New Zealand DJ class locomotive

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New Zealand DJ class locomotive
DJ3107 on Taieri Gorge Railway 2.jpg
DJ3107 on the Taieri Gorge Railway.
Type and origin
Power typeDiesel-electric
BuilderMitsubishi Heavy Industries, Japan
Build date1968 - 1969
 • UICBo-Bo-Bo
Gauge3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm)
Length14.1 metres (46 ft 3 in)
Axle load10.66 tonnes (10.49 long tons; 11.75 short tons)
Adhesive weight64.0 tonnes (63.0 long tons; 70.5 short tons)
Loco weight64.0 tonnes (63.0 long tons; 70.5 short tons)
Prime moverCaterpillar D398TA (turbo-charged, aftercooled)
RPM range1300 rpm
Engine typeV12 Diesel engine
Traction motorsSix
Cylinder size159 mm × 203 mm (6.3 in × 8.0 in)
Performance figures
Maximum speed97 km/h (60 mph)
Power output672 kW (901 hp)
Tractive effort128 kN (29,000 lbf)
Number in class64
Numbers1200 - 1263 (original)
3009 - 3689 (TMS)
LocaleSouth Island
First run1968 - 1969
Retired1986 - 1991
Current ownerDunedin Railways (8)
Mainline Steam Heritage Trust (2)
Disposition55 scrapped
9 preserved

The New Zealand DJ class locomotive is a type of diesel-electric locomotive in service on the New Zealand rail network. The class were built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and introduced from 1968—1969 for the New Zealand Railways Department with a modernisation loan from the World Bank to replace steam locomotives in the South Island, where most of the class members worked most of their lives.

They are the second class of locomotive in New Zealand to utilise the Bo-Bo-Bo wheel arrangement, the other classes being the EW class and the EF class. In both cases, this wheel arrangement was used to provide a lower axle-load due to track conditions as well, particularly in the case of the DJs, a shorter wheelbase more suited to sharp curvature on secondary or tertiary routes.


Two DJ class locomotives in service for TGR.

With the ongoing dieselisation of the New Zealand rail network, NZR began looking at various options to replace steam in the South Island, which was ageing (other than later 1950-56 JA) and Hillside workshop found overhauling older locomotives too expensive and demanding on staff for steam to continue as the major locomotive power in the South the NZR AB class were 40–50 years old, with boilers 25–50 years old, less than 20 had been reboilered or fitted with improved G tenders, the J class, 30 years old and only 4 have been reboilered with spare or NI JA boilers and JA class locomotives, of which the first batch 15/35 Otago JAs, built, immediately post war and late 40s of sub standard light steel, were worn out. Only the 20 Southland and Canterbury batch JAs and 6 KB were in good condition by 1967. The new locomotives would need to be capable of both mainline running and also be light enough to work on secondary main lines, the West Coast system, west of Otira and the Christchurch- Picton line, which would not be upgraded before 1979 to support the 13-14 ton axle load of the DA/DC/DF class[1] and on weight-restricted branch lines, particularly in Otago and Southland. Speed of 62 mph and max axle load of 10.7 tons were specified

