NZR JA class

NZR JA class
JA 1271 with excursion consist climbing the Opapa incline. Photo by Joseph Christianson
Power type Steam
Builder NZR Hillside Workshops, Dunedin (35)
North British Locomotive Works, Glasgow, Scotland (16)
Build date 1946 - 1956
Configuration 4-8-2
Gauge 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) Cape gauge
Wheel diameter 54 in (1.37 m)
Wheelbase 34 ft 10 in (10.6 m)
Length 66 ft 11.5 in (20.4 m)
Weight on drivers 44.45 long tons (45.16 t)
Locomotive weight 69.1 long tons (70.2 t)
Tender weight 40.35 long tons (41.00 t)
Locomotive & tender
combined weight
109.45 long tons (111.21 t)
Fuel type Coal (Hillside)
Oil (North British)
Fuel capacity 6.0 long tons (6.1 t) coal
1,350 imp gal (6,100 L) oil
Water capacity 4,000 imp gal (18,000 L)
Boiler pressure 200 psi (1,400 kPa)
Feedwater heater None: Fitted with Davies & Metcalfe Exhaust Injector
Firegrate area 39.0 square feet (3.6 m2)
Heating surface:
1,469 square feet (136.5 m2)
Superheater area 283 square feet (26.3 m2)
Cylinders Two
Cylinder size 18 × 26 in (46 × 66 cm)
Top speed 70 mph (110 km/h)
Tractive effort 24,960 lbf (111.0 kN)
Number in class 51
Number 1240 - 1274 (Hillside)
1275 - 1290 (North British)
Locale All of New Zealand
First run 1947 - 1956 (Hillside)
1952 (North British)
Last run 16 November 1971
Retired 1967 - 1971
Scrapped 1969 - 1972
Disposition 44 scrapped
7 preserved

The NZR JA class were a type of 4-8-2 steam locomotive used on the New Zealand railway network. The class was built in two batches, with the second batch possessing some differences from the first. The first batch was built at Hillside Workshops in 1946-56 and the second batch by the North British Locomotive Works in 1951, and to distinguish between the batches, locomotives are identified by their maker.

The JA class was the last class of steam locomotive built both for and by NZR - Hillside JA 1274 was the last steam locomotive ever built by NZR, and the North British JA's were the last steam locomotives built overseas for the NZR.

The class had relatively short lives of between 12 and 24 years, as they succumbed to dieselisation. Nine JAs lasted until the end of steam on 26 October 1971.


Hillside JA of 1946


The class were an improved version of the J class locomotives. Unlike the J class, which were built overseas by the North British Locomotive Company in Glasgow, Scotland, the new class were instead constructed by NZR's Hillside Workshops in Dunedin. However, some components, such as the bar frames, were still sourced from North British as Hillside lacked the means to construct such a frame.

Some of the more notable improvements from the J class were the use of the Westinghouse cross-compound pump; Ashton double pressure gauge; the Sellars injector in the cab; steam for the pump was taken from a manifold in the cab and not an outlet on the steam dome; combined gauges in the cab; and roller bearings on the driving and connecting rods. However, the first two JAs produced, No.’s 1242 and 1243, did not have roller bearings on any of the rods, and on the rest of the locomotives numbered in the 124X range, roller bearings were only present at the connection between the driving and connecting rods and not on the other wheels. In most other respects however, the class was virtually identical to the earlier J class, although the JA was never fitted with bullet-nose streamlining.

Although the first class member was built in 1946, due to a number of factors the last member of the class was not turned out of the workshops until 1956. That last locomotive, JA 1274 was both the last steam locomotive built for NZR and the last steam locomotive built by NZR.

In service

The class only ever worked in the South Island during their NZR career. The first members operated out of Dunedin, although they were supposed to be allocated to Christchurch. When enough of the class were in service to displace the 4 members of the J class based out of Dunedin, those locomotives headed north to join the rest of their class in the North Island. The class performed their duties over most South Island lines, although axle loading and gauge profile kept them from venturing north of Parnassus, New Zealand, and travelling such branch lines as the Otago Central Railway or the Kingston Branch. Despite this, the class became the mainstay of the South Island network.

The class excelled in hauling the South Island Limited express train and was the primary motive power for the service. The maximum official speed was 100 km/h (60 mph), but the class operated effortlessly at high speed, especially across the Canterbury Plains. The official NZR speed record of 125.5 km/h (78 mph) was set by an Vulcan RM class railcar, but the JA class unofficially operated at higher speeds.

Withdrawal and disposal

The first of the class were not withdrawn until March 1969, in distinct contrast to the types J, JB and North British JA cousins. The class lasted in front-line duty until the end of steam in New Zealand; the South Island Limited was the final train worked by steam locomotives and ran for the last time on 26 October 1971. The locomotives remained ready for service into November but were never called upon.

Often as the locomotives suffered mechanical defects or were in need of repairs they were sidelined. Some, such as JA 1271, were used as stationary boilers. These locomotives, as was common practice at the time, were often stripped of parts to keep the rest of the fleet going.

