Canterbury Railscene

Canterbury is the centre of New Zealand s South Island. It stretches from the Southern Alps to the eastern coast. The Canterbury Plains dominate the landscape, particularly in Mid Canterbury while in the North and South, rolling countryside connects the mountains and hills with the sea. The Midland Line to the West Coast has its own page, so here I will present the remaining Canterbury railway scene, particularly around Timaru.

The most numerous mainland diesel locomotive in New Zealand was the DC class. In the early 1980s the locos were rebuilt from DA class engines built in the 1960s. Originally the DC's were painted in the fruit salad or international orange livery of New Zealand Rail. Shortly before privatisation New Zealand Rail introduced a blue livery. Engines with both liveries are seen together departing Timaru on a freight train south. [Oct 2007]

And here is the view of the two engines heading past the grain silo in Timaru. The TranzRail logo on the second engine is visible. TranzRail bought the railway from the government in 1993, but did not rename the operation to TranzRail until late 1994. [Oct 2007]

In 2001 TranzRail incorporated its long-distance passenger services as a stand-alone company called TranzScenic 2001 Ltd. The transfer incleded 10 DC locomotives, 2 EF locomotives and passenger carriages. It sold 50% of the shares to Australian interests. The DC locomotives were reclassified DCP. Here such a locomotive arrives with a special train in Timaru. [Oct 2007]

In 2004 TranzRail was wholly bought by Toll and TranzScenic was brought in-house again. Nevertheless, the locomotives continued to be classified Dcp and were preferably used to haul passenger trains. The special train stops in Timaru. No regular passenger trains use Timaru station any more. A freight train with track maintenance vehicles waits in Timaru for its departure towards the south. [Oct 2007]

The blue livery was initially retained by Tranz Rail until it introduced the black and yellow hi-viz livery. It was soon known as bumble-bee among railfans. A DFT class loco leads two DCs into Timaru. The one in the middle sports the old 'fruit-salad' livery, while the one at the back is painted in bumble-bee colours. [2005]
After the private owners had run down the national railway, the operation was largely purchased by the state again in 2008 and renamed KiwiRail. A DC in the KiwiRail livery leads a DX loco northward past an irrigated field near Hinds. [Nov 2013]
KiwiRail soon purchased diesel-electric locomotives from China - the DL class. These locomotives were put in service on the North Island. That meant that DX locomotives were cascaded from the North Island to the South Island, where they replaced DC class locomotives. Most of the DC locomotives were soon withdrawn. DC 4409 was the last locomotive in service for KiwiRail with the traditional fruit-salad livery. Here it is seen near Waipara. [Mar 2020].
As the DC locomotives became fewer and fewer they were still seen in front of some shunting services and ballast trains. This train is hauling ballast near Domett, not far from Mina, towards a work site on the Main North Line of the South Island. [Mar 2020].
DC 4409 in its old colours leads DXC 5483 and a ballast train up the bank near Domett just before New Zealand was locked down in response to COVID-19. Freight trains continued as did some line maintenance. [Mar 2020].
Resplendent in KiwiRail colours DC 4012 leads freight train 934 from Dunedin to Christchurch around the coast of Scarborough, south of Timaru. Some main line trains were still hauled by DC class locomotives, here together with a class DFB loco. [Jan 2021].
The same train, hauled by DC 4012 and DFB 7092, leaves Timaru past Ashbury Park. The former Timaru lighthouse is visible beside the track. As KiwiRail became a state entity some necessary investment slowly began to flow into the railway company, particularly for track improvements, which had been neglected during private ownership. However, there is still considerable improvement required for rail in New Zealand to reach its potential. [Jan 2021].
A DCP class locomotive hauls a container train at the port of Lyttelton together with a DFT class engine. The locos bring the container train to the end of the line before pushing it into the container terminal siding. Adjacent is the coal unloading facility. Two DC engines are slowly hauling a train through the coal terminal as the coal waggons are emptied. [Sep 2021].
DCP 4559 was formerly used for passenger services and is now in KiwiRail colours. DC 4951 was used on Auckland suburban passenger trains and still sports the dark blue livery. The large MAXX logo, which was used for Auckland regional transport, has been removed now that the engine is used for freight services. The two DC locomotives have just brought a coal train to the Port of Lyttelton. [Sep 2021].
