NZR F class

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New Zealand F class
F class locomotive NZ.jpg
A P Godber Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library
Type and origin
Power typeSteam
BuilderNeilson & Co., Scotland (12); Dübs & Co., Scotland (21); Vulcan Foundry, England (5); Avonside Engine Co., England (26); Robert Stephenson and Company, England (12); Yorkshire Engine Company, England (11); Black, Hawthorn & Co, England (1)
Total produced88
 • Whyte0-6-0ST
Gauge3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm)
Driver dia.36 in (0.914 m)
Wheelbase10 ft 6 in (3.20 m)
Length23 ft 3 12 in (7.10 m)
Loco weight19.2 long tons (21.5 short tons; 19.5 t)
Fuel typeCoal
Fuel capacity0.95 long tons (1.06 short tons; 0.97 t)
Water cap350 imp gal (1,600 l; 420 US gal)
 • Firegrate area
9.5 sq ft (0.88 m2)
Boiler pressure130 psi (0.90 MPa)
Heating surface486 sq ft (45.2 m2)
CylindersTwo, outside
Cylinder size10.5 in × 18 in (267 mm × 457 mm)
Performance figures
Tractive effort5,733 lbf (25.50 kN)
NicknamesMeg Merrilies (F 180)

Rob Roy (F111) Peveril/Edie Ochiltree (F13)

Ada (F233)
Disposition15 preserved, remainder scrapped

The New Zealand F class was the first important class of steam locomotive built to operate on New Zealand's railway network after the national gauge of 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) was adopted. The first locomotives built for the new gauge railways were two E class double Fairlies for the Dunedin and Port Chalmers Railway. The F class was the first class ordered by the Central government, and between 1872 and 1888, a total of eighty-eight members of the class were constructed.


The F class was a tank locomotive with a wheel arrangement of 0-6-0. They operated essentially everywhere on New Zealand's railway network doing a variety of jobs. F class locomotives could haul light passenger trains at speeds up to 70 km/h (43 mph) or pull up to 800 tonnes of freight on flat trackage. Originally the design was meant for use on the Southland Railways, and three prototypes were built by Neilsons of Glasgow in 1872; among these was what would become F 13, now preserved at the Ferrymead Railway in Christchurch.

The engines were originally given names from the works of Sir Walter Scott by order of a Government official. Originally some had New Zealand names; for example F 36 (later F 13) was originally named Clutha, and later renamed Edie Ochiltree. Some were at times classified as the O class as these had Cartazzi axles, but by the nationwide renumbering of 1890 all were classified F. By this time none of the engines carried names any more.

In service[edit]

The F class had originally been conceived as a mainline mixed-traffic tank locomotive, and their capabilities exceeded the expectation of even Charles Rous-Martens, who wrote of having observed them in all manner of duties while in New Zealand. However, as time went on and lines were extended, it became clear that the F class could no longer keep running as it did on the mainline, and so larger engines were introduced, thus pushing the F class to branchline and shunting duties.

The class is unique in that it has been used on every line in New Zealand to be operated by the New Zealand Railways, and indeed, some operated by the Public Works Department. Several were also owned by the Westport Harbour Board, whose assets were later acquired by the NZR. In all, a total of 88 were acquired by the Government and by various private railways, notably the Westport Harbour Board and the Thames Valley & Rotorua Railway (TVRR).

However, not all of the 88 locomotives were in NZR service at one time. One locomotive, Neilson 1842, was sold to the Public Works Department before the nationwide numbering scheme of 1890 was implemented. Another twelve locomotives were rebuilt as FA class 0-6-2T tank locomotives. This ensured that only 75 engines of the type were in service with the NZR at any one time, given the length of the period over which NZR acquired these engines.[1]

By the 1940s, the F class were in retreat with the largest concentrations being on Christchurch, Invercargill, and Greymouth, where they were still used for shunting duties. The Christchurch locomotives were retained to shunt the Lyttelton wharves (their short wheel-base gave them a greater operational flexibility), while the Invercargill locomotives were retained as shunters and also to shunt a dairy factory siding at Edendale; here, a verandah beside the siding limited clearances and the F class were the only locomotives able to negotiate this siding without any trouble.[2]

From this period onwards, many of the locomotives were replaced with the arrival of the DS class 0-6-0DM diesel locomotives. The Invercargill locomotives were gone by the end of the 1950s, as were the two Greymouth examples, F 5 and F 277, which were dumped at Omoto, 2 km from Greymouth, along with other withdrawn locomotives and wagons in an attempt to control erosion of the railway embankment at Omoto by the Grey River.

