NZR K class (1877)

NZR K class (1877)
NZR K class (1877)
K 88 without tender.
Power type Steam
Builder Rogers Locomotive Works, New Jersey, USA
Serial number 2454 - 2455
2469 - 2474
Build date 1877 – 1878
Configuration 2-4-2
UIC classification 1'B1'n
Gauge 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) Cape gauge
Driver diameter 48 inches (1.2 m)
Length 45 ft 7 in (13.89 m)
Weight on drivers 14.8 long tons (15.0 t)
Locomotive weight 23.3 long tons (23.7 t)
Tender weight 19.2 long tons (19.5 t)
Locomotive & tender
combined weight
42.5 long tons (43.2 t)
Fuel type Coal
Fuel capacity 2.2 long tons (2.2 t)
Water capacity 1,250 imp gal (5,700 L)
Boiler pressure 130 psi (900 kPa)
Firegrate area 8.8 square feet (0.82 m2)
Heating surface:
589 square feet (54.7 m2)
Cylinders Two
Cylinder size 12 in × 20 in (30 cm × 51 cm)
Tractive effort 6,240 lbf (27.8 kN)
Class K
Number in class 8
Number 87 - 88
92 - 97
First run 9 March 1878
Last run June 1927
Preserved 3

The NZR Rogers K class was the first example of American-built locomotives to be used on New Zealand's railways. Their success coloured locomotive development in New Zealand until the end of steam.



In 1877, the new Chief Mechanical Engineer of the NZR, Allison D. Smith required some new motive power for the fledgling Government system. It had been intended to order more J Class locomotives which were of an English design, however Mr Smith was adamant American locomotives would be much more suitable for New Zealand's conditions. His argument won, an order was placed with the Rogers Locomotive Works of New Jersey, for two tender locomotives with a wheel arrangement of 2-4-2. Upon their arrival to New Zealand the locomotives created quite a stir with their bar frames, 'Gothic' style wooden cabs, locomotive bell, ornate embellishments and rakish appearances which were at odds with the traditional English locomotive appearance in New Zealand at the time. In addition this first pair, K 87 "Lincoln" and K 88 "Washington", reputedly wore a 'kaleidoscope' of colours - green, blue, yellow, red, purple, and gold in addition to their Russian Iron boiler jackets.

The K Class in service

After arrival in the South Island at Lyttelton, the locomotives were quickly put into service. K 87 "Lincoln" quickly distinguished itself by hauling the first bogie-carriage passenger train, and both the locomotives soon earned a reputation as fast and free runners, with mild coal consumption. K 88 "Washington" hauled the first train between Christchurch and Dunedin on the just-completed Main South Line, assisted by the Double Fairlie "Josephine" south of Oamaru until "Josephine" had to be taken off the train due to mechanical issues - caused by how K 88 was being driven by its driver. Having proven their worth, 6 more of the class was ordered from the Rogers Locomotive Works, numbered from 92 through 97. These locomotives also entered service in the South Island and contained almost no differences to the first two, albeit they weren't given names and there is no record of them wearing the "kaleidoscope" livery (it is likely K 87 & K 88 had been repainted by this time also).

As more powerful locomotives arrived on the railway system, increasingly of American origin, the K Class became relegated from the top expresses and cascaded down to express trains on secondary lines. Two of the K's, K 93 & K 96, were transferred to the North Island during this time. Beginning just after 1900 the class started receiving new NZR-built boilers to replace their Rogers-built wagon-top boilers. The South Island locomotives gained boilers of a Belpaire design, while the North Island pair received round-top boilers. All the new boilers were pressed to 160psi, an increase over the original boiler's 130psi. By this time all the locomotives had received Westinghouse brake equipment also. It was during this time that some of the K Class, having been relegated to the Kingston-Gore branch, began earning a reputation for the Kingston-Invercargill express train which earned the name "Kingston Flyer".

Withdrawal and disposal

The days of the K Class in service were over during the 1920s. Both the North Island examples, plus K 87 "Lincoln" had been withdrawn as early as 1922. The others managed to linger on for a few more years yet, with the last two, K 92 and K 95, not withdrawn until 1927. As was customary at the time, the locomotives were set aside pending disposal, whatever form that may have taken. All remaining South Island class members lasted long enough to be dumped as embankment protection, something which began in 1926.


