New Zealand DA class locomotive
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DA 1400 on static display at MOTAT
The New Zealand DA class diesel-electric mainline locomotives operated on the New Zealand railway system between 1955 and 1989. With 146 locomotives, it was the most numerous class to ever operate in New Zealand, with five more than the AB class steam locomotive.
The class were A1A-A1A versions of the Electro-Motive Diesel G12 model, with the design altered slightly to run on New Zealand's 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) rail system, and fit the small loading gauge. They were introduced between 1955 and 1967, and were the first class of diesel locomotives to seriously displace steam traction.
Between 1978 and 1983, 85 were rebuilt as the DC class, of which many are still in use. All but one of the remainder were withdrawn by 1989, with six preserved. The last locomotive was refitted for shunting duties, becoming DAR 517.
The DA class have their origins in the post-World War II period. Like most nations New Zealand’s dominant form of traction was steam, with electrification being used in Wellington, the Christchurch - Lyttleton Line and through the Otira Tunnel. The General Manager of the Railways Department, Frank Aickin, was an advocate for electrifying the entire North Island Main Trunk (NIMT) to alleviate the shortage of coal and the cost of importing diesel fuel; though he also recognised that steam and diesel traction would be required on other lines.
Aickin went as far as negotiating a tentative contract for construction, but fell out with the Government in 1951 and retired. His successor, H.C. Lusty, terminated the contract. After a disappointing experience with the DF class  and facing significant capacity issues on the North Island Main Trunk (NIMT) NZR entered into an agreement with General Motors for the supply of 30 G12 model locomotives following a tender process. Designated by the Railways Department as the DA class one of the major appeals was the guarantee of delivery within five months. With two production lines at London, Ontario and La Grange, Illinois two locomotives were completed every three days.
This first batch (DA 1400-1429) entered service between August 1955 and January 1956. The next batch (DA 1430-1439) were built at Clyde Engineering in Australia and entered service during 1957.
Three further batches were ordered, all supplied by General Motors Canada from their Montreal plant. The first 12 units (DA 1440-1451) were dubbed as 'Phase II' and entered service in 1961, with the 94 'Phase III' units entering service from 1962-64 (40) and 1966-67 (54), taking the total number to 146.
The class operated in the North Island. To facilitate their fast delivery a 'looser' loading gauge was accepted meaning that initially they could only serve on the NIMT from Auckland to Paekakariki, and the Rotorua and Kinleith branches. They were excluded from operating on many branch lines on account of their weight, and were restricted in their operations on the East Coast Main Trunk beyond Paeroa due to the line through the Karangahake and Athenree gorges with NZR using the lighter DF and DB class to handle traffic on this line. These restrictions were reduced as bridges were progressively strengthened, and in the case of the ECMT the opening of the Kaimai Tunnel in 1978.
The class were also unable initially to access Wellington via the NIMT, as the tunnels south of Paekakariki built in the 1880s by the WMR were not large enough for them. The operational practice remained the same as it had in the steam age with an exchange with ED and EW electric locomotives taking place at Paekakariki, until the tunnel floors were lowered in 1967 and they could operate through to Wellington. Access to Wellington before this time could only be achieved via the Wairarapa line and the Rimutaka Tunnel.
Eventually DAs were employed on all the major lines in the North Island – the NIMT, Marton-New Plymouth, Palmerston North-Gisborne and North Auckland lines. The success of the DA in its reliability and performance meant that it was the major factor allowing the withdrawal of North Island steam locomotives by 1967. The class were successful in raising the freight capacity of the NIMT. The main limitation was the Raurimu Spiral, where a pair of DA's could haul 650 tonnes up the grade compared to 595 tonnes for their KA steam predecessors.
The class hauled all manner of freight and passenger services, including the "Scenic Daylight" service on the NIMT. The prestigious "Silver Star" overnight sleeper train was initially hauled by a pair of DA locomotives when it was introduced in 1971. A dedicated pool of locomotives - DAs 1520-1527 and later joined by 1528 - were used for this service.
However the need for a more powerful locomotive that could haul longer and heavier trains on the NIMT had been identified and in 1972 the first 15 DX class locomotives were introduced. While a single DX produced 70 kW less than a pair of DAs, it weighed 97.5 tonnes compared to the combined DAs 162 tonnes, which combined with more powered axles gave better traction and higher power to weight.
