NZR KA class

NZR KA class
NZR KA class
A streamlined KA class locomotive
Power type Steam
Builder NZR Hutt Workshops
Build date 1939 - 1945, 1950
Configuration 4-8-4
Gauge 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) Cape gauge
Wheel diameter 54 in (1.37 m)
Wheelbase 34 ft 10 in (10.62 m)
Length 69 ft 8 in (21.2 m)
Width 8 ft 6 in (2.6 m)
Height 11 ft 6 in (3.5 m)
Weight on drivers 56.4 long tons (57.3 t)
Locomotive weight 93 long tons (94 t)
Tender weight 52.9 long tons (53.7 t)
Locomotive & tender
combined weight
145.9 long tons (148.2 t)
Fuel type Coal (original)
Oil (converted 1947 - 1953)
Fuel capacity 7.5 long tons (7.6 t) coal
1,570 imp gal (7,100 L) oil
Water capacity 5,000 imp gal (23,000 L)
Boiler pressure 200 psi (1,400 kPa)
Feedwater heater ACFI (KA 930 - 959)
Firegrate area 47.7 square feet (4.4 m2)
Heating surface:
1,933 square feet (179.6 m2)
Superheater area 485 square feet (45.1 m2)
Cylinders 2
Cylinder size 20 × 26 in (51 × 66 cm)
Power output 1,400 hp (1,000 kW)
Tractive effort 30,815 lbf (137.07 kN)
Number in class 35
Number 930 - 964
Official name "Nigel Bruce" (KA 942)
Locale North Island of New Zealand
First run 1939
Last run December 1967
Retired 1965 - 1967
Restored 1985 (KA 945)
Scrapped 1966 - 1967
Current owner Mainline Steam, Silver Stream Railway, Steam Incorporated
Disposition Withdrawn; 3 preserved

The NZR KA class of 1939 was a class of mixed traffic 4-8-4 steam locomotives that operated on New Zealand's railway network. They were built after the success of the K class to meet the increasing traffic demands of the New Zealand Railways Department. The locomotives first appeared with distinctive streamlining, mainly to hide their ACFI feedwater systems.



Following the success of the K class, there was a need for more similar locomotives in the North Island. The new locomotives incorporated a number of improvements, including a re-designed plate frame to eliminate the cracking issues the K class were experiencing; roller bearings on all wheels; hydrostatic lubrication throughout; and the inclusion of the ACFI feedwater system as pioneered by K 919. As the ACFI equipment was criticised for its aesthetic appearance, it was obscured with shrouding fitted to both the KA class and contemporary KB class.

Building of the locomotives commenced in 1939, just prior to the Second World War. Main construction and assembly took place at Hutt Workshops. Hillside Workshops largely constructed - but did not assemble - ten of the class (No.’s 940-944, 960-964) and built a further five KA boilers. The primary reason why the ten KAs were not assembled at Hillside was because there was no way of transporting complete locomotives between the North and South Islands at the time (the first Railways Department rail ferry didn't commence until 1962). The Vulcan Foundry, of the United Kingdom supplied parts for fifteen locomotives, including most chassis components, tender bogies, and boiler foundation rings. The General Casting Corporation of Pennsylvania, USA supplied trailing bogie and rear end framing. A company in Auckland also constructed up to 10 tenders for the class. While the imported components were intended for specific locomotives (and in some cases were stamped for the locomotives they were intended for) in practice, and due to wartime pressures, the imported components were used indiscriminately for any KA locomotives in the programme.

Nineteen locomotives were built between 1939 and 1941, but wartime circumstances meant construction of the remaining sixteen lasted from 1941 to 1950, a period much longer than NZR management anticipated. The first of the locomotives to be completed was KA 945. All but two members of the class were constructed by 1946. The final pair, No.'s 958 and 959, differed somewhat from the rest of their class due to being fitted with Baker valve gear instead of the Walschaerts valve gear fitted to all other members, and were oil burners from new. Like some of the other later KAs, they were not built with shrouding, although the front shrouding and many front-end components had been built for KA 959 for display at an exhibition. These were ultimately used on KA 939.

