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Baldwin Loco Works official photo, Wb 297, 1898

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Wb 292

Wb 292, Westport loco depot, November 1950. J.Creber

Wb 292, Westport loco depot, November 1950. PHOTO: J.Creber

Service

Wb 292 entered service in January 1899 at East Town, Wanganui, one of 7 Wb class that replaced Double-Fairlies from the mainline roster, working alongside 6 New Zealand-built Wa class1. Grades were as steep as 1 in 35, curves down to 5 chain radius, both of which had been taken into account in the loco design specification. 292 would have hauled the New Plymouth mail train on occasion, along with mixed and goods trains.

Typical coal consumption was 40 - 45 lb per mile2, requiring 18 - 22 cwt coal to work the 55 miles west to Hawera or east to Palmerston North. Bunker capacity of 25 cwt (1¼ ton) was an issue, leaving little room to spare. This was addressed in the Wd 2-6-4T design of 1901, with a greater bunker capacity of 2.7 ton.

Transfer

Wb 292 was transfered to the isolated Westport Section in January 19113, once sufficient numbers of 2-6-4T Wf class had joined the East Town roster. This increased the number of Wb class at Westport to five, 299 and 300 having entered service at Westport in 1899, 298 transfered from Wellington in January 1903, and 291 transfered from East Town, Wanganui in July 1909.

Westport Section

Wb 292 typically worked coal traffic from the State and private mines north of Westport to the port. Coal from the Westport Coal Company was brought down the Denniston Incline to Conns Creek, a short 1¾ mile branch connecting with the Seddonville Branch at Waimangaroa. Other mines were located at Seddonville, Mokihinui Mine, Charming Creek (Ngakawau), Granity and Cascade in the Buller Gorge. Engine loads on the Westport Section were stated as 'empty' or 'loads', relating to the predominant cloa traffic, typically hauled in Q-class hopper wagons. 65 loads and brake van could hauled from Waimangaroa to Westport by the Wb class, about 700 tons4. Wb 292 was reboilered in the mid 1920's with a new design of boiler to blueprint y7508 dated 16 May 1924. The boiler pressure of 200 psi was a marked improvement over the previous pressure of 170 psi. New boilers and continued isolation of the Westport Section extended the service life of four of the Westport Wb class: 292, 298, 299 and 300. The Westport Section was connected to the remainder of the South Island system in 1942 / 1943 with the opening of the Buller Gorge.

Full A-grade overhauls had been carried out at Westport Shops, with some boilers shipped to Hutt Workshops, Wellington to lessen overhaul duration. Post-1943 the Wb class were sent to Hillside Workshops, Dunedin, for A-grade overhaul.

Wb 292 light engine after overhaul, Dunedin, 23 February 1949. S.A. Rockliff.

Wb 292 leaves Dunedin light engine heading towards Burnside. Test run after overhaul at Hillside Workshops, 23 February 1949. PHOTO: S.A. Rockliff

Service and decline

Original boilered Ww class locomotives 680, 684 and 683 were transfered to the Westport Section in 1929 and 1930, working alongside the Wb class. Classmates 291 and 294 did not receive new boilers, and were withdrawn from service in 1931 and 1935 respectively. Once the Buller Gorge was opened further Ww class were allocated to Westport, initially working alongside the Wb class, but would eventually displace the class to secondary, shunting and standby duties. In the early 1950s runs to Ngakawau and Conns Creek were still regularly worked by the Wb class, but by 1955 the remaining four had been largely relegated to shunting in the Westport yard.

Withdrawal

Wb 298 and 300 were withdrawn from service in 1955. 292 and 299 were stopped in late 1956, and withdrawn in January 1957.

Wb dumping documentation

Documentation detailing how Wb 292 was towed north to Seddonville, 30 miles north of Westport and dumped into Coal Creek, a tributary of the Mokihinui River.

Dumping of Wb 292 and Wb 299

Illustration of dump site, Wb 292 in foreground.

References

1. National Archives R15 acc W1722. Loco ledger 75 folio 268, Taranaki - Napier Section stock, year ended 31 March 1899.

2. AJHR, D2 28, year ending 31 March 1902.

3. National Archives R15 acc W1722. Loco ledger 63 folio 184, Wellington-New Plymouth/North Island Main Line and Branches.

4. Meyer, R.J. (1989). Coaling from the Clouds 2nd Edition. The New Zealand Railway and Locomotive Society Incorporated, Wellington, New Zealand.