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Ocean Beach Railway facts for kids

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The Ocean Beach Railway (OBR) is a heritage railway that operates in Dunedin, New Zealand. It is located between John Wilson Drive in the suburb of Saint Kilda and sports grounds near Forbury Park Raceway, and runs parallel with the city's main beach, Ocean Beach. This is near where the Ocean Beach Branch once ran, but not on the same formation.

The OBR can claim a couple notable distinctions. The first is that it was the first organisation to preserve a steam locomotive in New Zealand with the intention of operating it. The second is that it was the first operating heritage railway in New Zealand, with the first train running in 1963.

NZR A67 Ocean Beach Railway
A67 at Ocean Beach Railway
Kerr Stuart on embankment


In 1960, the late S. A. Rockliff and a small group of members of the New Zealand Railway and Locomotive Society Otago Branch placed a bid of $20 to purchase a small 9-ton Fowler 0-4-0T tank locomotive, Maker's NO 15912 of 1921 and used by the Public Works Department as their NO 540, from the Otago Harbour Board. Their bid was successful, making this locomotive the first to be preserved by a heritage railway in New Zealand. The locomotive whistle was first heard near the site of the former Ocean Beach railway station in August 1961.

Permission was granted by the Ocean Beach Domain Board to lay some 60yds of track at Kettle Park in Saint Kilda, alongside the Otago Model Engineers' Club grounds. Surplus tram rails were obtained from the Dunedin City Council. Passenger operations began during Festival Week in 1963 with PWD 540 and a four-wheeled wagon fitted with high sides, carrying some 2,700 passengers. It was decided to extend the line to the nearby locality of Saint Clair, following part of the route of the Dunedin Peninsula and Ocean Beach Railway.

During this period the OBR extended both their line and their collection with other locomotives donated by or purchased from Milburn Lime & Cement, the Otago Harbour Board, and McDonalds Lime among others. More rolling stock including examples of historic passenger carriages and goods wagons were purchased from the NZR, including the remains of two Dunedin & Port Chalmers Railway vehicles. A locomotive shed and later carriage shed were built, and protected by an eight-foot high, vandal-proof fence.

List of locomotives

Key: In Service In Service, Main Line Certified Under Overhaul/Restoration Stored Static Display Scrapped
Number TMS Number Builder Builder's Number Year Built Acquired by Ocean Beach Notes
A 66 Dubs & Co. 648 1873 1973 Entered NZR service in 1875. Withdrawn in 1904 and sold to NZ Pine Company at their Colac Bay plant. In the same year it was then sold to Dunedin City Gas Works. Used until 1949 where it was placed on display in Dunedin next to E 175 "Josephine" outside the Otago Early Settlers Museum In 1973 it was then purchased by the OBR and placed into storage. Leased to Caenarvon Restaurant from 1981 until damaged by a fire in 1988. The 'A' was given a cosmetic overhaul and moved to Middlemarch for display. In 2000 it was leased to the Waimea Plains Railway and currently being restored.
A 67 Dubs & Co. 647 1873 1967 Entered NZR service in 1873. Withdrawn in 1891 and sold to Hokonui Coal Company. In 1892 it was then repurchased by the NZR. Withdrawn again in 1896 and sold to Lovells Flat Coal Company. In 1906 it was then sold to Real MacKay Company at their Milton plant, then to Bruce Bay Coal Co. in 1907 and Milburn Lime & Cement in 1921. In 1967 it was purchased by the OBR. It was then restored to operational condition. In 1994 it was withdrawn from active service for an overhaul. It received Westinghouse brake equipment and was returned to service a year later. In September 1995 it took part in the 1995 Waipara Vintage Festival at the Weka Pass Railway. It was then taken out of service in October 1996 for another overhaul. This was complete in February 1998. In October 2006 it took part in the Dunedin Railway Stations 100th Birthday Celebrations. The "A" is currently under a 10-year overhaul.
D 6 Neilson & Co. 2564 1880 1965 Entered NZR service in 1880. Sold to Taratu Coal, Lovells Flat in 1917 and then on-sold in 1940 to McDonalds Lime at their Oamaru plant. Used by McDonalds until 1965 when acquired by the OBR. It is currently stored awaiting eventual restoration.
DS 203 59 Drewry 2527 1955 November 1982 Entered NZR service in May 1955. Withdrawn in November 1982 and sold to the OBR in the same month. It was then repainted black and maroon. In 2005 it was taken out of service after the arrival of DSA 549 and awaited an overhaul. This commenced on 29 March 2014.
DSA 252 549 Hunslet 4530 1954 February 5, 2005 Entered NZR service in November 1954. Renumbered as DSA 549 in 1978. Withdrawn in September 1982. It was then purchased by PPCS (now Silver Fern Farms) for their Burnside freezing works. Placed on loan to the OBR in February 2005 and arrived on the 5 in that month under the proviso that should it be needed it must be returned.
DSA 256 592 Hunslet 4534 1954 2000 Entered NZR service in September 1955. Renumbered as DSA 592 in 1978. It was taken out of service in 1980 and repainted in the "International Orange" livery. Withdrawn in August 1986. Returned to service on 29 January 1981. It was then purchased by the Fiordland Vintage Machinery Museum in that month for a proposed railway at Te Anau. It was purchased in 1999 privately and placed into storage at the OBR. It is now under the railways ownership.
F 111 Dubs & Co. 1233 1879 1966 Entered NZR service in 1879. Withdrawn on 18 July 1934. It was then purchased by the Oamaru Harbour Board. It was then sold to the railway in March 1966. It was restored in 1975 to operating condition. It was then withdrawn for a 10-year overhaul in 1985. During that year when the overhaul commenced its boiler was condemned. In 2007 the overhaul re-commenced. It has been named "Rob Roy" in preservation.
F 150 Dubs & Co. 1371 1880 1974 Entered NZR service in October 1882. Withdrawn in January 1958. Stored until 1961 where was moved and put on displayed at a park in Invercargill until 1974. Purchased by the railway later that year it was kept in storage placed in inside storage. In 1986 the OBR leased F 150 to the Ashburton Railway & Preservation Society for eventual restoration at The Plains Vintage Railway & Historical Museum. Restoration commenced some time after arrival. Restoration was put aside for the restorations of their A 64, K 88 and TR 119.
Kerr Stuart 4185 Kerr Stuart 4185 1929 1960s Built in 1929 for Kempthorne Prosser. It was purchased by the club and restored to operational condition. In 1994 it was withdrawn from service for an overhaul. It received Westinghouse brake equipment and was returned to service on 13 May 1995. In September later that year it took part in the 1995 Waipara Vintage Festival at the Weka Pass Railway. In the 2000s it was withdrawn for an overhaul. This was completed in 2007. In on 21 April 2014 it was taken out of service for some tube replacement, but has since returned to service.
Price 185 A & G Price 185 1958 December 1993 Built for Alliance Meats for their Lorneville freezing works. Purchased by the railway in December 1993 and arrived in the same month. It currently awaits restoration although in an operational condition.
PWD 540 John Fowler & Co. 15912 1921 1960 Built in 1921 for the Public Works Department. It was then sold to the Otago Harbour Board in 1951. It was then purchased by the railway in 1960 and it was restored to operating condition. In 1963 the 'PWD' was recomissioned. As of September 2014 it is currently awaiting an overhaul. It is notable for being the first preserved locomotive in New Zealand.
TR 81 309 Drewry 2097 1939 1988 Built in 1939 for the Ohai Railway Board. In November 1955 it was sold to the NZR and reclassified as TR 81. Re-engined in February 1969. Renumbered as TR 309 in 1978. Sold to the railway, and later restored to Ohai Railway Board appearance. In service.
Traills Tractor A&T Burt. 126 1926 1997 Built for Milburn Cement. Displayed at a Kindergarten until 1997, to Ocean Beach Railway. Stored.