The last allocation for the F class was at Lyttelton, where their short wheelbase allowed them to run over the sharp curves on the wharves. The last two in service, F 13 and F 163, were withdrawn in 1963. Prior to this, both locomotives were overhauled and repainted in an approximation of the green livery used in the 1870s and named Peveril (F 13) and Ivanhoe (F 163) respectively. After taking part in the NZR centenary celebrations at the Christchurch Railway Station in 1963, both were placed in the Arthur's Pass locomotive shed with W 192 for safekeeping. In 1968, NZR donated F 13 to the NZR&LS Canterbury Branch for their Ferrymead Railway, and it was steamed from Arthur's Pass to Christchurch with a special excursion train.

Industrial service[edit]

The F class was one of the most versatile locomotives in NZR service, and this was also true of these locomotives in industrial service. As larger and more powerful locomotives started to displace the F class from regular service, many were sold into industrial service, working at coal mines, sawmills, and freezing works. Following the withdrawal of F 13 and F 163 in 1963, one could still find a F class locomotive at work in the bush or at a coal mine.

The F class, while a success on the NZR network, was not so much of a success on the roughly-laid bush tramways of New Zealand. Being heavier than the older A, C, and D class tank locomotives used on bush trams before, operators who used F class locomotives had to upgrade the standard of their track to accommodate these locomotives. Despite this, the locomotives were relatively reliable, and some were fitted with extra bunkers behind their cabs to increase their small fuel capacity.

The other applications where the F class found a useful second life were at freezing works and coal mines. Here, the locomotives were used as shunters, and in the case of coal mines, to run trains of empty NZR wagons to the loading bins and loaded wagons back to the NZR connection. These lines were usually of a higher standard than the bush tramways, and so no track modifications were required to accommodate these useful engines.

As the locomotives were particularly suited to conversion to petrol or diesel power, several locomotives were rebuilt as diesel locomotives when their boilers expired. The Auckland Farmers Freezing Company (AFFCo) had three such Steam to Diesel conversions, one at Moerewa, one at Auckland's Export Wharf, and another at Horotiu, in the 1960s, while Butler Bros. sawmill at Ruatapu on the West Coast had another.


The final F class locomotives in regular service worked as shunters into the 1960s, the last being those used to shunt the Lyttelton wharves until the arrival of the second batch of DS class 0-6-0DM diesel shunters arrived in 1953. Other members of the class survived into the 1950s after being sold to industries to operate private lines. However, by 1968 the class was extinct in NZR ownership with the exception of F 163, retained for nostalgic purposes.

The majority of the class was scrapped between the late 1940s and late 1960s as diesel traction took over their traditional duties and younger steam locomotives were cascaded down onto shunting work, which the F class excelled at. The last strongholds of the class were Southland and Lyttelton - at Lyttelton the engines shunted the wharves, while in Southland, the Southland Dairy Co-operative required an F class engine to shunt its Edendale works as these were the only engines that could pass a verandah that stood too close to the tracks for other types to be able to safely shunt the siding.

Two Greymouth engines, F 5 and F 277, were dumped at Omoto in 1957 following their withdrawal. F 277 was unique in that it had a larger cab than the standard engines; this cab was fitted by Hungerfords, a local contractor who had hired the engine at some time in service. Another two locomotives were dumped at Oamaru Locomotive Dump in 1930 but their identities have not been proven as the locomotives have since been pulled into the harbour by the undertow.

The last three F class engines in service were engines F 13 and F 163 in Christchurch, and F 180 at Eastown Workshops. In 1965, F 180 was named Meg Merrilies (which supposedly was the engine's original name, though this has not been verified), and donated to the Museum of Transport and Technology. F 13 and F 163 were both painted in green and named Peveril and Ivanhoe respectively, and used in 1963 for the NZR's centenary celebrations. Neither was withdrawn until 1965, when F 163 was placed in storage at Arthur's Pass with W 192. F 13, meanwhile, was donated to the NZR&LS Canterbury Branch in 1968. In 1985, F163 was transferred to Palmerston North and was overhauled by off-duty NZR workers and railfans to ready the engine for the centenary of the Wellington and Manawatu Railway. It then spent another decade based at Palmerston North, before being transferred to Feilding. F163 is the sole member of the once 88-strong class to be certified for mainline running.