North British JA of 1951


In 1950 it became clear additional motive power was required in the North Island, but the process of dieselisation was yet to begin. Consequently, NZR chose to order 16 steam locomotives from North British to the design of the successful J class. These locomotives contained a number of differences to both the J class and Hillside JAs – although turned out with the cross-compound pump, roller bearings on the rods were limited to the connection between the connecting and driving rod, mechanical lubrication was employed and the class were built as oil burners (the only class of locomotives on the NZR to be built completely as oil burners). Other detail differences was the use of Stone’s headlights and electrical generator instead of the usual Pyle National equipment, the “Butterfly” number boards on the front headlight, and the lack of smokebox number plate (although a smokebox plate was specified by the NZR).

In service

Captive to the North Island, the North British JA’s operated on the routes most commonly worked by oil burning locomotives. While generally considered unremarkable, the class operated on North Island express trains alongside the K and KA classes.

Withdrawal and disposal

Despite being a very young class, some of the North British JA class members were among the first of the J types to be withdrawn. Only 3 of the class survived until the end of North Island steam. Upon withdrawal, a lot of the class were cannibalised for parts, which were sent to the South Island for use on the J & Hillside JA fleet there. One locomotive, JA 1279, was sent to Dunedin as a complete unit before being stripped of parts. Many of the North British JA tenders were modified for coal use and attached to coal-fired J locos which had tenders in need of replacement.


Six of the Hillside JAs survived to be preserved; by contrast only one North British JA remains. Additionally, two preserved J class locomotives have North British JA tenders.

Hillside JA's

JA 1240 was preserved by Blenheim man Peter Coleman, and was stored serviceable at his Blenheim property. In 1988 after his death, JA 1240 was purchased by Ian Welch, and in 1990 travelled to Mainline Steam's Parnell Depot. This locomotive is now undergoing restoration for main line use, as a coal burner and will be based in Christchurch.

JA 1250 "Diana" was preserved by the Railway Enthusiasts Society for use on their Steam Safari train in 1972. After this series of excursions it was purchased by Phil Goldman, who named the engine after his wife, Diana. JA 1250 was restored by the Glenbrook Vintage Railway for use on their railway. In 1985, JA 1250 was one of two engines selected to be used on the first main line steam hauled trip since the end of steam. After this JA 1250 ventured around the country, being a notable attendee of the 1988 "Ferrymead 125" celebrations. Between 1992 and 1998 JA 1250 underwent a substantial overhaul, and returned to main line and GVR service. From 2006 JA 1250's main line certification lapsed, and it was confined to the Glenbrook Vintage Railway. In 2011 it was re-certified for main line running again, and made its debut back on the main line in spectacular fashion with a double header from Glenbrook to Hamilton with JA 1271.

JA 1260 was preserved by the Ashburton Railway and Preservation Society (known as the Plains Railway)in 1972. It saw limited use on the Plains Railway's line before a years lease to the Weka Pass Railway in 1985/86. After its return to Plains, it was dismantled for overhaul which was protracted due to other pressing projects. In 2007 work on this locomotive began at a fast pace, and in May 2008 JA 1260 was back in service on the railway. Notably JA 1260 is the only preserved member of the class to be operating at a lower boiler pressure of 180psi instead of 200psi.

JA 1267 was preserved by a syndicate and stored at the Te Awamutu Railway Museum at Te Awamutu, 1972. It sat on static display under a rudimentary shelter until 2008 when due to the winding up of the museum and dischord amongst the syndicate, the locomotive was placed up for auction. It was purchased by Ian Welch and transferred to Mainline Steam's Parnell Depot where it is stored pending eventual overhaul to main line running.

JA 1271 was preserved by Reid McNaught and Russell Gibbard in 1978. At the time of purchase JA 1271 was incomplete and in a sorry state, having been used as a stationary boiler plant since 1970 after a motion failure. It was transferred to Steam Incorporated's Paekakariki base, and comprehensively restored to main line running. Its debut in 1997 kicked off with a tour of the South Island, before returning north where it has become a very active main line locomotive. It hauled the 2003 50th Anniversary Commemoration train of the Tangiwai disaster, and also was used prominently in the 100th Anniversary of the Parliamentary Special.

JA 1274 was preserved by the New Zealand Railway and Locomotive Society Otago branch in 1971, and in 1974 was placed on display in a specially erected sheter at the Otago Settlers Museum. It has remained on display there ever since, with no plans for return to working order.

North British JA's

JA 1275 was preserved by Les Hostick in 1967 and stored at the Te Awamutu Railway Museum at Te Awamutu, 1972. It sat on static display under a rudimentary shelter until 1994 when it was leased to Mainline Steam for restoration to main line running condition. Work begain in 2002, and in 2004 JA 1275 returned to the main line rails. It has proven a reliable locomotive and sees frequent use on excursions.