Three of the Rogers K Class have so far been exhumed and entered into Preservation. The first and most notable of these locomotives is K 88 "Washington", which was exhumed from its river grave by the Southland Vintage Car Club in 1974. There were a number of loose plans regarding the locomotive's future but these came to nothing. The locomotive wreck was threatened with being pushed back into the river until the Plains Railway came up with ambitious plans to restore it back to working order. Beginning in 1976, they achieved this goal in 1982 proving that the restoration of exhumed locomotives was possible. However in 1986 the boiler of K 88 (which had been in the river with it) was condemned, and it was not until 2001 that K 88 was once again in working order, this time with an all new Belpaire-style all-welded boiler and wearing a version of the 'kaleidoscope' colours.

The other two locomotives exhumed so far are K 94, exhumed by Plains Railway in 1986 but is currently stored in its recovered state with no active plans for restoration; and K 92, recovered in 1985 for a railway venture on the shores of Te Anau. Restored in Dunedin, the venture fell through before the locomotive had been fully completed, and subsequently the locomotive was put up for sale. Purchased by Colin Smith in 1998, the locomotive's restoration was completed and it is intended to recreate the old "Kingston Flyer" trains of the early 1900s at the Waimea Plains Railway. While waiting for the railway to be completed, K 92 has visited a number of railways in the South Island, with some of the more notable visits being those to the Kingston Flyer, an old haunt for K 92 and where it triple headed with the two AB Class locos resident there; and also a visit to Plains Railway, home of K 88 "Washington" where both locos were used together extensively.

List of locomotives

Key: In Service Leased to ARTA Withdrawn Preserved Under Repair Scrapped
Number Builder Builder's Number Entered service [1] Withdrawn [1] Notes
87 Rogers Locomotive Works 2455 01878-03-09 March 9, 1878 01922-05 May 1922 Named "Lincoln" after Abraham Lincoln. Boiler appears to have gone to Oxford Boiler Dump, 1926. Tender dumped at the Bealey 1926?, frame reputed to have been dumped there also.
88 Rogers Locomotive Works 2454 01878-03-18 March 18, 1878 01926-11 November 1926 Named "Washington" after George Washington. Dumped in the Oreti River, 1928. Recovered by Southland Vintage Car Club 1974, restoration begun by Plains Vintage Railway in 1976. In service.
92 Rogers Locomotive Works 2468 01878-12-16 December 16, 1878 01927-06 June 1927 Dumped at Mararoa Junction, 1928? Recovered by Fiordland Vintage Machinery Museum & restored Dunedin. Sold to Colin Smith, 1998, for Waimea Plains Railway.
93 Rogers Locomotive Works 2469 01878-12-16 December 16, 1878 01922-05 May 1922 Dumped at Westfield, 1929? Possibly exhumed in 1930's and sent to Japan as scrap.
94 Rogers Locomotive Works 2470 01878-12-16 December 16, 1878 01926-11 November 1926 Dumped in the Oreti River, 1928. Recovered 1986 by Plains Vintage Railway, stored.
95 Rogers Locomotive Works 2471 01878-11-14 November 14, 1878 01927-06 June 1927 Dumped in the Oreti River, 1928. Tender from this loco now attached to K 88 with new tender body - wheels possibly at Plains Railway also.
96 Rogers Locomotive Works 2473 01878-11-19 November 19, 1878 01922-05 May 1922 Dumped at Westfield, 1929? Possibly exhumed in 1930's and sent to Japan as scrap.
97 Rogers Locomotive Works 2474 01878-11-02 November 2, 1878 01926-11 November 1926 K 97 - Dumped in the Oreti River, 1928. Wheels possibly at Plains Railway.

The Rogers K class should not be confused with the K class constructed in 1932.


External links


  • Heath, Eric; and Bob Stott (1993). Classic Steam Locomotives of New Zealand. Wellington: Grantham House. ISBN 1-86934-036-1. 

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