But before the state became involved, there was a change of private ownership. In 2003 the Australian transport company Toll bought a majority shareholding in Tranz Rail and renamed it Toll NZ in 2004, with the railway operation known as Toll Rail. It introduced a distinctly green and yellow Australian livery, known by railfans as corn cob. Here a DX class loco in the new livery has arrived in the Timaru yard with a DC class assisting [Feb 2005].
The DX class was New Zealand's most powerful main line diesel locomotive for many decades. The class was introduced in the early 1970s particularly for working the North Island Main Trunk. Since electrification of the main trunk, the engines are seen throughout New Zealand.
This train is about to depart Timaru for Christchurch one autumn night. [Mar 2007]
A Dx arriving in Timaru from the north derailed as it entered the station area. Crews are busy preparing to place the locomotive on the rails again. [Apr 2006]
DX5483 hauls train 923 out of Timaru one day in spring 2007. In the background on the right is the large milk powder store, while the old wheat mill and silo is visible to the left. The buildings reflect the change in farming in South Canterbury, with more emphasis on dairy production and less on arable farming.
A Dx hauls a freight train with track maintenance vehicles in Timaru, together with a Dft class locomotive. In the background the smokestack of a Tasman Orient Line ship can be seen. [Oct 2007]
Together with DC4277, another DX is about to depart Timaru towards the south. An Ontrack hi-rail vehicle stands on the adjacent line, ready to follow once the train has left. [Nov 2007]
A DX leads a freight train south across the Canterbury Plains near Hinds. [May 2008]
Two DX locomotives with a northbound freight train in St. Andrews. The leading engine still has the Toll Rail colour scheme, even though small KiwiRail logos have been applied. Both have been modified for use on the coal route across the Midland Line. [Feb 2013]
A DX engine heads its train along Otipua Beach just south of Timaru. Photo by Hermann Frank. [Oct 2013]
Two DX locomotives in KiwiRail livery haul their train past the old goods shed at Rangitata. [Oct 2013]
Two DX locos with a freight train near Hinds. [Oct 2013]
And this is the view as the train heads away to the north. The air intake ducts on the side are quite noticeable. They allow fresh air to be used when the locomotives haul coal trains through the Otira Tunnel. [Oct 2013]
A DX heads a freight train through Timaru along Caroline Bay. It has just passed underneath the piazza, which connects Main Street with Caroline Bay. [Nov 2013]
By now the KiwiRail livery has become the standard locomotive livery in New Zealand. A DX stands in Timaru, ready to take a train northwards. Timaru station and the old flour mill are in the background. [Dec 2017].
This photo was taken in Papanui, the northern suburbs of Christchuch. Two DX locomotives head the Coastal Pacific train to Picton out of Christchurch. [Nov 2013]
Six years later, I took a photo of the Coastal Pacific at nearly the same location in Papanui, this time with the tomb stones of the adjacent cemetery visible. I now live in Papanui. [Jan 2020].
From 2018 onwards the Coastal Pacific is normally hauled by DXR class locomotives. There are only two of these locomotives in the fleet - DXR 8022 (seen here) and DXR 8007. The Coastal Pacific returns to Christchurch in the evening and passes St Paul's Anglican Church in Papanui. I am now the vicar of this church. [Jan 2020].
And this is the view from the garden of the vicarage. This time DXR 8007 is in charge of the Coastal Pacific. [Jan 2020].
DXR 8007 was rebuilt from DX 5362 in 1993, while New Zealand Rail was still in public ownership. The new private owners decided not to spend money on locomotive upgrades and cancelled the rebuild programme. DXR 8022 was rebuilt from DX 5235 in 2005, after the railway had been sold to Toll. It received a slightly different cab, which was then also fitted to DXR 8007 in the interest of standardisation. DXR 8022 hauls the Coastal Pacific through Papanui one summer evening. [Jan 2020].
DXR 8022 was involved in an accident with a small truck near Rangiora on 10 February 2020 while hauling the Coastal Pacific. Therefore, DXR 8007 hauled the Coastal Pacific from that time onward until services were suspended on 22 March 2020 due to the response to the novel coronavirus. The train travels past the cemetery and church of St Paul, Papanui, in the evening light. [Feb 2020].
The only freight service that passes through northern Christchurch during the daytime is train 736, which is scheduled to leave Christchurch at 07:25 in the morning. Here it comes through Papanui, while a school girl is watching the train. [Feb 2020].