Overseas use[edit]

C 1 on display at Perth railway station, 1956. Note the similarity to the NZR F class including the cab coal bunkers which were retained during the conversion.

The 3' 6" gauge Rio Tinto Railway of Spain ordered two similar locomotives from Neilson in 1875, works numbers 1950/51. A third locomotive of this type, Neilson 3611, was ordered in 1887. Although largely the same as the NZR locomotives, they had a larger cylinder diameter.[3] None of these locomotives have survived.

Two more locomotives were built by Stephensons to this design, as their works numbers 2391/92, in 1880 for the Western Australian Government Railways as their C class. These locomotives were a direct match to the NZR F class and received the numbers C1 and C2 respectively. Due to their small fuel capacity however they were later rebuilt with two-axle tenders and modified cabs to become 0-6-0STT. It has been suggested by one railway website that the conversion of C1 was in fact due to an accident sustained in the period 1885-87.[4]

Both locomotives worked around Perth until the early 1900s, by which time C1 had been sold in 1899 to a sawmill. It last steamed in 1940 but was purchased by WAGR in 1956 and restored at their Midland Workshops before being placed on display at the Perth railway station. It has since moved into preservation with the Australian Railway Historical Society at their Bassendean Railway Museum.

Class register[edit]


Key: In service On lease Out of service Preserved Overhaul or repair Scrapped
Original Name 1890 Number Builder Builders number Introduced Withdrawn Notes
Rob Roy Neilson 1842 1874 1879 Sold to Public Works Department PWD #503, 1879-1940
1 Avonside 1095 1876 1929
2 Avonside 1141 1876 1954 Industrial use, 1954-1959
5 Stephenson 2611 1897 1957 Bought new by Westport Harbour Board. Dumped at Omoto in 1957.
7 Avonside 1134 1876 1929
8 Avonside 1133 1876 1957
9 Avonside 1137 1876 1943 Rebuilt as FB class 0-6-2T 1897. Industrial use 1943-c.1990 Dieselised 1953. Preserved, Bay of Islands Railway.
10 Avonside 1094 1876 1919 Rebuilt as FA class 0-6-0T 1893, later rebuilt as a 0-6-2T. Sold to the Ohai Railway Board in 1919. Onsold to the Mount Somers Tramway in 1930, last worked 1940.
11 Neilson 1691 1873 1932 Second NZR locomotive to start work.
12 Yorkshire 241 1874 1957 Industrial use 1957-1967. Preserved, Ferrymead Railway.
Edie Ochiltree 13 Neilson 1692 1873 1964 Preserved, Ferrymead Railway. Named "Peveril" in 1958, the former name of F232. Oldest operating steam locomotive in New Zealand.[6]
Roderick Dhu 19 Avonside 1093 1876 1957
20 Neilson 2412 1879 1957
21 Neilson 2410 1879 1932
23 Neilson 2414 1879 1931
24 Neilson 2411 1879 1929
Waverley 38 Neilson 1841 1873 1932
39 Neilson 2409 1879 1957
Nigel 40 Avonside 1090 1876 1934 Industrial use 1934-1948, converted to diesel by Stuart & Chapman at Ross, c.1950. Preserved, Bay of Islands Vintage Railway.
41 Avonside 1140 1877 1937 Rebuilt as FA class 0-6-0T in 1893, later rebuilt as a 0-6-2T. Industrial use 1937-1980, converted to diesel by AFFCo Horotiu. Frame only at the Bush Tramway Club.
43 Avonside 1143 1877 1953 To McDonalds Lime, Whitecraig, for spare parts. Scrapped 1968.
Pirate 44 Avonside 1091 1876 1957
45 Avonside 1144 1877 1933
Roswall 72 Yorkshire 246 1875 1953 Industrial use 1954-1959
Saladin 73 Yorkshire 247 1875 1929
Talisman 74 Yorkshire 249 1875 1957
75 Avonside 1088 1876 1925 Industrial use 1925-1956
76 Avonside 1132 1876 1930
77 Avonside 1131 1876 1932
78 Avonside 1138 1877 1954
79 Avonside 1139 1877 1931
Bothwell 80 Avonside 1085 1876 1931 Industrial use 1933-1946.
111 Dübs 1233 1880 1934 Built for Waimate Railway Co 1879. Industrial use 1934-1966. Preserved, Ocean Beach Railway, Dunedin.
113 Neilson 2413 1880 1941 Built for Duntroon and Hakataramea Railway 1878. Industrial use 1941-1956.
146 Dübs 1172 1879 1937
150 Dübs 1371 1882 1958 Preserved by the Ocean Beach Railway, Dunedin, but leased to the Ashburton Railway & Preservation Society in 1986 and currently awaiting restoration.