The Silver Star service was later transferred to the DXs, while the Scenic Daylight service had earlier been replaced by the "Blue Streak" railcars. The introduction of further DX class locomotives in 1975-76 ended the dominance of the DAs on the NIMT.
Units were also employed on the Auckland suburban network, hauling 56-foot carriages. These services terminated at the Auckland Railway Station, forerunning the services run by many of the DC class today.
Those locomotives that were not converted to the DC class continued in service throughout most of the 1980s. However the combination of the deregulation of land transport and decline in rail freight volumes, reduced inter-regional passenger numbers, and the electrification of the NIMT saw them become surplus to requirements. Due to tunnel clearance problems on the Makarau Tunnel which prevented DC locomotives working in Northland twelve DAs were given an 'A Grade' overhaul in 1980 with some modifications to improve crew comfort. They were painted in 'fruit salad' colours at the same time.
The DA class established the initial numbering practice for NZR diesel locomotives, numbering the units sequentially with the class leader numbered in reference to the locomotives horsepower. While the locomotives were actually rated at 1425 hp, numbering started at 1400, and continued up to 1545.
In 1980 the computerised Traffic Management System (TMS) was introduced, with the remaining members of the class renumbered in sequence and the classification capitalised. Because this took place during the DC rebuild programme some units received a new 'DA' series number before being withdrawn for conversion, upon which they received a new 'DC' number. Under the numbering DA 1400 became DA 11 and DA 1516 became DA 996, prior to it being rebuilt into DC 4830.
From introduction the class were painted in an overall deep red colour christened as New Zealand Government Railways red. White or silver stripes were added along much of the length of the body, culminating in 'wings' on each end. The units redesignated as DAA received gold stripes to differentiate them from other DAs and the DB units. Following the introduction of TMS many had their new road numbers applied to the long hood.
During the 1980s some units were repainted in the 'International Orange' livery (red sides, grey upper and lower surfaces and yellow safety ends) then being applied to other NZR locomotives, with the road number applied in large white type on the long hood. However, many units were retired still wearing the original NZGR red.
Conversions and Rebuilds
The DAA class
In 1970, locomotives DA 1400-04 and 1406 were withdrawn from mainline duties and reassigned as heavy shunters to work in the new Te Rapa hump yard. They received additional low speed controls to assist in these operations and were reclassified as the DAA class. These locomotives were identifiable by their yellow hood stripes, which were treated so to denote them as being used in special service apart from the DA class. The locomotives were later superseded by the DSG and DSJ class shunting locomotives, which were purpose-built for shunting as opposed to the DAA class being converted for that purpose, and were withdrawn progressively in the 1980s.
Two DAA class locomotives have been preserved. On its withdrawal in 1983, DAA 1400 (TMS DA 11) was cosmetically restored as DA 1400 and donated to the Museum of Transport and Technology in Auckland. Placed on static display at MOTAT's Great North Road site, it was moved in late 2014 to MOTAT's Meola Road site to make way for an upgraded pavilion surrounding steam locomotive K 900. It is significant as the first of the DA class to have been built.
The other, DAA 1401 (TMS DA 28) was withdrawn in 1986 and forwarded to Sims-PMI scrap yard at Otahuhu. In 1988, the locomotive was purchased by enthusiast Tony Bachelor, who moved it around various homes in the Auckland area as part of his Pacific Rail Trust. In 1999 it was leased to Tranz Rail, but received little use and was stored at Hutt Workshops. In 2005, the locomotive was re-activated, and in 2007 was loaned to Feilding District Steam & Rail at the conclusion of the lease agreement with Tranz Rail and Toll Rail. DA 1401 was gifted to the FDS&R in 2008, who are now planning for its eventual restoration.
The DC class
Between 1977 and 1983, NZR decided to rebuild many of the later 'Phase III' GM Canada-built DA class locomotives into the EMD G22AR model to become the DC class. During the seven-year rebuilding period, 80 locomotives were shipped to Adelaide and railed to Clyde Engineering in Australia for rebuilding, while a further five locomotives were rebuilt at Hutt Workshops using a mixture of componentry built at Hutt and Clyde.