A World Bank modernisation grant was obtained in December 1965 for a four-year term to December 1969, allowing the Cabinet Works Committee in February 1966, to call tenders for 55 1000-1200 hp locomotives for the South Island, and 34 of 1400-1600 hp, to complete North Island dieselisation and also financed the earlier order of May/June 1965 for another 20 DA and 5 DI. The expectation was that either General Motors, Canada offering, either its NZ standard DA/DB G8ML model engine and carbody for both Island, or its new G18LC late 1960s model, which it recommended [2] in both power ranges or English Electric DI design, were favored. 5 of the DI design were running on NZR and were the prototype for the Feb 1967 tender specifications for South Island steam replacement. But the order was placed with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Japan for 55 Bo-Bo-Bo diesel-electric locomotives, ( Mitsubushi offering tenders 25-35% lower in cost than its main rivals,a unit cost of pounds 44,000 sterling, cf with GM 72,000,EE 70,000 and AEI 58,000 UK construction and 63,000 for Hybrid construction UK(24 loco) & Thames/Price AG(31 [3])) with a complex and very advanced Bo-Bo-Ac design with silicon rectifiers. Both GM and English Electric were shocked to lose the South Island engine contract and the British [4] accused Mitsubushi of dumping with ridiculous below costing of an advanced, complex and experimental design. The world bank, pressure to accept one of the low Japanese tenders,[5] was not out of any preference for specific manufacturers, but out of growing dissatisfaction, in Washington by the LBJ and later Nixon administrations for the use of the World Bank cheap development loans for infrastructure projects in advanced nations and the NZ Minister Finance Robert Muldoon clashed with US officials about New Zealand use of the World Bank,[6] the World bank therefore financed, only low tenders, which delivered locos fast ( EE DI ex Aus - was probably too slow) to complete conversion of NZR to diesels at the earliest date. Following further discussions,in which NZ Treasury and Foreign affairs, stressed the need, to simply order more DJs, rather than issue a new tender if the locomotives to be built within the time limit which the 1965-69 drawn World Bank loan had specified for delivery compliance (the ability to draw on the World Bank loans depended on the loco order being delivered, before the loan expiry time, not the date of order or its start),[7] and the fact it was known the World Bank would not extend the time limit, the order was extended to 64 locomotives,on 27 Nov 1967, delivered between 1968 and 1969 along with twelve DSA class and three DSB class shunting locomotives. On arrival, the new locomotives received the next available classification of DJ. The final cost of the DJ locomotives due not offer the cost advantage expected, and this was only partly due to inflation and differences in exchange rates. After delivery of all the DJ class, the cost of 69 DJ and DI was $10.204 million compared with $10.251 million for the 54 DA delivered on average 18 months earlier [8] They were the first locomotives in New Zealand to employ an AC/DC transmission, all previous diesel locomotive types had DC/DC transmissions. They were also turbocharged rather like an early 1980s F1 car, max, 1050 hp rating, only safe for 5 minutes an hour, with operation at 975 hp for an hour on, and 835 hp for the next hour, but it took expensive experience to appreciate, boost power levels of 800 hp plus, were not reliably sustainable, for all trip operation, such as the first passenger DJ express use on the 11hr run, summer SI Limited in 1969-70, when 2DJ pulled up to 14 cars. . The order for the DJ was in two batches, 55 on 1 August 1966 [9] and the second delayed order of 9 on 1 November 1967 [10] while consideration was made how best to complete dieselisation on the West coast which had the best hard coal and on the heavy Passenger and express services on the SIMT for which the DJ lacked power. The initial tender for the SI diesels, had attracted offers which included diesel hydraulics from the Mitsubushi itself as an alternative offer, Hitachi and the German Export company,[11] all three designs, variations essentially variations of BR Warship 42/43 design single engined, narrow gauged and single cab and without steam heat boiler to reduce from 82 tons to 64 tons and with similar Maybach engines and Mekhydro transmission or Man engines and Voith transmission. At the same weight power could easily have been doubled to the Warships 2200 hp to give 80 mph performance on the Southerner and much better hillclimbing than the French designed gas turbine train sets favoured for South Island expresses by the Minister of Railways Peter Gordon. Although the diesel hydraulic offers were 3 or the 4 lowest bid they rejected out of hand by the NZR staff who being dominated by electrical engines thought diesel hydraulics unsuitable for NZ. It had been intended to call full tenders for the last 9 engines in mid 1967, but Treasury suggested that the offer be restricted to Mitsubushi and the best 2 other DE offers to the first tender, but after unofficial discussion with World Bank staff, the last 9 were simply ordered direct from Mitsubushi because, the World Bank staff advised no other rail company would be able to deliver in the time and funding available for the remainder of the World Bank grant.[12]

Following arrival of the full order of the DJ class locomotives, steam freight ended on the East Coast in March 1969 and the West Coast in July 1969, but plans had to be made and a new train sets constructed to replace the South Island Limited and the reconstructed carriages and new cafe cars were not completed until October 1970, and even then the new 6 carriage sets offered only 186 seats compared with the 450-500 first and second class seats available on South Island limited, which is another reason the steam hauled express ran through 1969-70.. When the DJ class were ordered, no provision was made for train heating, which prevented the class from being used on the overnight 189/190 expresses, which was eventually provided with steam heat vans transferred from the North Island Night Limited when the Silver Star was delivered a year late in Nov 1971, a year late.