151 Avonside 1142 1877 1933
152 Dübs 1173 1878 1954 Industrial use 1954-1958.
154 Dübs 1370 1883 1929 Industrial use 1929-1955
155 Stephenson 2598 1886 1933 Industrial use 1934-1946
156 Vulcan 1181 1887 1937
157 Yorkshire 243 1875 1923 Rebuilt to FA class 0-6-0T in 1895, later rebuilt as a 0-6-2T. Industrial use 1923-1927.
159 Avonside 1092 1877 1931
160 Avonside 1087 1877 1931
162 Dübs 1363 1881 1932 Industrial service 1932-c1980. Dieselised 1932. Held for parts at MOTAT, Auckland.
163 Dübs 1367 1881 1964 Preserved, Feilding and Districts Steam Rail Society. Owned by the Rail Heritage Trust and leased to the F&DSRS. Certified for main line operation.
Lady of the Lake 164 Yorkshire 239 1874 1931
166 Stephenson 2594 1893 1909 Built for Westport Harbour Board 1885. Returned to WHB 1909-1923. NZR as F839 1923-1930. Industrial use 1930-1947.
Guy Mannering 179 Yorkshire 245 1875 1930 Rebuilt as Fa class 0-6-0T 1894.
Meg Merrilies 180 Yorkshire 244 1875 1932 Written off 1932, but not retired until 1965. Preserved, Museum of Transport and Technology, Auckland.
Helen McGregor 181 Avonside 1084 1876 1931
Dugald Dalgetty 182 Avonside 1136 1876 1928 Rebuilt as FA class 0-6-0T in 1893, later rebuilt as a 0-6-2T.
Black Dwarf 183 Avonside 1135 1877 1932
184 Dübs 1372 1881 1933 Industrial use 1934-1955.
185 Dübs 1171 1879 1933 Industrial use 1933-1972. Preserved, Bush Tramway Club, Pukemiro.
186 Yorkshire 242 1875 1929 Rebuilt as FA class 0-6-0T in 1895, later rebuilt as a 0-6-2T.
216 Neilson 3751 1893 1932 Built 1888 for Kaihu Valley Railway. Industrial use 1932-1981. Dieselised by AFFCo, Horotiu, 1932. Preserved, Bush Tramway Club, Pukemiro.
223 Stephenson 2595 1886 1932
Diana Vernon 224 Avonside 1086 1876 1930
225 Avonside 1089 1876 1935 Industrial use 1935-1955.
226 Dübs 1169 1879 1930 Rebuilt as FA class 0-6-0T, later rebuilt as a 0-6-2T.
227 Dübs 1170 1879 1932
228 Dübs 1365 1882 1935 Industrial use 1936-1980. Dieselised 1936. At MOTAT for parts supply.
229 Dübs 1369 1881 1931
230 Dübs 1364 1881 1932 Industrial use 1932-1956. Donated by Ellis & Burnand to the Hamilton City Council in 1956, and placed on static display at the Lake Rotoroa Reserve.
Dandie Dinmont 231 Black, Hawthorn & Co 277 1874 1931
Peveril 232 Yorkshire 248 1875 1957 The name "Peveril" was also used on F13 "Edie Ochiltree" from 1957 to present.
233 Stephenson 2593 1886 1936 Industrial use 1936-1964. Preserved, Glenbrook Vintage Railway. Named "Ada" in 1964. The name "Ada" was formerly used on F242.
Ivanhoe 241 Neilson 1706 1873 1927 First NZR locomotive to commence work. Name "Ivanhoe" was also used on F163 in the 1960s.
Ada 242 Stephenson 2086 1873 1930 Named after Auckland girl Ada Henderson. Hauled first revenue NZR service. Rebuilt as FA 0-6-0T in 1892, later rebuilt as a 0-6-2T.
Flora McIvor 243 Stephenson 2085 1874 1930 Sold to Matahina Tramway for parts, 1934
Marmion 244 Stephenson 2087 1874 1930 Rebuilt as FA class 0-6-0T in 1895, later rebuilt as a 0-6-2T.
Lord of the Isles 245 Yorkshire 240 1874 1935
Madge Wildfire 246 Vulcan 735 1875 1930
Jeanie Deans 247 Vulcan 737 1875 1929 Rebuilt as FA class 0-6-0T in 1892, later rebuilt as a 0-6-2T.
MacCallum Mhor 248 Vulcan 736 1875 1930 Industrial use 1930-c1962
249 Dübs 1362 1881 1932
250 Dübs 1368 1881 1943 Prototype FA class rebuild in 1892, later rebuilt at Westport as a FB 0-6-2T before being reclassified FA. Industrial use 1943-1966. Preserved, Glenbrook Vintage Railway.
251 Dübs 1366 1881 1939 Rebuilt to FA class in 1892, later rebuilt as a 0-6-2T. Industrial use 1939-1954.
252 Dübs 1884 1885 1931
253 Dübs 1885 1885 1933
254 Dübs 1886 1884 1944
255 Dübs 1887 1885 1934
256 Stephenson 2599 1886 1953
257 Stephenson 2600 1886 1953
277 Stephenson 2597 1898 1957 Built 1886 for Hungerford and MacKay, Contractors. To NZR 1898. Dumped at Omoto.
839 See F166 From Westport Harbour Board
840 Vulcan 1180 1922 1927 Built for Westport Harbour Board 1887. Industrial use 1927-1955
841 Stephenson 2596 1922 1930 Built for Westport Harbour Board 1886. Industrial use 1930-1947

