Wa165 Vintage Steam Train - Gisborne NZ
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Gisborne City Vintage Railway - Wa165 Steam Train
A BRIEF HISTORY OF Wa 165 . . . of the six Wa class locomotives that were based in Gisborne between 1910 and 1942, No. 165 was a true Gisbornite.
Wa 165 was born in the N.Z.R. workshops at Hillside, Dunedin in 1897 and was the first locomotive to be built in these shops.
It was put into service in March, 1898 and commenced work at Wellington April 1898, transferred to Palmerston North depot in 1899 and then to Taihape in 1910.
In early 1911 it went to Petone workshops for an overhaul prior to being shipped to Gisborne in July, 1911. This locomotive remained in the Gisborne section until the line south was opened in 1942, then transferred to the Napier depot but continued to appear in Gisborne from time to time on shunting duties.
In 1943 Wa 165 went to the Hutt shops for her last 'A' class overhaul, and in 1946 was on the move again, being transferred to the Frankton depot.
In 1949 during her working career in the centre of the North Island, Wa 165 carried out shunting duties at Putaruru, Huntly and Te Kuiti, then between 1951 and 1952 was on loan to the Mines Department at Rotowaro while their locomotive went through A & G Prices' workshops for an overhaul.
For the next few years it carried out general shunting duties around Frankton until in 1957 when in semi-retirement, the aging loco was confined to the daily coal shunt between 4pm and 6pm.
It was withdrawn from service in 1959. On 25 August 1961, Wa 165 was finally written off the N.Z.R. books although it had been sold to the Gisborne Junior Chamber of Commerce in May of that year.
Back Home Again.
It was during 1960 that the Gisborne Junior Chamber of Commerce discovered Wa 165 slowly decaying on a railway siding at Frankton, better known as 'Rotten Row'. As it had spent 31 of its 62 years on the old Motuhora line, they considered it only befitting that it be returned to Gisborne as a stationary exhibit.
The locomotive was purchased from the N.Z. Railways for the sum of two hundred pounds, which was its scrap value at the time. Raising that sum of money was not a simple task for the group, but on the 3rd March 1961 a deposit of fifty pounds was handed over to the Gisborne Stationmaster to secure the locomotive, with the final payment made 10th May, 1961.
During the time that negotiations were taking place, Wa 165 had been cleaned up with a steam hose, all axles and bearings oiled and greased, connection and eccentric road removed (necessary when running a dead engine) and prepared for the 497 mile journey back to Gisborne. The veteran Wa class 2-6-2T locomotive No. 165 arrived back in Gisborne midday on the 26th May, 1961 having travelled from Frankton to Palmerston North, Napier, then on to Gisborne. It was cleaned up and put on display at the Gisborne Industries Fair in mid June of that year.
The loco sat on an unused piece of track in the Railways demolition yard during the fair and attracted a lot of attention from the young and not so young. The 'demolition yard' was so named because a lot of the rails and sleepers, bridge spans and other materials salvaged from the now defunct Gisborne-Motuhora line were stored there waiting disposal. It was quite ironic that Wa 165 should be parked in the same yard containing the now disused road that she steamed over in her heyday.
From the time it was mooted to bring the locomotive back to Gisborne, the City Council agreed to make a site available for the veteran, but the final resting place was a debatable issue between the Council and the 'Jaycees.
After 12 months of deliberation a piece of land was offered on the 'Alfred Cox Park', this was accepted, Wa 165 rested here for 6 years. In 1968 Wa 165 was again moved to 'Young Nicks Playground' in Awapuni Road, a site not far from the Beach and the salt air. Wa 165 sat here for 18 years slowly rusting away.
During these times groups from outside Gisborne were interested in taking her away but the City Council turned these requests down, as by this time Wa 165 was the sole survivor of its class in N.Z. out of eleven that were built between 1892 and 1903.