New Zealand Railways Department

New Zealand Railways Department

The New Zealand Railways Department, NZR or NZGR (New Zealand Government Railways) and often known as the "Railways", was a government department charged with owning and maintaining New Zealand's railway infrastructure and operating the railway system. The Department was created in 1880 and was reformed in 1981 into the New Zealand Railways Corporation. Originally, railway construction and operation took place under the auspices of the former provincial governments before coming under the central Public Works Department, but the role of operating the rail network was subsequently separated from that of the network's construction. From 1895 to 1993 there was a responsible Minister, the Minister of Railways. He was often also the Minister of Public Works, as the Public Works Department was responsible for constructing new lines.




The Railways Department followed a traditional 'branch' structure, which was carried over to the Corporation.

  • Commercial;
  • Finance and Accounts;
  • Mechanical;
  • Publicity and Advertising;
  • Refreshment;
  • Railways Road Services;
  • Stores;
  • Traffic; and
  • Way and Works.


The following NZR workshops were builders of locomotives and rolling stock when NZR was a government department, the active ones still operating.



Minor Workshops

All now closed, none manufactured locomotives, although major overhauls were carried out.

  • Greymouth (Elmer Lane)
  • Invercargill
  • Napier
  • New Plymouth (Sentry Hill) from 1880
  • Westport


The following numbers are given by Lloyd (pages 187-189) for steam locomotives built and rebuilt at NZR workshops:

Workshops New Rebuild Total
Addington 114 12 126
Hillside 165 21 186
Hutt 77 0 77
Petone 4 7 11
Newmarket 1 9 10
Westport 0 2 2
Total 361 49 410

Nine of the ED electric locomotives were constructed at the Hutt (7) and Addington (2). Various diesel locomotives have been rebuilt at NZR Workshops, eg some of the DA as DC, though most rebuilding has been contracted out. Hillside built 9 NZR TR class diesel shunters.

The Auckland workshops (Newmarket, then Otahuhu) specialised in car and wagon work, and in repairs and maintenance.

Private firms that built steam locomotives for NZR

British companies, eg:

American companies, eg:

New Zealand companies:


See also


  • Lloyd, W. G. Register of New Zealand Railways Steam Locomotives 1863-1971 (2nd edition 2002) ISBN 0-9582072-1-6


Preceded by
Public Works Department
New Zealand Railways Department New Zealand
Succeeded by
New Zealand Railways Corporation

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