Preserved locomotives[edit]

Nine examples of the class have been preserved, including several in full running order:

  • F 12 - Ferrymead Railway, unrestored, used for spare parts. The locomotive is owned by the New Zealand Railway & Locomotive Society. The cab is owned by the Ocean Beach Railway, Dunedin for use on F 111, and the rest of the locomotive is stored in the carriage shed at Ferrymead as a source of spare parts for F 13.
  • F 13 - Ferrymead Railway, from the original batch of five built in 1872; in service. The locomotive returned to steam in late 2014 and is now in regular service at Ferrymead.
  • F 111 - Ocean Beach Railway, under restoration. The engine requires a new boiler before it can steam again.
  • F 150 - The Plains Vintage Railway & Historical Museum, unrestored. This engine is owned by the Ocean Beach Railway, but leased to the Ashburton Railway & Preservation Society.
  • F 163 - Feilding and District Steam Rail Society, operational. This locomotive is owned by the Rail Heritage Trust but leased to F&DSRS. F 163 is currently mainline certified and is the only F class locomotive to have this certification.
  • F 180 - Meg Merrilies Museum of Transport and Technology, Operational. Last ran on NZR 1966. This engine was completed in 2018 after a long term restoration , first ran in preservation in the 19th of August 2018.
  • F 185 - Bush Tramway Club, stored. This engine was donated to the BTC by the State Mines Department in 1972.
  • F230 displayed at Hamilton Lake Rotoroa Reserve
    F 230 - Hamilton Lake Rotoroa Reserve, static display. This engine was donated by Ellis & Burnand to the City of Hamilton in 1956 after working at E&B's Mangapehi sawmill for ten years. Its boiler was filled with concrete and some of the locomotive's parts were removed including the fireman's side rods and more recently in the early 2000s, the trailing side-rod on the driver's side which has converted the locomotive to an impromptu 0-4-2ST. The information board on the rear of the cab says F230 worked at Palmerston North, Napier and Wellington, before being sold to Napier Harbour Board in 1933 and Ellis & Burnand in 1945. It says it was "in complete working trim" when moved to the park.
  • F 233 - Glenbrook Vintage Railway, awaiting restoration. Owned by the Railway Enthusiasts Society, and formerly displayed at their Onehunga clubrooms.

Four other F class locomotives were preserved as diesel-powered conversions:


  1. ^ Sean Millar, The NZR Steam Locomotive, NZR&LS, 2011.
  2. ^ New Zealand Railfan, Triple M Publications, March 2009.
  3. ^ Petrie, Gerald, In the Beginning: The Story of the New Zealand Locomotive 1863-1877, Locomotive Press 1996. p. 163.
  4. ^
  5. ^ Lloyd, W.G (2002). Register of New Zealand Railways Steam Locomotives 1863-1971. Wellington: Triple M Publications. ISBN 0958207216.
  6. ^ - Peveril
  • Heath, Eric, and Stott, Bob; Classic Steam Locomotives Of New Zealand, Grantham House, 1993

External links[edit]