In service

The KA class was solely based in the North Island, and upon entering service, the first members were placed on heavy freight and express passenger service. They saw extensive use on these tasks during wartime. The shrouding, while cleaning up the appearance of the locomotives, was open at the top and began gathering soot and dust that affected the working environment in the cab. After the war, a coal shortage also occurred and NZR decided to convert a large number of locomotives to oil burning. The KA class were a prime candidate due to the large size of the grate. Conversion to oil burning occurred from 1947 and 1953, with nineteen of the class done at Otahuhu Workshops and sixteen at Hutt. The conversion coincided with the removal of the shrouding, and also the replacement of the ACFI feedwater system with an exhaust steam injector.

The locomotives became a mainstay of the North Island motive power fleet, and although primarily seen on the North Island Main Trunk Railway, they also worked other lines, such as the Palmerston North - Gisborne Line as far as Napier and the Stratford - Okahukura Line.

At one stage, KA 944 was sent to the South Island for an overhaul at Hillside Workshops and for subsequent use on the Midland Line along with the KB class. Although it was overhauled, it did not operate on the Midland Line due to union objections and was repatriated back to the North Island.

Withdrawal and disposal

One member of the class, KA 949, was wrecked in the Tangiwai disaster on 24 December 1953, New Zealand’s worst rail disaster. Although recovered from the Whangaehu River and taken to Hutt Workshops, it was never repaired and officially written off in 1955. Although the locomotive was subsequently scrapped, the NZR recovered quite a number of components from it and re-used these on other locomotives as the need arose.

With the commencement of main line dieselisation in 1954, the class was slowly displaced from front line service, especially as the DA class was progressively introduced to service from 1955. Withdrawals began in 1964. The last locomotive in revenue service, KA 935, ran in 1967. KA 942 was held for a time at Hutt Workshops for possible use as a stationery boiler, but this did not proceed.


Three of the KA class have been preserved:

KA 935 was preserved by the Wellington Branch of the New Zealand Railway & Locomotive Society in 1967, and was initially stored at the Waikato Railway Museum in Te Awamutu until the site at Seaview, Lower Hutt where a railway was being established. Later KA 935 moved along with the rest of the collection to the new site at the Silver Stream Railway in 1984, being moved there in steam behind a diesel towing the rest of the items. Since that time KA 935 has remained at Silverstream, and is currently out of service awaiting a 10-year overhaul. Due to the short nature of the Silver Stream Railway, 935 has been converted from superheating to a saturated state by removal of the superheater elements.

KA 942 was preserved by Ian Welch in 1972, after having been laid up at Hutt Workshops as a possible addition to 3 K Class locomotives being used as a stationary boiler supply. It was moved to Steam Incorporated and some limited work was done on restoring it, however by the mid-1980's it had been moved to Otaki for open air storage. In 1989 it was moved to the Glenbrook Vintage Railway where it was restored to working order, and main line certified - first running from 1991, wearing its former streamline shrouding. Initially based out of Mainline Steam's Parnell depot, it alternated between Parnell and Christchurch before being moved to Wellington in 2001 so that a comprehensive 10-year overhaul could be conducted. KA 942 returned to service in 2008.

KA 945 was preserved by Len Southward (who created the Southward Car Museum, who had it stored in Taumaranui at first and then later at Steam Incorporated, Paekakariki. Later he gifted KA 945 to Steam Incorporated, and they began slowly overhauling it to working order. In late 1984, the pace of work accelerated to have it ready in time for the return of steam to the main line in 1985, a goal which was achieved. In the 10 years that followed KA 945 ran numerous excursions all over the country, including the Crunchie Train Tour of 1993. In 1995 it was withdrawn for a 10-year overhaul, however due to a number of constraints this has not taken place yet.