Only if they are not running according to schedule do southbound freight trains come through Papanui during the day. This train heads south on fine summer Sunday. [Feb 2020].
Work trains do pass through Papanui during the day. Two DXB locomotives haul a train of ballast waggons south. [Feb 2020].
DXC 5229 and DXB 5097 stand in Spotswood in North Canterbury, while horses watch on. The DXC has been specially adapted for use on the coal route through the Otira Tunnel and therefore has air intakes. The DXB has the Brightstar software installed. DXB 5097 wears the early stage KiwiRail livery with horizontal separation between the colours. DXC 5229 has the later standard KiwiRail livery with the vertical separation between the red and grey. [Jan 2020].
From about 2016 onwards the DX class became the main locomotive class in the South Island, with the newer DL class dominating in the North Island. Nearly all trains on the Main North Line between Christchurch and Picton are operated by DX locos. [Apr 2020].
During the lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic in 2020 freight trains still operated, though to a reduced timetable. Through Papanui the trains only came at night and slowed right down due to a speed restriction. A DX loco slowly makes its way into the night. [Apr 2020].
This train from Rolleston, which lies south-west of Christchurch, is hauled by two DX locos to Lyttelton, the port just east of Christchurch. The train travels through Heathcote and is about to enter the Lyttelton Tunnel. [Jul 2020].
Two DXB locomotives stand with their train in Rolleston, ready to depart for Lyttelton. The DX class is now divided into sub-classes DXB (with Brightstar technology), DXC (for coal traffic) and DXR (rebuilt). [Sep 2020].
When the Coastal Pacific train began operations again in October 2020, the train ran to a faster timetable than in the previous year because additional work had been done on the line that had been damaged by the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake. The running time was closer to what it had been in the days before the earthquake. Here the Coastal Pacific passes through Papanui with St Paul's Anglican Church, Papanui, in the background. [Nov 2020].
Two DXC locomotives haul a freight train from Christchurch to Picton across the Waimakariri River Bridge south of Kaiapoi. A bus from Rangiora crosses the adjacent road bridge towards Christchurch. [Dec 2020].
A few months later, it is two DXB locomotives that haul the freight train across the Waimakariri River Bridge. Many of the waggons carry gas containers for distribution around New Zealand. [Feb 2021].
Two DXB locomotives haul freight train 736 northwards from Christchurch, passing through the suburb of Papanui. [Feb 2021].
DXR 8022 hauls the Coastal Pacific Express through North Canterbury. [Apr 2021].
After a shunting locomotive fell into the water at the ferry berth in Picton, freight had to be shifted across the Cook Strait on the vehicle ferries. That meant a different timetable for south-bound trains on the Main North Line. With St Paul's Anglican Church in the background this freight train heads through Papanui. [Sep 2021].
With the rail ferry Aratere not operating, the trains from Picton arrived in Christchurch in the afternoon. DXR 8007 hauls the southbound goods train through Papanui together with DXC 5454. [Sep 2021].
A DXC and DXR locomotive haul a freight train northwards past the graveyard of St Paul's Church in Papanui early one morning. [Sep 2021].
Two DXC locomotives haul a train past the wildflowers outside the vicarage fence in Papanui. For a few months a train was scheduled on Mondays that ran from Picton to Christchurch during the day to haul rolling stock with speed restrictions. [Nov 2021].
A single DXB hauls a freight train past St Paul's Anglican Church in Papanui. [Nov 2021].
Passenger trains were suspended due to the COVID-19 Delta variant response in New Zealand. KiwiRail initially planned to begin services again for the summer holiday period. For that reason, test trains were run between Christchurch and Belfast in November and December 2021. But a few days after this test run KiwiRail was announced that they would not be restarting the Coastal Pacific train. Rather, at some point in future they would concentrate on rail tourism package tours. [Dec 2021].
DXC 5333 together with a DXB locomotive hauls a freight train southwards through Papanui. [Dec 2021].
A DXC and DXB locomotive haul a train along the coast south of Timaru. Most of the waggons are loaded with empty coal containers, which are returned from the dairy factory in Clandeboye to the coal mine near Nightcaps. [Dec 2021].
A freight train hauled by three DX class locomotives passes the site of the former Ashburton Railway Station. The platform is still there, but the station building has been replaced by a shop. No regular passenger train has stopped here since 2002. [Jan 2022].
