English Electric 525 / 2A
Cylinder size254 mm × 305 mm (10.0 in × 12.0 in)
Performance figures
Maximum speed97 km/h (60 mph)
Power output1,120 kW (1,500 hp)
Tractive effort180 kN (40,000 lbf)
Number in class10
Numbers1500 - 1509 (1954 to 1965)
1300 - 1309 (1965 to 1975)
LocaleNorth Island
First runJuly 1954
Last run21 June 1975
Disposition9 scrapped
1 preserved

The New Zealand DF class locomotive of 1954 was the first class of mainline diesel-electric locomotives built for New Zealand's national railway network, built by English Electric. It should not be confused with General Motors Electro-Motive Division DF class of 1979.


They had a wheel arrangement of (2'Co)(Co'2) under the UIC classification system, generated 1120 kW (1500 hp) of power, and could achieve a maximum speed of 97 km/h. They started the process of displacing steam motive power from main lines in New Zealand, but were soon displaced themselves by the DA class of 1955.

Initially, 31 DF locomotives were ordered, but this order was amended to ten DFs and 42 DG class locomotives,[1] which in appearance was essentially half a DF but with a similar Bulldog nose cab design. The DF locomotives were lighter than the later and slightly less powerful DAs and were used to haul freight trains on the North Auckland and East Coast Main Trunk lines in Northland and the Bay of Plenty from which the DAs were prohibited by dint of the higher axle loading of the DA class. Their axle loading was 12.2 tonnes (12.0 long tons; 13.4 short tons).[2]

The DF class were confined to the North Island, although they did all visit Dunedin for overhaul at Hillside Workshops. The locomotives did not run in service during their journeys to and from Hillside, instead being towed. They were allowed to move under their own power once there and haul transfer freight trains to and from Port Chalmers and Mosgiel as part of tests before returning to service.

On the arrival of the Phase III DAs in 1964, the DF class was renumbered from the 1500 series to the 1300 series in November 1965 in order to free up the 1500-series numbers for the new DAs.[3]


The DFs were unreliable and needed frequent repairs. This contributed to their short lifespan; withdrawal began in 1972 and the last, DF 1301, was withdrawn in June 1975. A plan to shift the whole fleet to the South Island to join their smaller but more versatile DG siblings was proposed. They were to operate on the hilly Dunedin to Oamaru section of the Main South Line but a new locomotive type was chosen in the DJ class.

Preserved locomotive[edit]

DF 1301, the first locomotive built, was placed on static display at Sim Pacific Metals Limited in Auckland, replacing K 900. As part of this it was renumbered to its original number of 1501, but with V-shaped nose stripes in place of the original wing-shaped ones. Initially displayed in the open, a limited shelter was built over the locomotive at a later date although this did not halt the progressive deterioration of the locomotive.

In 2007, the locomotive was purchased by the Federation of Rail Organisations of New Zealand who concluded an agreement with the Diesel Traction Group to have the locomotive moved to their premises for restoration. The first stage of this relocation took place in August 2008 when 1501 was re-railed, and then was towed to Westfield Depot for assessment. In January 2009, members of the Group accompanied the locomotive on a three-day 1,100km trip to Christchurch, from where it moved to their Ferrymead Railway base a few days later.

Class register[edit]

Key: In service On lease Out of service Preserved Overhaul or repair Scrapped
Number Introduced Withdrawn Status Notes
1500 March 1955 August 1972 Scrapped Originally DF 1510.
1501 July 1954 June 1975 Preserved Preserved, FRONZ. On loan to the Diesel Traction Group.
1502 August 1954 September 1972 Scrapped
1503 September 1954 January 1972 Scrapped
1504 October 1954 September 1972 Scrapped
1505 October 1954 September 1972 Scrapped
1506 November 1954 May 1974 Scrapped
1507 December 1954 January 1972 Scrapped
1508 December 1954 January 1972 Scrapped
1509 March 1955 May 1974 Scrapped

References and citations[edit]


  1. ^ "The DG class". New Zealand Railfan. Triple M Productions. 5 (4).
  2. ^ McClare, E.J. (1980). New Zealand Railway Diesels. Dunedin: Southern Press. p. 14.
  3. ^ "Df class of 1954". English Electric Railway Traction in New Zealand. Retrieved 14 April 2017.


  • "NZR Locomotives and Railcars 1973". T A McGavin. New Zealand Railway and Locomotive Society : Wellington, New Zealand : 1973.
  • "New Zealand Railway Diesels". E J McClare. Southern Press : Wellington, New Zealand.

External links[edit]