Tuesday, March 25, 2014

An American locomotive in the Manawatu

April 1909. "An American Climax bush locomotive pictured on a bush tramway at Gamman's Mill, Ohakune, with a group of timber workers." 7-A6160, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries

"All ready, Jim?"
"Yes Let her go."
A pull at the long bush cord connected with the siren of the hauler, half-a-mile away, an answering shriek, and with a gathering up of slack steel wire, a giant of the Ohakune bush starts on its journey to the sawmill. It is an eventful journey for a few minutes for, despite the power of the hauler, away back on the tramline intervening stumps and trees have to be negotiated and carefully cleared but with these once out of the way the hauler carries log and all before it, loose bush and saplings being pushed aside at the head of the log, itself weighing a few tons, as though they did not exist. Arrived at the bush skids, which serve as a platform from which the railway trucks are loaded, the log is placed in position on the trucks by powerful jacks, and is then, in company with a dozen more, hauled by their own Climax locomotive to the sawmill three-quarters of a mile away, where it is with but little loss of time converted into building timber of varying sizes. The above is a brief description of what happens several times a day at Messrs Gamman and Co.'s sawmill at Ohakune. Though they commenced work but a little over a year ago the firm has now one of the largest and most up-to-date mills in New Zealand. It is situated within a quarter of a mile of the railway station at Ohakune and with its expanse of bush yet to be felled promises to be one of the prime factors in the commercial success of the line township. …

Up to where the bushmen are at work an iron road has been laid, upon which the Company's 25-ton locomotive, Climax make, and specially constructed for logging purposes, draws its heavy loads with ease. The engine is similar to those used in America for the same purposes and was built by the makers to the Company's order … 

Manawatu Standard 14 July 1909
Some info on Climax locomotive engines here. According to Trainweb: "In all, seven Climax locomotives came to New Zealand, from 1884 until 1930, these being, one Class A and the remainder, Class B. Of these, it is remarkable that no less than five still remain, of which one, No.1203, built in 1913, is still in steam service at Shantytown."


  1. Alco's were quite famous train engines. I have seen videos of the diesels and they can blow a lot of smoke.

    I've also seen videos of trains with wheel slip as they attempt to start and there is too much power and the wheels just spin. The bush locomotive clearly overcomes this by having gears, or as it described, a transmission. Same power, but at a slower pace. I wasn't aware of these trains, so it is very interesting to learn about them.

  2. I was surprised to see an American loco turn up in an NZ image -- but I'm delighted that one has survived here. Would be an incredible sight to pop down and see, fired up and running. One day ...