NZR J class (1939)

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NZR J class
J1211 Napier 20Oct2002 JChristianson.jpg
J 1211 being serviced before departure from Napier
Type and origin
Power typeSteam
BuilderNorth British Locomotive Works, Glasgow, Scotland
Build date1939
 • Whyte4-8-2
Gauge3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm)
Wheel diameter54 in (1.372 m)
Wheelbase34 ft 10 in (10.62 m)
Length66 ft 11 in (20.40 m)
Adhesive weight44.45 long tons (45.16 t; 49.78 short tons)
Loco weight68.55 long tons (69.65 t; 76.78 short tons)
Tender weight40.35 long tons (41.00 t; 45.19 short tons)
Total weight108.9 long tons (110.6 t; 122.0 short tons)
Fuel typeCoal [1]
Fuel capacity6.0 long tons (6.1 t; 6.7 short tons)
Water cap4,000 imp gal (18,000 L; 4,800 US gal)
 • Firegrate area
39.0 square feet (3.6 m2)
Boiler pressure200 psi (1,400 kPa)
Feedwater heaterACFI
Heating surface1,469 square feet (136.5 m2)
 • Heating area283 square feet (26.3 m2)
Cylinder size18 in × 26 in (457 mm × 660 mm)
Valve gearBaker
Performance figures
Tractive effort24,960 lbf (111.0 kN)
Number in class40
Numbers1200 - 1239
LocaleAll of New Zealand
First run1939 - 1940
Last run1964 - 1967
Retired1964 - 1971
Scrapped1969 - 1971
Current ownerIan Welch, Steam Incorporated
DispositionThree preserved, twelve rebuilt as JB, remainder scrapped

The NZR J class steam locomotives were a type of 4-8-2 steam locomotive used on the New Zealand Railway network. Built by the North British Locomotive Works, although designed to work on the lighter secondary lines the class was frequently used on main line express passenger trains as well as freight. The class first appeared in distinctive streamlining, which was later removed for maintenance reasons. The class should not be confused with the earlier 1874 J class. Three Js lasted until the end of steam on 26 October 1971.


The J class were primarily designed to provide a mixed traffic locomotive more powerful than the AB class that was capable of running on the lighter secondary lines of the New Zealand Railways network, but was equally capable of running express passenger trains on main routes which were being operated by the larger K Class locomotives and the in-production KA class and KB classes. As the NZR workshops were already busy with the production of the KAs and KBs, the North British Locomotive Company were engaged to build the class of 40 locomotives. The J class incorporated a number of similar features with the contemporaneous KA and KB classes, such as roller bearing axles, hydrostatic lubrication and twin Westinghouse brake pumps; however they used bar frames instead of plate frames, and were equipped with Baker Valve gear instead of Walschaerts. They also featured a Vanderbilt tender, and were outshopped with distinctive bullet-nosed streamlining which bears similarity to the Norfolk and Western Railway class J (1941) and the later NSWGR 38 class.

In service[edit]

The first 30 of the class were allocated to the North Island, with the last 10 allocated to the South Island for use on the hilly section between Dunedin and Oamaru. They were immediately placed into service on the main trunk routes in both islands in order to help move wartime traffic during World War II. Although used on freight trains as well, the class was well suited to high-speed running on the passenger trains of the era. Due to the war time conditions, the streamlining became burdensome for maintenance and the skyline casing, which was open at the top proved to be a trap for soot from the locomotive's exhaust. After a time, the skyline casing started to be removed from some examples of the class leaving them with just the bullet nose. The design was successful enough that NZR opted to build an improved variant called the JA class in its Hillside workshops from 1946, and by 1950 enough JA class had been introduced into service that the 10 South Island based J class locomotives were transferred to the North Island. From this time onwards the J class lost their streamlining, either all at once during overhaul or if the skyline casing had already been removed, then only the bullet nose with the headlight moved to the same position as adopted by the JA class. Around this time also, some of the J class members had the twin Westinghouse pumps removed in favour of the Cross-compound pump used by the JA class - but not all J class engines were fitted with this.

JB class[edit]

JB 1236 in Avondale.