Only one of the final batch of 54 'Phase III' DA class locomotives was not rebuilt - DA 1517 had been scrapped in 1974 due to damage sustained when it ran into a landslip at the entrance to the Fordell tunnel in 1973. Two locomotives - DAs 1533 and 1470 were both rebuilt from heavily damaged conditions sustained in accidents running light engine. 1533 was damaged in an accident while returning from National Park on banking duty in 1975; due to rivalry between loco drivers at Taumarunui depot, the locomotive entered a curve too fast and overturned, killing the locomotive engineer. 1470 derailed on the steep Pukerua Bay section in 1978 returning to Wellington due to overspeeding on a curve, and nearly ended up on State Highway 1 below the line; both crew were killed.
Ten of the initial 'Phase III' batch were also not rebuilt. Two of the 'Phase II' locomotives - DAs 1441 & 1446 - were amongst those rebuilt.
Many of the DC class remain in service today with ownership held by KiwiRail, and several leased to Auckland Transport. One, DC 4588, was exported to Tasmania in 1999, but found to be unsuccessful and was withdrawn in October 2002 with serious motor problems. After a long period of inactivity, the locomotive, which had been partway through a rebuild to make it more suitable for Tasmanian conditions, was sold for scrap by TasRail in mid-2011.
In 1989, Tasman Pulp and Paper was looking to replace their resident Kawerau shunting locomotive, Bagnall 0-6-0DM NO 3079. This locomotive had been rebuilt in the late 1970s with a new Caterpillar D343T diesel engine and torque converter to make it more effective as a heavy shunter, but due to increases in traffic, was no longer able to keep up.
New Zealand Rail initially offered a DH class locomotive as a replacement, however, Tasman did not feel the locomotive would be up to the task. At the time, NZ Rail was withdrawing the last DA class locomotives, and the decision was made to offer DA 512 as a new heavy shunter.
The locomotive was altered by 'chopping' the front hood containing the dynamic brake components and altering the cab for better forward visibility. It was then renumbered as DA 822 and was painted in Tasman's orange-brown colours before it entered service at Kawerau. This allowed the Bagnall to be withdrawn, and later scrapped after briefly being offered to the Bay of Islands Vintage Railway.
In 1998, Tasman decided to sell its locomotive back to Tranz Rail, who would then take over the duties of shunting the Kawerau yard with more conventional shunting locomotives. As a result, DA 512 was sold to Tranz Rail, who immediately moved it to Hutt Workshops for further alterations to make it more suitable as a heavy shunting locomotive. This included fitting shunter's refuges at either end of the locomotive, and extended drawgear to accommodate the extra length of the refuges, as well as a repaint in the then-current 'Cato Blue' livery.
Renumbered as DAR 517, the locomotive was released from Hutt in 1999 and allocated after much speculation to the Kiwi Dairies milk factory at Whareroa, near Hawera. Here, it replaced ex-NZR Bagnall DSA 414 (DSA 240, the sub-class leader) as the resident shunting locomotive. It was repainted in the Toll Rail 'Corn Cob' colours in 2005, but was withdrawn from service in 2009 and placed in storage at Hutt Workshops. Currently, there are no plans for its return to service.
With the lack of ongoing operational requirements and the age of the units that were not rebuilt themselves the number of units was reduced throughout the 1980s. Most of the first batch delivered were withdrawn by the end of 1986. Following withdrawal most units were taken to Hutt for scrapping during the early 1990s, though a few were scrapped elsewhere.
Six DA class locomotives have been preserved:
- DA 1400/DAA 1400 (TMS DA 11) was donated to the Museum of Transport and Technology in Auckland in 1983 as the class leader of the DA class. Statically restored for static display. It was moved from its display location at MOTAT 1 in Great North Road, to the museums Meola Road site and under cover for conservation on 26 September 2014.
- DAA 1401/DAA 1401 (TMS DA 28) was sold to Sims-PMI for scrap in 1986 but remained intact until purchased by Tony Bachelor in 1988 for his Pacific Rail Trust. Moved around Auckland, it was leased by the now-inactive PRT to Tranz Rail in 1997 although it only saw limited service and was quickly stored at Hutt Workshops. It was reactivated for Feilding and District Steam Rail Society by Toll Rail in 2005 and went on lease to them in 2007 before being donated by Bachelor to F&DSR in 2008.