In service[edit]

The DJ class locomotives were designed as a versatile mixed-traffic diesel-electric locomotive capable of being used in main line service or on branch lines where their light axle loading of 10.66 tonnes gave them an advantage on lightly-laid lines over heavier types such as the DG class A1A-A1A and DI class Co-Co locomotives, which had been built for similar purposes. When working in multiple with these classes, it was common practice to have the DJ as the lead locomotive due to its superior cab conditions and visibility.

Following the introduction of the Southerner passenger train between Christchurch and Invercargill in 1970, the DJ class were chosen as the preferred locomotive for this train. Three locomotives were specifically repainted in a new blue livery dubbed 'Southerner Blue' to match the train, although it was not unusual to see a red DJ locomotive hauling the Southerner on occasion. With fewer stops the DJ on the lighter, 200 ton, 8 Southerner offered, slightly higher stop to start average speed than the steam JA SI Limited, with 47 mph average on 143, Ashburton to Timaru and more impressively, on 144 Ashburton to Christchurch. The most impressive passenger running of the DJ was undoubtedly on the Picton express, introduced to replace the 'Rangitara' steamer Lyttelton to Wellington ferry. The DJ cutting running times by more than an hour, on the steep route with three 1/35 grades in 1976-8 and hauling loads of up to 250 passengers on the last old fashioned, red baked 56 ft standard NZ express. Other passenger duties included the Christchurch - Greymouth passenger train, later rebranded as the TranzAlpine, following the end of railcar services in 1976.

Although soundly built, the locomotives were plagued initially by unreliability issues stemming from the Caterpillar D398 diesel engine which was overrated initially at 1050 hp, and unlikely to be reliable beyond 800-850 hp [13] the NZR, CME concluded the correct rating of the DJ 797 hp,[14] and it suffered from overheating problems, turbocharger blow outs [15] unavailability and maintenance cost excesses,and as an advanced, untested experimental design and NZR management, viewed it poorly, compared with the well tested DAs, which were hardly more expensive at actual landed, 1967 costs of 175,000 final unit cost, cf with the DJ $130,000 after currency movement, and NZR did not want to reengine the DJ with new Caterpillars and actually gained Labour Government approval in 1973 to reengine the DJ class with 1200 Hp EE Paxman Ventura,[16] diesels in 1975-78, this was not ultimately financed and the solution was to fit rectangular header tanks to the locomotives roofs above the radiator, down-rate the engines, and fit additional air intakes, nicknamed 'flyswatters' by enthusiasts due to their shape. These modifications, made in the late 1970s, made the DJ class more reasonably reliable. The greatest improvement offered by the DJ over the steam JA was in hillclimbing particularly on the Greymouth-Otira section and in moving heavy slow freight, but unlike the NI DA neither the DJ or earlier EE DG actually improved rail economics, cf with the 1950s JA.

Following arrival of more powerful locomotives such as the General Motors DF class and DX class locomotives in 1979 and 1988 respectively, the DJ class were cascaded to lesser duties on branch lines or as freight locomotives. Due to their multiple unit capabilities, the DJ class were regularly seen operating in multiple with members of the DG class, or less frequently with members of the DF, DI and DX classes. The class were also used in banker service on the West Coast, with at two locomotives at any time used to assist trains out of Reefton across the Reefton Saddle.

Although largely obsolete by this time, the DJ class received a stay of execution on the West Coast in the late 1980s following the introduction of the DC class locomotives. As the West Coast branch lines to Rapahoe and Ngakawau had not been upgraded with heavier rail to carry larger trains, the DC class were damaging the track, which precluded the use of heavier locomotives over these lines during the upgrading of these routes. Due to their light axle loading, no major track upgrades had been required to allow the DJ class to enter service in 1968, allowing these upgrades to be deferred for a greater period of time than may have been advisable.


