NZR G class (1928)

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NZR G class (1928)
NZR g class garratt.jpg
A G class locomotive in Garratt form.
Type and origin
Power typeSteam
BuilderBeyer, Peacock & Company
Serial number6484–6486
Build date1928
 • WhyteGarratt: 4-6-2+2-6-4
Driver dia.57 in (1.448 m)
Length84 ft 3.75 in (25.70 m)[1][2]
Width8 ft 6 in (2.59 m)
Height11 ft 6 in (3.51 m)
Adhesive weight87.7 long tons (98.2 short tons; 89.1 t)
Loco weight146.8 long tons (164.4 short tons; 149.2 t)
 • Firegrate area
58.2 sq ft (5.41 m2)
Boiler pressure200 psi (1.4 MPa)
Heating surface2,223 sq ft (206.5 m2)
Cylinder size16.5 in × 24 in (419 mm × 610 mm)
Performance figures
Tractive effort51,580 lbf (229.44 kN)
OperatorsNew Zealand Government Railways
Number in class3
First run1928
Last run1931
NZR G class (1937)
Type and origin
BuilderHillside Workshops
Build date1937
 • Whyte4-6-2
Driver dia.57 in (1.448 m)
Total weight99.5 long tons (111.4 short tons; 101.1 t)
 • Firegrate area
36.5 sq ft (3.39 m2)
Boiler pressure180 psi (1.2 MPa)
Heating surface1,175 sq ft (109.2 m2)
Cylinder size16.5 in × 24 in (419 mm × 610 mm)
Performance figures
Tractive effort25,800 lbf (114.76 kN)
Number in class6
Last run1956

The NZR G class was a type of Garratt steam locomotive used in New Zealand, the only such Garratt type steam locomotives ever used by the New Zealand Railways (NZR). They were ordered to deal with traffic growth over the heavy gradients of the North Island Main Trunk (NIMT) and to do away with the use of banking engines on steep grades.[1] They were one of the few Garratt designs to employ six cylinders. A mechanical stoker was used to feed coal into the locomotive.[1]


About 1913, General Manager E H Hiley considered the importing of 10 articulated Garratt engines and 10 Pacifics; however, with the success of the AB class and WAB class Pacifics no more was heard of Garratts. Then with the retirement in 1925 of the Chief Mechanical Engineer E E Gillon his successor G S Lynde invited Beyer, Peacock & Company of England to suggest a suitable Garrett for the NIMT, and they were then asked to quote for engines with either four or six cylinders. But the three six-cylinder engines were supplied "against their own better judgement. The influence of the London & North Eastern Railway three-cylinder enthusiasts (i.e. Lynde) was evident in this unwise decision."[3]

In 1928, New Zealand Government Railways obtained and operated three unusual Garratt locomotives in the 4-6-2 + 2-6-4 layout from Beyer, Peacock & Company. These engines had three cylinders (16.5-by-24-inch or 419-by-610-millimetre) on each of the two set of engine frames, thus creating a 6-cylinder Garratt. The engines entered service in 1929.

Walschaerts valve gear operated the outside cylinders with the inner third cylinder operated by a Gresley/Holcroft mechanism. The locomotives proved a disaster on the light NZR tracks.[4] It has been suggested the most likely reason was that the engines were too powerful for the system and also the valve gear mechanisms were complicated. The design was most unusual in that the coal bunker was carried on an extension to the boiler frame rather than the normal Garratt positioning on the rear engine unit's frame. Unlike a Union Garratt, however, the rear water tank was still mounted on the rear engine unit.