- DA 1410 (TMS DA 126) was purchased from NZ Rail in 1988 by Steam Incorporated. Initially only requiring a repaint, it was overhauled in 1999 shortly before being sent on loan to the Railway Enthusiasts Society, who based it at the Glenbrook Vintage Railway. 1410 was on loan to the Glenbrook Vintage Railway, 1998. Returned to Steam Incorporated over the weekend of 6–7 June 2015 along with J 1234. There are plans to restore both DA 1410 as well as J 1234 in the future.
- DA 1429 (TMS DA 322) was purchased in 1987 by Tony Bachelor direct from NZR service. It moved around Auckland until leased to Tranz Rail in 1997 and saw regular service until 2003 when it ended up in stohops and later Otahuhu. In 2010, Bachelor sold the locomotive to Auckland enthusiast Dean McQuoid who had it moved to the GVR where it is now based and used occasionally. Mainline certified in early 2015.
- DA 1431 (TMS DA 345) was purchased from NZ Rail in 1989 by Steam Incorporated. It was also placed on loan to the Railway Enthusiasts Society in 1998. Stored at the GVR until 2008, it returned to Paekakariki in 2008 for restoration with RES-owned guards' van F 345. The restored locomotive returned to service in 2009.
- DA 1448 (TMS DA 512) was rebuilt in 1989 for Tasman Pulp & Paper as a heavy shunter DA 885. It returned to Tranz Rail control in 1999 and was rebuilt as DAR 517. Withdrawn in 2009 by Toll Rail. In 2010 the DAR was moved to Hutt Workshops for storage with no clear future.
- DA 1471 (TMS DA 725) was retained by Palmerston North depot staff in 1988 as a heritage unit. In 2002 it was leased to Steam Incorporated but was called back from its restoration base at Masterton by Toll Rail in 2007. Stored at Hutt Workshops, the locomotive deteriorated until purchased by Steam Inc. for preservation in 2012. It is currently under restoration.
Only two of the locomotives, DAs 1429 and 1431 are currently mainline certified although there are plans for DA 1401 to be so.
|Key:||In service||On lease||Out of service||Preserved||Overhaul/Repair||Scrapped|
|Original no.||TMS no.||Introduced||Withdrawn||Livery||Notes|
|1400||11||September 1955||November 1983||Preserved, Museum of Transport and Technology. Formerly DAA 1400.|
|1401||28||September 1955||July 1987||Preserved, Feilding and District Steam Rail Society. Formerly DAA 1401.|
|1402||34||October 1955||February 1988||Scrapped. Formerly DAA 1402.|
|1403||40||October 1955||February 1988||Scrapped. Formerly DAA 1403.|
|1404||57||October 1955||February 1988||Scrapped. Formerly DAA 1404.|
|1405||October 1955||April 1974||Scrapped. Written-off after an accident at Napier. Was rebuilt with Phase 3 components after an earlier accident in 1959.|
|1406||63||November 1955||February 1988||Scrapped. Formerly DAA 1406.|
|1407||86||November 1955||April 1984||Scrapped.|
|1408||92||November 1955||March 1981||Scrapped.|
|1409||103||December 1955||November 1982||Scrapped.|
|1410||126||November 1955||June 1988||Preserved, Steam Incorporated. Returned to Paekakariki over the weekend of 6–7 June 2015 with J 1234|
|1411||132||November 1955||April 1984||Scrapped.|
|1412||149||December 1955||November 1982||Scrapped.|
|1413||155||December 1955||April 1983||Scrapped.|
|1414||161||December 1955||April 1986||Scrapped.|
|1415||178||January 1956||April 1983||Scrapped.|
|1416||184||December 1955||November 1983||Scrapped.|
|1417||190||December 1955||June 1986||Scrapped.|