DJ3044 in a decrepit state, stored at Mainline Steam, Parnell, before it was dismantled for spare parts in May 2011.

The first DJ class locomotive to be withdrawn from service were DJs 1205 and 1220, which were withdrawn in April 1973 after both were involved in a collision at Balclutha on 20 December 1972. The first mainstream withdrawals of the DJ class took place in September 1986 when DJs 3073, 3165, 3263, 3355, 3361, 3447, 3453 and 3608 were withdrawn from service; five of the locomotives were placed in storage in Invercargill. Withdrawals continued until the penultimate locomotive, DJ 3159, was withdrawn in July 1992. The last remaining locomotive, DJ 3096, was retained initially in storage and later as a working locomotive as part of the NZ Rail Ltd. Heritage Fleet.

In order to prolong the service life of the remaining locomotives as they were prepared for withdrawal, most of the DJ class locomotives had their top power notch made inoperable with the exception of DJ's 3009, 3015, 3021, 3038 and 3044, which were at the time being used to haul the Southerner. The last DJ-worked Southerner service took place in June 1990 although one final instance was recorded in February 1991 when a DJ hauled the train from Invercargill to Dunedin.

One locomotive, DJ 3303 (DJ 1229) was given a reprieve on withdrawal in March 1988 after it was sold to the Ohai Railway Board for use on their line between Wairio and Ohai. At the time the DJ was the largest industrial locomotive in New Zealand, and was repainted in the ORB's yellow livery as their NO 3. After NZ Rail Ltd. took over running of the ORB line in 1991, DJ 3303 was re-acquired by NZ Rail Ltd. and placed in storage before being sold for preservation to Mainline Steam. A small number of DJs were also moved to Upper Hutt for storage pending possible sale to other buyers, although most were later scrapped.


Eleven DJ class locomotives survived into preservation. Five were purchased by the Taieri Gorge Railway for use in tourist train service, while another four were purchased by Mainline Steam Trust. One unit each were kept by New Zealand Rail as a heritage locomotive or made available as a display locomotive.

Dunedin Railways purchased five DJ class locomotives in 1992 from New Zealand Rail in order to operate their trains to Pukerangi and Middlemarch. DJ's 3107, 3211, 3228, 3286 and 3424 (DJ's 1210, 1221, 1222, 1227, and 1240) were purchased in operational condition and are used to haul both the Taieri Gorge Limited and 'Seasider' trips from Dunedin to Pukerangi/Middlemarch and Palmerston respectively. All carry a modified blue scheme with two exceptions; DJ 3424 was repainted in NZR Carnation Red as DJ 1240 for the Dunedin Railway Station centenary in 2006, while DJ 3286 was repainted in the 'Southerner Blue' livery in 2010 as DJ 1227. Dj 1240 was repainted into the Southerner blue livery in 2006

New Zealand Rail Ltd. retained DJ 3096 (DJ 1209) as part of its Heritage Fleet in the 1990s. More latterly allocated to Whangarei to work the Dargaville Branch, DJ 3096 was sold to the Dunedin Railways by then national rail operator Toll Rail after forty years of service. It was overhauled and repainted in the 'Southerner Blue' livery as DJ 1209 and re-entered service in 2009. Following a major engine fire in April 2010, the locomotive was withdrawn from service and was overhauled again including the fitting of a new D398 engine block to replace the terminally-damaged original, before returning to service in 2011.

The Mainline Steam Heritage Trust purchased four DJ's in 1990-91. DJ's 3044 and 3580 (DJ's 1204 and 1254) were purchased as spare parts donors and were stored at MLST's Parnell depot, while DJ's 3292 and 3303 (DJ's 1228 and 1229) were purchased by Richard Head and Ian Welch respectively with the intention of having them returned to working order. With no intended use for the two Parnell locomotives, DJ 3580 was scrapped in the 1990s; DJ 3044 was removed from storage in May 2011 and was sold to the Taieri Gorge Railway after it was dismantled for spare parts.

