New Zealand E class locomotive (1922)

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New Zealand E class (1922)
E Class battery electric locomotive NZ.jpg
AP Godber Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington
Type and origin
Power type Battery electric
Builder English Electric
Build date 1922
Total produced 1
 • Whyte 0-4-4-2
 • UIC Bo-Bo-2
Gauge 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm)
Total weight 54 long tons (60 short tons; 55 t)
Performance figures
Maximum speed 10 mph (16 km/h)
Power output 176 hp (131 kW)
Tractive effort 6,200 lbf (28 kN)
Operators New Zealand Government Railways
Numbers 1
Locale Otira, Midland line
First run April 1923
Last run 1930
Disposition Scrapped.

The New Zealand E class battery-electric locomotive represented the third unique type of locomotive class to be given the E classification in New Zealand. The first was the E class of nine Double Fairlie steam locomotives of 1872-75; the second E class consisted of a Mallet compound made in 1906; and as both were no longer operated by the New Zealand Railways Department in 1923, the classification was free to be used for a third time when the small battery electric locomotive was delivered. This is the only time a classification has been used three times in New Zealand, though re-use happened a number of other times, arguably most notably when the A class of 1906 took the designation originally used by the A class of 1873.


This particular E class was ordered for service on the newly electrified Otira Tunnel section of the Midland line and was constructed in 1922. In April 1923, English Electric delivered an order of six locomotives: five EO class mainline locomotives that collected electricity from overhead wires, and a sixth small battery electric locomotive for maintenance duties. It was classified as E 1, had a wheel arrangement of Bo-Bo-2 under the UIC classification system, and worked for the rest of the 1920s.


Clearly not an exceptional performer, it was written off around 1930 due to the costs involved in maintaining its batteries. Instructions were issued for any equipment that could not be re-used elsewhere from the locomotive to be dumped locally. E 1's cab can still be found alongside the track just south of Otira. The runner wagon for E 1 was stripped of its batteries and found use at Addington Workshops as a general purpose wagon around the complex. E 1 consisted of a locomotive and a tender, each carrying 216 "Ironclad Exide" cells with a total capacity of 167,000 ampere hours at 400 volts. Four DK 30 self ventillating traction motors each of 44 hp (33 kW) were used for a total tractive effort of 6,200 lbf (28 kN) and a maximum speed of 10 mph (16 km/h). It could haul 40 long tons (45 short tons; 41 t) at 8.5 mph (13.7 km/h) on the gradient of 1 in 33 (3 %) that prevailed between Arthurs Pass and Otira.


  • Pioneer Electrics: A survey of railway electrification in the South Island. A J Pickering / I D Spicer (ed.). Tramway Historical Society : Christchurch, New Zealand : 1970.