|1418||201||December 1955||November 1983||Scrapped.|
|1419||218||December 1955||February 1988||Scrapped.|
|1420||224||December 1955||November 1983||Scrapped.|
|1421||230||January 1956||February 1986||Scrapped.|
|1422||247||December 1955||February 1986||Scrapped.|
|1423||253||December 1955||November 1983||Scrapped.|
|1424||276||January 1956||April 1983||Scrapped.|
|1425||282||December 1955||November 1983||Scrapped.|
|1426||January 1956||March 23, 1977||Scrapped. Head-on collision with DX 2639 between Parnell and Newmarket.|
|1427||299||January 1956||November 1982||Scrapped.|
|1428||316||January 1956||November 1982||Scrapped.|
|1429||322||January 1956||December 1987||Preserved, Glenbrook Vintage Railway. Mainline certified.|
|1430||339||April 1957||May 1986||Scrapped.|
|1431||345||April 1957||June 1988||Preserved, Steam Incorporated. Mainline certified. Former Sesqui 1990 colours.|
|1432||351||June 1957||November 1983||Scrapped.|
|1433||368||June 1957||May 1984||Scrapped.|
|1434||374||July 1957||November 1983||Scrapped.|
|1435||380||July 1957||October 1985||Scrapped.|
|1436||August 1957||March 19, 1979||Scrapped. Written off after an accident at Matapihi, Tauranga.|
|1437||408||August 1957||February 1988||Scrapped.|
|1438||414||September 1957||May 1986||Scrapped.|
|1439||420||September 1957||March 1986||Scrapped.|
|1440||437||August 1961||February 1988||Scrapped.|
|1441||August 1961||Rebuilt as DC 4421|
|1442||443||August 1961||December 1988||Scrapped.|
|1443||466||August 1961||May 1986||Scrapped.|
|1444||472||August 1961||February 1989||Scrapped.|
|1445||489||August 1961||February 1989||Scrapped.|
|1446||495||August 1961||Rebuilt as DC 4513|
|1447||506||August 1961||December 1988||Scrapped.|
|1448||512||September 1961||2009||Toll Rail ("Corn Cob")||Sold to Tasman Forestry and rebuilt. Repurchased by Tranz Rail and designated DAR 517. Currently stored at Hutt Workshops|
|1449||529||September 1961||December 1988||Scrapped.|
|1450||535||September 1961||December 1988||Scrapped.|
|1451||541||September 1961||February 1988||Scrapped.|
|1452||558||October 1962||May 1989||Scrapped.|
|1453||564||November 1962||Rebuilt as DC 4916|
|1454||570||November 1962||August 1989||Scrapped.|
|1455||October 1962||Rebuilt as DC 4254|
|1456||587||November 1962||Rebuilt as DC 4945|
|1457||593||November 1962||Rebuilt as DC 4939|
|1458||November 1962||Rebuilt as DC 4450|
|1459||604||November 1962||Rebuilt as DC 4951|
|1460||610||November 1962||April 1989||Scrapped.|
|1461||627||November 1962||December 1988||Scrapped.|
|1462||633||October 1963||December 1988||Scrapped.|
|1463||656||October 1963||December 1988||Scrapped.|
|1464||662||October 1963||Rebuilt as DC 4565|
|1465||679||November 1963||Rebuilt as DC 4686|
|1466||685||November 1963||Rebuilt as DC 4640|
|1467||691||December 1963||December 1988||Scrapped.|
|1468||702||December 1963||December 1988||Scrapped.|
|1469||719||December 1963||Rebuilt as DC 4761.|
|1470||December 1963||Rebuilt as DC 4317.|
|1471||725||December 1963||August 1988||Preserved, Steam Incorporated.|
|1472||731||September 1964||Rebuilt as DC 4703|
|1473||748||October 1964||December 1988||Scrapped.|
|1474||754||October 1964||Rebuilt as DC 4634|
|1475||760||October 1964||Rebuilt as DC 4847|
|1476||777||September 1964||Rebuilt as DC 4784|
|1477||783||October 1964||Rebuilt as DC 4657|
|1478||September 1964||Rebuilt as DC 4162|
|1479||800||November 1964||Rebuilt as DC 4922|