DJ 3021 (DJ 1202) was withdrawn in April 1990 but was not scrapped. Instead, the locomotive's engine and electric equipment were removed and the locomotive was placed on static display at Ranfurly station on the former Central Otago Railway. It was later purchased by Dunedin Railways and road-hauled to storage in the Middlemarch goods shed, where it has been stored pending restoration. Despite missing the engine, electrical equipment and other parts, 3021 is the last DJ in the former NZ Rail blue livery as applied to the class in the 1980s.

Class register[edit]

Key: In service On lease Out of service Preserved Overhaul or repair Scrapped
Original no. TMS no. Introduced Withdrawn[n 1] Notes
DJ 1200 3009 January 1968 February 1988 Scrapped.
DJ 1201 3015 January 1968 December 1988 Scrapped.
DJ 1202 3021 January 1968 April 1990 Preserved, Dunedin Railways. Previously stored in the Middlemarch goods shed.[17] Now at Dunedin depot and may be restored.
DJ 1203 3038 January 1968 December 1988 Scrapped.
DJ 1204 3044 February 1968 April 1990 Scrapped, Mainline Steam. Some parts went to Taieri Gorge Railway
DJ 1205 February 1968 April 1973 Scrapped. Involved in a head-on collision at Balclutha, 20 December 1972.
DJ 1206 3050 February 1968 April 1988 Scrapped.
DJ 1207 3067 February 1968 July 1990 Scrapped.
DJ 1208 3073 February 1968 September 1986 Scrapped.
DJ 1209 3096 February 1968 February 2008 Preserved, Dunedin Railways. Mainline certified. Former NZ Rail/Tranz Rail heritage fleet.[18][n 2]
DJ 1210 3107 March 1968 March 1992 Preserved, Dunedin Railways. Mainline certified.
DJ 1211 3113 March 1968 May 1989 Scrapped.
DJ 1212 3136 March 1968 February 1990 Scrapped.
DJ 1213 3142 March 1968 May 1989 Scrapped.
DJ 1214 3159 March 1968 July 1992 Scrapped.
DJ 1215 3165 March 1968 September 1986 Scrapped.
DJ 1216 3171 April 1968 September 1989 Scrapped.
DJ 1217 3188 April 1968 September 1989 Scrapped.
DJ 1218 3194 April 1968 April 1990 Scrapped.
DJ 1219 3205 May 1968 February 1988 Scrapped.
DJ 1220 May 1968 May 1973 Scrapped. Involved in a head-on collision at Balclutha, 20 December 1972.
DJ 1221 3211 June 1968 March 1992 Preserved, Dunedin Railways. Mainline certified.
DJ 1222 3228 June 1968 March 1992 Preserved, Dunedin Railways. Mainline certified.
DJ 1223 3234 July 1968 February 1988 Scrapped.
DJ 1224 3240 July 1968 December 1988 Scrapped.
DJ 1225 3257 August 1968 May 1988 Scrapped.
DJ 1226 3263 August 1968 September 1986 Scrapped.
DJ 1227 3286 October 1968 July 1992 Preserved, Dunedin Railways. Mainline certified.
DJ 1228 3292 October 1968 March 1990 Preserved, Mainline Steam. Under restoration, Black and blue colours.
DJ 1229 3303 December 1968 March 1988 Preserved, Mainline Steam. Mainline certified. Black and blue colours.
DJ 1230 3326 December 1968 April 1990 Scrapped.
DJ 1231 3332 December 1968 February 1989 Scrapped.
DJ 1232 3349 December 1968 December 1988 Scrapped.
DJ 1233 3355 December 1968 September 1986 Scrapped.
DJ 1234 3361 December 1968 September 1986 Scrapped.
DJ 1235 3378 December 1968 February 1989 Scrapped.
DJ 1236 3384 December 1968 April 1988 Scrapped.
DJ 1237 3390 January 1969 March 1990 Scrapped.
DJ 1238 3401 January 1969 March 1988 Scrapped.
DJ 1239 3418 January 1969 March 1989 Scrapped.
DJ 1240 3424 January 1969 July 1992 Preserved, Dunedin Railways. Mainline certified.
DJ 1241 3430 January 1969 February 1988 Scrapped.
DJ 1242 3447 January 1969 September 1986 Scrapped.
DJ 1243 3453 January 1969 September 1986 Scrapped.
DJ 1244 3476 February 1969 September 1989 Scrapped.
DJ 1245 3482 February 1969 December 1988 Scrapped.
DJ 1246 3499 January 1969 September 1991 Scrapped.
DJ 1247 3516 February 1969 May 1989 Scrapped.
DJ 1248 3522 January 1969 September 1989 Scrapped.
DJ 1249 3539 January 1969 September 1989 Scrapped.
DJ 1250 3545 February 1969 April 1990 Scrapped.
DJ 1251 3551 February 1969 May 1989 Scrapped.
DJ 1252 3568 February 1969 April 1990 Scrapped.
DJ 1253 3574 February 1969 March 1988 Scrapped.
DJ 1254 3580 March 1969 April 1990 Scrapped, Mainline Steam.
DJ 1255 3597 March 1969 April 1988 Scrapped.
DJ 1256 3608 February 1969 September 1986 Scrapped.
DJ 1257 3614 April 1969 December 1988 Scrapped.
DJ 1258 3620 April 1969 September 1989 Scrapped.
DJ 1259 3637 April 1969 September 1989 Scrapped.
DJ 1260 3643 May 1969 September 1989 Scrapped.
DJ 1261 3666 April 1969 September 1991 Scrapped.
DJ 1262 3672 April 1969 February 1990 Scrapped.
DJ 1263 3689 May 1969 December 1988 Scrapped.