After World War II the railways suffered problematic coal shortages, especially in the North Island. Approval was gained to convert 12 of the J class locomotives into oil-burners, to burn heavy fuel oil which was available in plentiful quantities at the time. The conversion saw the installation of a two-nossle burner in the firebox, removal of the grate and ashpan which was replaced with a firepan lined with bricks, shortening of the superheater tubes in the boiler, removal of the spark arrester in the smokebox, removal of the brick arch, addition of the related controls and gauges for the oil burning equipment, and the tender modified to carry an oil bunker and associated steam piping. Similar to the K and KA Classes which were converted to oil burning at the same time, the JB Class utilized a separate, removable tank which sat in the former coal space. However, the full-width coal bunker of the J-type's Vanderbilt tender was cut down so that the oil tank was visible at the sides, with distinctive vertical supports below. The conversion process generally coincided with the removal of the streamlining, but not always. Once converted, the locomotives were re-classified JB in recognition of the conversion, however they retained their original J class numbers.

In service the JB class performed well, but did not distinguish themselves above the unconverted J class nor any of the other J variants. Some of the JB Class received cross-compound Westinghouse pumps in place of the twin single-phase pumps, but others did not. The JB Class only ever saw service in the North Island, as in the South Island coal supplies were plentiful. Some years after conversion to oil, the fuel oil being used became considerably dearer than the coal supplies then being sourced, and there was no longer a coal shortage. However re-conversion back to coal burning did not occur due to objections from the various railway Unions.

In later service[edit]

In 1962, with dieselisation underway in the North Island 10 J class locomotives were transferred to the South Island to displace aging A class locomotives on the West Coast. Later 6 more were transferred for use on the South Island Main Trunk alongside the JA class. In this period the J and JB classes found themselves used more on the secondary lines in both Islands, with the Hillside JA class preferred for use on the express trains of the South Island and the North British JA class along with the KA class preferred for such duties in the North Island.

Withdrawal and disposal[edit]

Some members of the JB class were among the first of the J 4-8-2 types to be withdrawn, due to the faster wear and tear suffered by the locomotives as a result of oil burning. The last of the JBs were withdrawn from service by March 1968, by which time steam haulage in the North Island had essentially finished anyway.[2] However the coal burning J class managed to last longer in service, with the final 3 members of the class being used in addition to the final 9 members of the Hillside JA class on the South Island Limited until the end of steam on 26 October 1971. A number of components from the North British JA class were re-used on these last 3 J class engines in order to keep them in service, most notably J 1211 and J 1236 receiving replacement tenders which were modified for use with coal. J 1234 and J 1236, along with JA 1250 and JA 1261 were used on the very last steam-hauled trains operated by NZR.


J 1234 in Avondale, Auckland.

Three J class locomotives have been preserved, but none of the original JB class survives.

J 1211 "Gloria" was purchased by Ian Welch, Russell Gibbard and Reid McNaught in 1972 for use with Steam Incorporated, and later was bought outright by Ian Welch. After use on the Bay of Islands Vintage Railway in 1985, 1211 was moved to the Glenbrook Vintage Railway for overhaul to main line running. It was first used on main line excursions during the Rail 125 event in 1988, where it debuted in an imitation of the original streamlining the class wore. Becoming the first operational locomotive of Mainline Steam, the locomotive saw use in both Islands hauling excursions. It was converted to oil firing in 1996 in the same manner as the JB class, with the oil bunker being re-instated in the North British JA tender this locomotive has been preserved with. The locomotive is name "Gloria" after owner Ian Welch's wife. It underwent a boiler overhaul 2013 to 2018 and returned to service in December 2018. J 1211 is currently based at the Glenbrook Vintage Railway.

J 1234 was purchased by Steam Incorporated in 1972. Arriving at Steam Incorporated's Paekakariki base in 1974, it was kept in serviceable condition until 1992 when it was certified for use on the main line network. In 1998 it was leased to the Glenbrook Vintage Railway, who used it until 2003 and afterwards it was stored awaiting eventual return to Paekakariki. It was finally returned in 2016, and is currently stored awaiting eventual overhaul.