The engines operated at 200 psi (1,400 kPa) and delivered 51,580 lb (23,400 kg) of tractive effort which, on the lightly laid New Zealand tracks, proved to be too powerful for the drawbars on rolling stock and broken drawbars occurred wherever the engines ran. Further, the locomotives when hauling a full load, generated such intense heat in restricted tunnels, which are common in New Zealand, that crews disliked working them.[5]

The G Class were mostly based at Ohakune and operated between Taihape and Ohakune on the NIMT. Their large size driving wheels also made them unsuitable for the NIMT. See photos of the NIMT.[6] The central section of the NIMT of 93 miles (153 km) from Taumarunui to Taihape had been relaid with heavier 70 lb/yd (34.8 kg/m) rather than 53 lb/yd (26.3 kg/m) rails in 1901 for the introduction of the heavier NZR X class locomotives.[7]


Trainloads were reduced and this defeated the purpose for which the Garratts were purchased – namely to operate heavy loads over a vital mainline section of the NIMT route, the central section including the Raurimu Spiral. The trailing engine axle under the cab carried a heavier load than the leading engine trailing axle and experienced continual problems with overheating. Also, the coal bunker carried insufficient fuel in-service and this problem was never remedied because it would have increased the axle loads beyond the light track capabilities.

In 1937 the engines were withdrawn from service. Their numerous design faults sealed the fate of these locomotives when the K class was introduced in 1932.

Rebuilding as Pacifics[edit]

Due to the troubles faced with the Garratts in their original form, a proposal was put forward in late 1935 for the three Garratts to be dismantled and the engine units used to build six new 4-6-2 tender locomotives. The three locomotives were dismantled at Hutt Workshops in 1936 and the engine units shipped to Hillside Workshops in Dunedin for eventual rebuilding. The engines as rebuilt were fitted with a new third cylinder, a modified AB class boiler, a new cab and trailing truck based on those used on the Baldwin AA class, and a new Vanderbilt tender based on those used on the AB class, but of welded construction and fitted with roller bearing bogies. The original plate frames were retained as was the Gresley conjugated valve gear.[5]

The first rebuilt locomotive, G 96, was outshopped on 8 September 1937 and dispatched north after initial tests to Christchurch for use on the Midland line. Some minor adjustments were required although the performance of the initial rebuild was deemed satisfactory and the other five engine units were subsequently rebuilt with the last locomotive, G 100, outshopped on 4 March 1938. The rebuilt locomotives were initially used between Springfield and Arthur's Pass but were later displaced in 1939 by the new KB class 4-8-4s, leading to their redeployment on the Main South Line as far south as Timaru once certain bridges had been strengthened to accept the 14-ton axle loading of the rebuilt G class engines.

Although powerful, the G class had a low adhesive factor and had issues notably with steam blows created by excessive movement of the thin plate frames. The resultant steam leaks were of particular concern to the engine drivers, Firemen and Cleaners' Association (EFCA), as was the lack of power-reversing gear, the latter being remediated in 1941 when Ragonnet power-reversing gear was installed. Although said to run well if kept in good repair, the G class were highly unpopular and the EFCA resolved that the class could not be used in regular service after 31 March 1956 due to visibility concerns created by the steam leaks.[5]

Because the locomotives would need to be radically rebuilt as two-cylinder 4-6-2s, a highly costly proposal which was not seen to be worth the effort, the decision was made to retire the now badly worn-out G class locomotives after reaching a certain mileage. Both G 96 and G 97 were withdrawn in March 1956 as having reached their allotted mileage; the remaining four locomotives, however, remained in service until the end of May 1956 despite their deteriorating condition owing to the lack of available replacement locomotives.

Despite being withdrawn in 1956, several G class locomotives were not scrapped straight away but remained at Linwood locomotive depot in Christchurch until the early 1960s, when they were broken up for scrap.[8]



  1. ^ a b c "Class 'G' Garratt 4-6-2+2-6-4". New Zealand Steam. Retrieved 9 March 2019.
  2. ^ McClare 1978, p. 31.
  3. ^ Pierre 1981, p. 131,133,155,156.
  4. ^ Stewart 1974, p. 98–104.
  5. ^ a b c Palmer & Stewart 1965, p. 116.
  6. ^ Murphy 1976, pp. 60, 61, 68.
  7. ^ Pierre 1981, pp. 203–205.
  8. ^ McClare 1978, p. 86-96.


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