Class register

Key: In service Out of service Auckland Transport service Preserved Overhaul Scrapped
Number Builder Introduced[1] Withdrawn[1] Notes
930 NZR Hutt 01940-03 March 1940 01966-10 October 1966
931 NZR Hutt 01940-05 May 1940 01966-04 April 1966
932 NZR Hutt 01940-05 May 1940 01967-05 May 1967
933 NZR Hutt 01940-07 July 1940 01966-10 October 1966
934 NZR Hutt 01941-08 August 1941 01966-10 October 1966
935 NZR Hutt 01941-10 October 1941 01967-12 December 1967 Donated by NZR to Wellington Branch of the NZR&LS. Preserved by Silver Stream Railway; stored awaiting a boiler overhaul (10-year).
936 NZR Hutt 01942-02 February 1942 01966-01 January 1966
937 NZR Hutt 01943-11 November 1943 01967-11 November 1967
938 NZR Hutt 01943-12 December 1943 01964-07 July 1964
939 NZR Hutt 01944-03 March 1944 01965-01 January 1965 Tender from this locomotive preserved by Mainline Steam, Parnell
940 NZR Hutt 01940-09 September 1940 01965-12 December 1965
941 NZR Hutt 01940-10 October 1940 01967-12 December 1967
942 NZR Hutt 01940-11 November 1940 01967-08 August 1967 Purchased 1972 by Ian Welch for Mainline Steam and named Nigel Bruce; restored and certified for main line use. Usually partially streamlined/shrouded, since November 2010 the locomotive has been de-streamlined and temporarily renumbered 949 for use in a documentary about the Tangiwai Disaster.
943 NZR Hutt 01941-02 February 1941 01967-05 May 1967
944 NZR Hutt 01941-05 May 1941 01965-12 December 1965
945 NZR Hutt 01939-07 July 1939 01967-12 December 1967 Purchased from NZR by Len Southward for Southward Car Museum; donated to Steam Incorporated, restored and in use on the main line from 1985; currently stored dismantled, awaiting overhaul.
946 NZR Hutt 01939-08 August 1939 01965-01 January 1965
947 NZR Hutt 01939-08 August 1939 01966-05 May 1966
948 NZR Hutt 01939-08 August 1939 01966-05 May 1966
949 NZR Hutt 01939-10 October 1939 01955-03 March 1955 Wrecked in the Tangiwai disaster on 24 December 1953; officially written off March 1955.
950 NZR Hutt 01939-11 November 1939 01965-12 December 1965
951 NZR Hutt 01939-11 November 1939 01965-03 March 1965
952 NZR Hutt 01939-12 December 1939 01966-10 October 1966
953 NZR Hutt 01944-07 July 1944 01967-05 May 1967
954 NZR Hutt 01944-10 October 1944 01966-09 September 1966
955 NZR Hutt 01944-12 December 1944 01967-05 May 1967
956 NZR Hutt 01945-09 September 1945 01966-10 October 1966
957 NZR Hutt 01946-04 April 1946 01966-10 October 1966
958 NZR Hutt 01950-02 February 1950 01967-02 February 1967 Baker Valve Gear
959 NZR Hutt 01950-03 March 1950 01966-10 October 1966 Baker Valve Gear
960 NZR Hutt 01939-03 March 1939 01966-09 September 1966
961 NZR Hutt 01940-04 April 1940 01966-09 September 1966
962 NZR Hutt 01940-04 April 1940 01966-09 September 1966
963 NZR Hutt 01940-08 August 1940 01966-10 October 1966
964 NZR Hutt 01941-06 June 1941 01966-10 October 1966


  • Register of New Zealand Railways Steam Locomotives 1863-1971 by W. G. Lloyd (2nd edition 2002) ISBN 0-9582072-1-6
  • Stott, Bob; A Locomotive reborn: the KA 945 story, Southern Press, 1986

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