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Baldwin Wb steam locomotives

Wb locos arriving at Maymorn 5 August 2008
Wb locos arriving at Maymorn 5 August 2008

On a snowy August 2008 morning Wb 292 and Wb 299 arrived at Maymorn from Paekakariki. Their journey here begun about 50 years ago when they were dumped into a river near Seddonville on the west coast of the south island as river protection.

In 1989 Hugh McCracken salvaged the two engines and moved them north with the intention of restoring them to service. The locomotives are stripped to components, frames and boilers being the largest recognisable portions.

Twelve Wb class 2-6-2T tank engines were built by Baldwin Locomotive Works, Philadelphia, U.S.A. for New Zealand Railways. Two, numbers 297 and 298 were initially allocated to Wellington, where they worked trains between Wellington and Summit. Following the introduction of Wd class 2-6-4T tank locomotives in 1901, having greater coal bunker capacity, the two Wb class were transferred to Whangarei and Westport.

Wb 292 and Wb 299 were the last survivors of their class, having spent more than fifty years hauling coal trains at Westport.

Returning these locomotives to steam along their classmates' former stamping ground between Upper Hutt and Summit will be a huge achievement.

Wb 292

Wb 292 leaves Dunedin light engine heading towards Burnside. Test run after overhaul at Hillside Workshops, 23 February 1949 before heading back to Westport for its final years of service on the NZR. Photo: S.A. Rockliff