Article from 1967

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“NZ Locomotive Engineers Journal”
April 1967, page 4.
by Garth Beardsley

In 1963, when the centennial of railways in New Zealand was celebrated members of the N.Z. Railway & Locomotive Society, Canterbury Branch, restored locomotive F 163 to its original green livery so that the public could see what steam locomotives of yester-year looked like. At that time, it was realised that if some locomotives were to be preserved, immediate steps would need to be taken.

An approach was made to the Railways Department, and arrangements were made for us (i.e. the Canterbury Branch), to lease a portion of the Little River branch line just beyond Hornby). Headquarters was to be the old Prebbleton station, the goods-shed to form the nucleus of buildings needed for such a venture. The Minister of Railways gave us an assurance that once suitable accommodation could be provided, one of the restored “F” class locomotives would be donated to us. However, before arrangements were finalised, the department decided against the proposal, as heavy industry was expanding rapidly in the area, and the line would be required as an industrial spur.

Where now to establish our live steam museum line? Where but Ferryrnead, birthplace of railways in New Zealand. The place where hill and plain first echoed to the piping screech of a steam locomotive’s whistle. Ferrymead, where the first locomotive “Pilgrim” of 5 ft. 3 in. gauge, was landed in May 1863, is situated on rather low-lying ground at the foot of the Port Hills just where the Heathcote river joins the estuary. The embankment, after leaving the Heathcote, curves away towards Christchurch and joins the line of the Lyttelton – Christchurch tracks, a little south of the present Woolston yards. Another arm swings off towards the Heathcote yards and was used to bring material to the working-site when tunnelling operations commenced on the Lyttelton tunnel.

Thus for four years, Ferrymead enjoyed its heyday. Whilst tunnelling was pushed ahead, goods were brought by small ketches, cutters, steamers, and lighters over the dangerous Sumner Bar, and transhipped to rail at the Ferrymead wharf. Once the tunnel was opened, in 1867, Ferrymead rapidly declined and soon after was closed, thus being not only the first line open, but also, the first to close.

This then was the site finally chosen for our operations. Historical associations there were certainly, but after a century of disuse and decay, the scene was not an encouraging one. Of course, no vestige of track remained. The embankment was badly neglected and eroded. The stone retaining wall along the river, was in a bad state of disrepair and the original roadbed was heavily overgrown and uneven.
Fortunately other bodies had become interested in the possibilities of the area. In 1964, the Christchurch Jaycees had plans afoot to establish a historic park in the area immediately adjacent to the original wharf site, while the Association of Friends of the Museum of Science and Industry, Canterbury, whilst currently establishing a pilot museum at Garvins Road, Hornby, was interested in some 70 acres of land near the Lyttelton railway line, this land to be used eventually for the forming of a permanent museum. What more fitting than we connect the two ventures with (we hope) shining ribbons of steel.

Joint meetings of all interested parties including our sister organisation, the Tramway Historical Society, who intend running trams on track laid round the Historic Park, followed, and a Ferrymead Steering Committee, with representation of all the above parties, was formed. A large Queen Carnival with a target of £50,000 is planned for March-April of this year, and if successful should help to get the whole scheme well and truly launched. At the time of writing, arrangements are well under way, the Railway Department being well represented with Queens from the Addington Workshops, Linwood Loco Depot, and we hear, perhaps from the Christchurch Station as well.
We who are handling the railway aspect in the over-all scheme, are greatly indebted to all sections of the N.Z.R. for donations of material, advice, and help so willingly given. Expert advice, which has made an almost impossible task show every sign of becoming a reality in the not too far distant future. A mile of track, mainly sidings of old disused branch-lines, was donated by the Minister of Railways. At present roughly half of it has been laboriously unearthed by members of the branch, and transported to Ferrymead. Help has been forthcoming from many private firms particularly as regard to transport, and for this also we are most grateful.

We are endeavouring to gather a representative selection of locomotives and rolling stock as possible, and so far, our stable is as follows:


  • Barclay 0-4-2T, an ex West Coast bush ‘loci’ with however, a badly cracked fire-box wrapper-plate which needs renewing. This locomotive was transported by road from the West Coast and is we believe, the first steam locomotive to travel over the Lewis Pass.
  • Baldwin 2-6-4T, formerly N.Z.R.Wd.357, last of its breed in N.Z. and donated by the Timaru Harbour Board. This locomotive is in very good·condition and will be in steam and running at Ferrymead on March 18. Transported by road, weight 40 tons.
  • Tr.54. an early diesel shunting tractor. An old D class 2-4-OT. ox N.Z.R. D140.The above locomotives we have in our possession, the following, are assured:
  • X class No. 442 and Wab 794, both in good condition, the latter particularly so. Donated by the Ohai Railway Board, Southland, and due to be moved by rail, the “Wab” towing the “X”, within a few months.
  • Two interesting bush locomotives, a Price, with vertical steam-engine in the cab, drive per shaft and bevel gears. A Heisler, with cylinders arranged in a V under the boiler, and connected to a crankshaft, shaft and bevel gears to axles.
  • One of the “F” class locomotives, either F163 or 13. Two small industrial locomotives, a Bagnall, and a Manning-Wardle.

Also, we hope to obtain some representatives of classes of N.Z.R. steam locomotives which have given such sterling service over the years, and thus be able to show to future generations, a good cross-section of design and construction. Rolling-stock of historical value will be preserved, and, as with the locomotives, will be run as much as possible. Track-lifting and laying is being done the hard way, and branch members have put in many hours of hard slogging work, but all think it worthwhile to make this effort to build a lasting memorial to the steam locomotive and the development of railways and the people who have operated it.


Thank you, all concerned, for help and support so readily given and may we call on you for more in the future. We may need it.