J 1236 "Joanne" was purchased by the Railway Enthusiasts Society for use with JA 1250 on its "South Pacific Steam Safari" tour, making use of the fact that New Zealand Railways would only allow steam locomotives to be used on delivery trips after the end of steam. Surplus to requirements after this trip, it was bought by Mr P. Bulcher who moved the locomotive to the Museum of Transport and Technology, Auckland where it was displayed alongside K 900. In 1988 J 1236 was sold to Ian Welch of Mainline Steam, and moved to the group's Parnell depot. The locomotive has been restored as a JB class oil burner by Mainline Steam, although this particular locomotive spent its entire NZR career as a coal-burning J Class[3]. It first returned to the main line in 2001, and after initially being based in Auckland it was transferred to Christchurch in 2004. In 2011 it moved to the group's Plimmerton depot for overhaul, and returned to service in 2017 sporting some non-prototypical features. It is named "Joanne" after one of owner Ian Welch's daughters.

No JB class locomotives were preserved, although the tender from JB 1203 is held by Steam Incorporated.

Class register[edit]

Key: In service On lease Out of service Preserved Overhaul or repair Scrapped
Number Builder Entered service Withdrawn Notes
1200 North British October 1939 July 1964 Converted to an oil burner and reclassified as JB 1200.
1201 North British October 1939 July 1969
1202 North British October 1939 April 1966
1203 North British November 1939 October 1964 Converted to an oil burner and reclassified as JB 1203. Tender held by Steam Incorporated.
1204 North British November 1939 January 1966
1205 North British November 1939 October 1967 Converted to an oil burner and reclassified as JB 1205.
1206 North British November 1939 May 1965 Converted to an oil burner and reclassified as JB 1206.
1207 North British November 1939 April 1966
1208 North British November 1939 July 1969
1209 North British November 1939 July 1969
1210 North British December 1939 March 1969
1211 North British December 1939 November 16, 1971 Preserved, Mainline Steam. Converted to an oil burner, 1995. Mainline certified.
1212 North British December 1939 July 1969
1213 North British December 1939 December 1967 Converted to an oil burner and reclassified as JB 1213.
1214 North British December 1939 January 1965
1215 North British January 1940 January 1965
1216 North British January 1940 July 1969
1217 North British January 1940 March 1969
1218 North British January 1940 April 1967 Converted to an oil burner and reclassified as JB 1218.
1219 North British January 1940 April 1966
1220 North British February 1940 January 1966
1221 North British February 1940 May 1966
1222 North British February 1940 January 1965
1223 North British February 1940 January 1966
1224 North British February 1940 August 1967 Converted to an oil burner and reclassified as JB 1224.
1225 North British February 1940 January 1966
1226 North British February 1940 July 1969
1227 North British February 1940 March 1969
1228 North British March 1940 March 1968 Converted to an oil burner and reclassified as JB 1228.
1229 North British March 1940 January 1965 Converted to an oil burner and reclassified as JB 1229.
1230 North British March 1940 October 1964 Converted to an oil burner and reclassified as JB 1230.
1231 North British March 1940 July 1969
1232 North British March 1940 July 1969
1233 North British March 1940 December 1967 Converted to an oil burner and reclassified as JB 1233.
1234 North British March 1940 November 16, 1971 Preserved, Steam Incorporated. J 1234 was on loan to the Glenbrook Vintage Railway, 1998. Returned to Steam Incorporated over the weekend of 6–7 June 2015.
1235 North British March 1940 September 1967
1236 North British March 1940 November 16, 1971 Preserved, Mainline Steam . Converted to an oil burner and reclassified as JB 1236, 2001. Mainline certified.
1237 North British March 1940 March 1969
1238 North British March 1940 February 1967
1239 North British March 1940 March 1968 Converted to an oil burner and reclassified as JB 1239.


  1. ^ Oil-burning J class locomotives were classified JB. Restored J class locomotive 1211 Gloria originally burned coal, but was converted to oil-burning during restoration. Oil capacity is 1,350 imp gal (6,100 L; 1,620 US gal).
  2. ^ Register of New Zealand Steam Locomotives, W.G. Lloyd
  3. ^ The Locomotives of the Mainline Steam Trust, by Graeme Moffatt

External links[edit]