Rolling stock

The OBR possesses numerous historic passenger carriages, an assortment of freight wagons, and a hand crane. The collection includes the following vehicles:

  • A 193 and A 210, two 43' 0" passenger carriages built at Addington Workshops in 1886 and 1883 respectively to BP 91. They are the most complete examples of their type in preservation. As of 2013, A 193 is in regular service while A 210 is being restored.
  • A 529, a 41' 0" gallery or 'birdcage' coach built by Addington Workshops in 1897. It was converted into a Ministerial carriage in 1904, before being converted in 1939 to EA 1564, the South Island Plumbers and Fitters coach. The body is in storage at Ocean Beach while the underframe was sent to Pleasant Point in 1975 for their "half-birdcage" coach, A 421.
  • AF 874, a 47' 6" 'carvan' or combination passenger carriage and guards' van. Converted from 1904-built passenger carriage A 874 in 1948, this carriage was purchased by the Taieri Model Club in 1968 and was donated to the OBR in 1977. This carriage is currently in regular service.
  • D 139, a 21' 6" four-wheeled passenger carriage built by the Dunedin firm of Hyslops in 1877. One of only three D class carriages preserved, its last use was as Way and Works hut E 897. It is currently in storage awaiting restoration.

Ocean Beach is well renowned for its active restoration of freight rolling stock, some examples of which are very rare and have earnt the railway numerous restoration awards. The railway also owns 5-ton Ransome & Rapier hand crane 287 of 1874, and restoration work on the crane earned the OBR a Rolling Stock Award from the Federation of Rail Organisations NZ. The Ocean Beach Railway is one of very few railways in New Zealand which can produce an accurate late 19th century period train.

The OBR also owns the underframes of two ex-Dunedin & Port Chalmers Railway Company vehicles. It is thought they are possibly goods wagons although carriage historian John Agnew believes that they may be from passenger carriages.


The Ocean Beach Railway has traditionally operated a summer schedule with services every Sunday. In 2006, the OBR commenced operating a reduced winter schedule, featuring services on the last Sunday of every month. Trains are operated by a mix of steam and diesel locomotives. Currently TR 81, Kerr Stuart 4185 and DSA 252 are used to pull trains, with A67 out of service for its 10-year boiler examination. Most restoration work takes place on Saturdays and visitors are welcome to view the workshops and restoration work in progress.

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