|1480||817||November 1964||Rebuilt as DC 4692|
|1481||823||November 1964||Rebuilt as DC 4818|
|1482||846||December 1964||Rebuilt as DC 4790|
|1483||December 1964||Rebuilt as DC 4277|
|1484||852||November 1964||Rebuilt as DC 4801|
|1485||869||December 1964||Rebuilt as DC 4853|
|1486||875||December 1964||Rebuilt as DC 4824|
|1487||881||December 1964||Rebuilt as DC 4778|
|1488||898||December 1964||Rebuilt as DC 4663|
|1489||909||December 1964||Rebuilt as DC 4588|
|1490||December 1964||Rebuilt as DC 4323|
|1491||915||December 1964||Rebuilt as DC 4628|
|1492||921||March 1966||Rebuilt as DC 4876|
|1493||March 1966||Rebuilt as DC 4283|
|1494||938||March 1966||Rebuilt as DC 4726|
|1495||944||March 1966||Rebuilt as DC 4749|
|1496||950||March 1966||Rebuilt as DC 4755|
|1497||April 1966||Rebuilt as DC 4473|
|1498||967||May 1966||Rebuilt as DC 4611|
|1499||973||May 1966||Rebuilt as DC 4732|
|1500||May 1966||Rebuilt as DC 4185|
|1501||April 1966||Rebuilt as DC 4035|
|1502||May 1966||Rebuilt as DC 4248|
|1503||May 1966||Rebuilt as DC 4438|
|1504||September 1966||Rebuilt as DC 4058|
|1505||September 1966||Rebuilt as DC 4536|
|1506||September 1966||Rebuilt as DC 4225|
|1507||July 1966||Rebuilt as DC 4041|
|1508||July 1966||Rebuilt as DC 4191|
|1509||August 1966||Rebuilt as DC 4110|
|1510||July 1966||Rebuilt as DC 4369|
|1511||September 1966||Rebuilt as DC 4179|
|1512||August 1967||Rebuilt as DC 4064|
|1513||August 1967||Rebuilt as DC 4156|
|1514||September 1967||Rebuilt as DC 4070|
|1515||September 1967||Rebuilt as DC 4087|
|1516||996||August 1967||Rebuilt as DC 4830|
|1517||August 1967||May 1974||Scrapped. Written off after running into landslip at entrance to Fordell Tunnel in 1973.|
|1518||August 1967||Rebuilt as DC 4300|
|1519||September 1967||Rebuilt as DC 4133|
|1520||October 1967||Rebuilt as DC 4104|
|1521||October 1967||Rebuilt as DC 4127|
|1522||October 1967||Rebuilt as DC 4571|
|1523||October 1967||Rebuilt as DC 4093|
|1524||October 1967||Rebuilt as DC 4605|
|1525||September 1967||Rebuilt as DC 4006|
|1526||October 1967||Rebuilt as DC 4444|
|1527||October 1967||Rebuilt as DC 4219|
|1528||September 1967||Rebuilt as DC 4352|
|1529||November 1967||Rebuilt as DC 4231|
|1530||October 1967||Rebuilt as DC 4415|
|1531||October 1967||Rebuilt as DC 4260|
|1532||October 1967||Rebuilt as DC 4012|
|1533||November 1967||Rebuilt as DC 4029|
|1534||October 1967||Rebuilt as DC 4496|
|1535||October 1967||Rebuilt as DC 4202|
|1536||October 1967||Rebuilt as DC 4346|
|1537||November 1967||Rebuilt as DC 4542|
|1538||October 1967||Rebuilt as DC 4594|
|1539||November 1967||Rebuilt as DC 4559|
|1540||November 1967||Rebuilt as DC 4375|
|1541||November 1967||Rebuilt as DC 4467|
|1542||November 1967||Rebuilt as DC 4398|
|1543||November 1967||Rebuilt as DC 4409|
|1544||November 1967||Rebuilt as DC 4381|
|1545||November 1967||Rebuilt as DC 4507|
- Alecock, G.J., 'The Development of NIMT Motive Power Part 2', Rails Magazine, March 1993
- Hurst 1995, p. 9.
- Peters, Frank, 'The Da Story: The Diesel that did it', New Zealand Railfan, June 1995
- Despite being nominally operational, DA 1401 will require some remedial work before it can run on the mainline.
- In more recent years, the DH class has occasionally worked at Kawerau, and has been able to keep up with demands.
- "Frateschi - Locomotivas". Frateschi. 7 March 2012.
- "Online Models - DA class". 8 March 2012.
- "Sn3 gallery". RailMaster.