The same train is seen near Orari in South Canterbury, having just crossed the Orari River. It is hauled by DXB 5114, DXC 5310, and DXB 5080. [Jan 2022].
DXB 5114 and DC 4559 haul a train northwards across the Canterbury Plains near Winslow. The train is about to arrive in Ashburton, where more waggons will be attached. [Feb 2022].
Two DXB locomotives haul a southbound train through Papanui at the beginning of autumn. [Mar 2022].
DXB 5114 heads a train from Christchurch to Picton as the sun sets. [Mar 2022].
A few days later DXB 5114 heads a freight train together with DXB 5022 past St Paul's Church in Papanui. The last rays of the sun catch the train. [Mar 2022].
The DF class was introduced in the late 70s and all engines were turbocharged in the 1990s to become the DFT class. Here, a DFT heads a train out of Timaru. [Nov 2004]
The Southerner passenger train ran between Christchurch and Invercargill from December 1970 to February 2002. I travelled on the train regularly between Dunedin and Timaru. DFT7008 hauls the Southerner along the coast at Scarborough, south of Timaru. [Jul 1996].
A DFT lcomotive leads a DC class engine through Timaru. Both are in the bumble-bee livery of the TranzRail era. [Dec 2004]
DFT 7199 stands in Timaru together with a DC locomotive ready to depart south with a container train. [Jan 2006].
DFT 7199 soon hauls the train south of Timaru over the bridge at Pig Hunting Creek together with the DC. Both sport the blue NZ Rail livery with Tranz Rail signage. [Jan 2006]
The same locomotive is about to leave Timaru with a freight train one night. [Mar 2007]
The driver of DFT 7023 talks with the shunter before leaving Timaru. The little four-wheeler used by the shunter can be seen beside the engine. The DFT loco is in the then current TollRail livery. [Sep 2007]
Just over ten years later, another DFT stands at just about the same point at the head of a south-bound train. DFT 7036 is in KiwiRail livery, just as the DSG 3236 on the adjacent track. The helping DC locomotive, however, is still in the old international orange livery from New Zealand Rail days. [Dec 2017].
A DFT loco hauls a freight train past Caroline Bay northwards on a summer afternoon. The popular recreation spot in Timaru was in full swing for the Caroline Bay Carnival at this time of the year. [Jan 2018].
DFT 7104 and DCP 4801 place a container train in the port of Lyttelton. [Sep 2021].
DFT 7199 has returned from the North Island to the South Island again. It heads a work train through Papanui together with a DXB locomotive. [Dec 2021].
DFT 7036 and DFT 7104 arrive in Timaru with train 934 from Dunedin. On this day they were running light loco at least between Oamaru and Timaru with no wagons attached. [Apr 2022].
The train was considerably longer when it left Timaru. Several wagons were attached to the locomotives here for the journey north. [Apr 2022].
More wagons were attached in Ashburton. After shunting the two DFT locos are ready to depart into the night to Christchurch. The next morning quite a few of the wagons continued further north on the train to Picton. [Apr 2022].
Occassionaly a Silver Fern railcar made its way into Canterbury. These railcars were introduced in 1972 for service on the North Island Main Trunk between Auckland and Wellington. A railcar leased to Dunedin Railways was used for the 150th anniversary celebrations in Christchurch and arrives at Ferrymead. [Oct 2013].
For local shunting services shunting engines with good visibility, but lower speed and power output are used. They bring wagons to and from sidings and work in the rail yard to make up trains. DSC locomotives were common shunting engines in New Zealand. The first models were built from 1958 in England. Subsequent batches were built by New Zealand Rail from 1962 onwards. One of these engines propels container wagons from the Timaru yards to the port siding. [Apr 2005]
The shunting locomotives were remotely controlled with the controller riding on one of the wagons in the middle of the train. Another shunter guided the train at the front using a four-wheel motorbike. Here, the train is propelled on the port siding at Timaru. [May 2005]
And here's the DSC engine on the other end of the train pushing the waggons with containers to the port. [May 2005]
A DSC shunting engine sits in the yard at Timaru. [Oct 2005]
The view from the cab of a DSC locomotive, that is heading from the Waltham Passenger Depot in Christchurch to Christchurch Station to pick up the TranzAlpine and TranzCoastal trains for servicing at night. The outline of the Catholic Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament is clearly seen against the setting sun. [Sep 2006].