List of locomotives

Key: In service Out of service Auckland Transport service Preserved Overhaul Scrapped
Number Builder Entered service [1] Withdrawn [1] Notes
1240 NZR Hillside 01947-03 March 1947 01971-11-16 16 November 1971 Preserved by Pete Coleman, Blenheim. Sold 1988 to Ian Welch for Mainline Steam; currently under restoration.
1241 NZR Hillside 01947-03 March 1947 01968-08 August 1968
1242 NZR Hillside 01947-01 January 1947 01969-06 June 1969 First Hillside JA to be built.
1243 NZR Hillside 01947-03 March 1947 01968-08 August 1968
1244 NZR Hillside 01947-05 May 1947 01969-03 March 1969
1245 NZR Hillside 01947-08 August 1947 01969-06 June 1969
1246 NZR Hillside 01947-12 December 1947 01971-05 May 1971
1247 NZR Hillside 01948-01 January 1948 01969-11 November 1969
1248 NZR Hillside 01948-03 March 1948 01971-07-13 13 July 1971
1249 NZR Hillside 01948-07 July 1948 01968-03 March 1968
1250 NZR Hillside 01949-06 June 1949 01971-11-16 16 November 1971 Preserved by Phil Goldman for the Railway Enthusiasts Society and Glenbrook Vintage Railway; operational and mainline certified.
1251 NZR Hillside 01949-08 August 1949 01971-08-16 16 August 1971
1252 NZR Hillside 01949-08 August 1949 01971-08-16 16 August 1971
1253 NZR Hillside 01949-11 November 1949 01971-11-16 16 November 1971
1254 NZR Hillside 01950-01 January 1950 01969-06 June 1969
1255 NZR Hillside 01950-03 March 1950 01969-06 June 1969
1256 NZR Hillside 01951-07 July 1951 01971-11-16 16 November 1971
1257 NZR Hillside 01951-10 October 1951 01971-08-16 16 August 1971
1258 NZR Hillside 01951-12 December 1951 01971-11-16 16 November 1971
1259 NZR Hillside 01952-06 June 1952 01969-06 June 1969
1260 NZR Hillside 01952-11 November 1952 01971-08-16 16 August 1971 Preserved by Plains Vintage Railway; operational but not mainline certified.
1261 NZR Hillside 01953-03 March 1953 01971-11-16 16 November 1971
1262 NZR Hillside 01953-11 November 1953 01969-07 July 1969
1263 NZR Hillside 01954-01 January 1954 01969-07 July 1969
1264 NZR Hillside 01954-07 July 1954 01969-06 June 1969
1265 NZR Hillside 01950-05 May 1950 01969-06 June 1969
1266 NZR Hillside 01950-07 July 1950 01969-06 June 1969
1267 NZR Hillside 01950-09 September 1950 01971-11-16 16 November 1971 Preserved by Les Hostick & Associates, stored at Te Awamutu Railway Museum until 2008. Purchased by Ian Welch for Mainline Steam; in storage awaiting restoration.
1268 NZR Hillside 01950-11 November 1950 01968-08 August 1968
1269 NZR Hillside 01955-01 January 1955 01969-06 June 1969
1270 NZR Hillside 01955-12 December 1955 01969-06 June 1969 Tender from this locomotive is stored at Mainline Steam, Parnell.
1271 NZR Hillside 01956-04 April 1956 01971-11-16 16 November 1971 Preserved by Steam Incorporated; operational and mainline certified.
1272 NZR Hillside 01956-08 August 1956 01968-03 March 1968
1273 NZR Hillside 01956-10 October 1956 01969-07 July 1969
1274 NZR Hillside 01956-12 December 1956 01971-11-16 16 November 1971 Last steam locomotive to be built by NZR; on static display at the Otago Settlers Museum.
1275 North British 01952-07-19 19 July 1952 01968-03 March 1968 Preserved by Les Hostick and stored at Te Awamutu Railway Museum. Leased to Mainline Steam; operational and mainline certified.
1276 North British 01952-07-19 19 July 1952 01968-03 March 1968
1277 North British 01952-08-16 16 August 1952 01966-05 May 1966
1278 North British 01952-07-19 19 July 1952 01968-03 March 1968
1279 North British 01952-08-16 16 August 1952 01964-07 July 1964
1280 North British 01952-09-13 13 September 1952 01967-05 May 1967
1281 North British 01952-09-13 13 September 1952 01966-09 September 1966
1282 North British 01952-09-13 13 September 1952 01967-11 November 1967
1283 North British 01952-06-21 21 June 1952 01968-03 March 1968
1284 North British 01952-06-21 21 June 1952 01967-08 August 1967
1285 North British 01952-10-11 11 October 1952 01967-10 October 1967
1286 North British 01952-10-11 11 October 1952 01967-11 November 1967
1287 North British 01952-11-08 8 November 1952 01966-10 October 1966
1288 North British 01952-11-08 8 November 1952 01966-09 September 1966
1289 North British 01952-10-11 11 October 1952 01966-02 February 1966
1290 North British 01952-12-06 6 December 1952 01966-10 October 1966


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