  1. ^ Withdrawn dates are from when the locomotive was withdrawn by NZR.
  2. ^ DJ 3096 was not withdrawn by NZR, and kept as part of its 'heritage fleet' and sold by Toll Rail in 2008 to TGR.[17]


  1. ^ Tony Hurst.'The North line' in NZ Railway Observer April- May 2018, Vol 75, no 1, p9
  2. ^ R.E Brace, General Motors(Agent) Upper Hutt, NZ correspondence with NZR General Manager, 24 May 1966 and 9 September 1966
  3. ^ NZR General Manager Gardner to Minister of Finance 16-August 1966
  4. ^ Modern Rail in December 1966
  5. ^ G.Alecock. Early Diesel Electric Dev and the origins of the DI and DJ in NZ Railway Observer Vol 74,No 6, Feb 2018 pp 226-8
  6. ^ B. Gustafson. His Way. A Biography of Robert Muldoon. AUP (2000) Auckland, p95-6, p 482 & M. Gavin & D. Rodrick. The World Bank in Historical Perspective in American Economic Review, May 1995, p329-334
  7. ^ Henry Lang,NZ Treasury CEO to NZR GM, 1967, note in Open, file re DJ class 67-9, National Archives, Wgtn, NZ
  8. ^ 24 April 1969 Amendment(3) to December 1965 loan agreement between NZR and World Bank. R D Mulddon and H. Lang. NZ Treasury Sec & NZ Railways loan agreement with World Bank Dec 1965. NZ Government Printer. Wellington (1966).
  9. ^ Acting NZR GM to International Bank for Reconstruction (World Bank)1-11-67
  10. ^ Acting NZ GM to World Bank 1-11-67
  11. ^ DJ files 1967 , NZ National Archives
  12. ^ NZ Treasury correspondence with NZR and NZ Treasury internal, nb re unofficial discussion with World Bank staff. DJ order files, 26–28 June 1967, NZ National Archives
  13. ^ J. Small GM NZR 4 April 1974
  14. ^ W.Watkins NZR, CME, 11 Nov 1969. National Archives,(DJ 1968-74) Wgtn
  15. ^ NZR CME 24-8-1971,DJ Files. NZ National Archives
  16. ^ J.Small, NZR GM Manager 4 April 1974, NZ National Archives. Wgtn
  17. ^ a b David Maciulaitis (24 June 2010). "Preserved Ex-NZ Railways Diesel & Diesel-Electric Locomotives". Retrieved 19 August 2010.
  18. ^ Otago Daily Times (20 August 2010). "Drivers uncouple flaming locomotive". Retrieved 21 August 2010.


  • "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.

External links[edit]