A DSC locomotive has just collected some empty log wagons from the export log yard in Timaru. It now runs through the streets of the industrial area round the port. Some surreptitious advertising in the background: My then employer s sign is discretely displayed on the building. [Feb 2007]
TranzRail had some DSC engines painted in the colours of the provincial rugby teams. The engine in the Canterbury colours red and black has coupled onto waggons loaded with containers at the port of Timaru. [May 2007]
The same DSC locomotive is shunting some refrigerated waggons in the Timaru railway yards. The roof over the rail siding is part of the loading area of Canterbury Woolscours. [Oct 2007]
A DSC shunting engine sits in the yard at Ashburton. [Oct 2013]
The DSC shunting engine sits on the main line in Timaru as part of a shunting move. Large flood lights have been fitted to the hoods of shunting locomotives, presumably for better visibility at night. [Dec 2017].
DSC 2406 trundles past DX 5080 in the Timaru yards. [Dec 2017].
DSC 2652 has brought the carriages for the Coastal Pacific Express early in the morning from the Waltham carriage depot to the Christchurch Railway Station. [Apr 2021].
Two DSC locomotives stand in the mechanical depot sidings in Timaru together with a tamper. [Dec 2021].
DSC 2406 hauls a shunt from Pareora to Timaru. Here it is seen travelling along the coast between Scarborough and Timaru. This area is endangered by wave erosion and a sea wall has been built to protect the railway line. [Feb 2022].
DSG shunting locomotives were built in Japan during the 1980s. They are considerably more powerful than their DSC counterparts. This engine pulls a rake of loaded container wagons from the Pareora freezing works to Timaru. [1996]
A DSG shunting engine sits in the yard at Timaru [Mar 2005]
This DSG engine pulls a rake of loaded container wagons from the port in Timaru to the railway yards. On the sidings and in the yard shunting locomotives are generally remotely controlled. Here the operator stands on the front steps of the engine as it negotiates the tracks around the wharf. [Sep 2005]
The shunting engines at Timaru were regularly switched. Here a DSG 3018 sits in Timaru. [Oct 2005]
On another fine morning the same Dsg locomotive shunts some empty container wagons to the port of Timaru. [Jan 2007]
This DSG engine has just collected some loaded containers from one of the sidings in the port and industrial area of Timaru. [Nov 2007]
The same DSG locomotive with a train of reefer containers on its way from Pareora to Timaru is seen at Scarborough. Photo by Hermann Frank [Mar 2008]
A DSG locomotive in KiwiRail colours shunts freight waggons in Timaru. [Jun 2016].
The Hornby Industrial Branch goes past the Hornby shopping centre and through the centre of Hornby, a suburb of Christchurch. Here a DSG locomotive hauls a train across the busy intersection in Hornby. [May 2016].
A sole DSG locomotive hurries along the coast south of Timaru to pick up waggons from the Pareora freezing works. In the background the diggers are visible, which are used in an attempt to protect the railway line from the sea, which has eroded the coastline in this area for some years. [Jan 2021].
Less than half an hour later DSG 3168 passes Scarborough again with the shunt from Pareora to Timaru. The waggons all carry reefer containers that are being railed to a port. [Jan 2021].
When Toll Rail took over rail operations in 2004, it brokered a deal with the government, so that the government took over the network infrastructure and maintained it. The government entity maintaining and administering the railway network was called Ontrack. Here, several Ontrack ballast waggons are seen in Timaru. [Jan 2007]
It was only after several years of dispute between TollRail and Ontrack about track access charges, that the government decided to buy the whole rail operation back in 2008. It was now an integrated railway again and named KiwiRail. Here a KiwiRail hi-rail track maintenance vehicle is seen near Otaio south of Timaru. [Feb 2013]
After stopping and speaking to the photographer, the maintenance crew continued on their way south. The equipment on the back of the vehicle can be seen here. [Feb 2013]
A Fuso hi-rail vehicle travels along the Main North Line through Papanui. [Mar 2021].
A hi-rail vehicle is used to spray weeds so that the ballast can be kept clean. [Sep 2021].
Tamper ETM 255 stands with a ballast cleaning train in Rolleston. [Feb 2022].
EM 80 is KiwiRail's track evaluation car. It was built by Plasser Australia and entered service in 1981. The car has since been repeatedly modified. It measures the track geometry and condition and makes its way around New Zealand regularly. Here it was spotted passing through Papanui in Christchurch. [Oct 2021].