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During the late 1800s, the loggers in the New Zealand bush
turned from horse power to steam power and procured locomotives from England and
ran these on their relatively primitive and mostly wooden railed tramways. There
were obvious shortcomings with these lokeys, as they were never really designed
to run on such light and uneven trackwork. So, being of an inventive nature the
New Zealand woodsman concocted his own designs for steam locomotion and in so
doing started an industry that saw something like 98 geared steam locomotives
built in the period from 1885 until the last was constructed in 1943. In addition
to these, there were also some rod engines built as well as the use of ‘cast-off’
engines from the national carrier. Bush tramways also saw seven Climax and seven
Heisler lokeys in use.
That the New Zealand designed and built lokeys were successful is undoubted as most of them achieved long lives, albeit with a few new boilers and some subtle changes that modified the appearance considerably from original. By the standards of the day they were well engineered and proved their worth with light wheel loadings and the ability to negotiate some atrocious trackwork.
Today, few of these remain, but of those that do, some are being restored to working order while others will be preserved as static exhibits reflecting the times of long ago. In addition to these locally built geared engines, the New Zealand bush tramways used other geared engines such as the American Heisler and Climax, and English engines such as Robey, Thomas Robinson, and Aveling & Porter. Many rod locomotives were also used, either especially imported for the tramways or, more often, as cast-offs from the national carrier.
New Zealand has been a metric measurement country for many years and its population
now think in terms of metres or parts thereof. However, the locomotives included
herewith were built long before metrication was introduced so all dimensions are
primarily given in feet and inches followed by the metric equivalent.