NZR H class

NZR H class

H 199 in the Fell Engine Museum, 20 March 2002.
Type and origin
Power type Steam
Builder Avonside Engine Co., England (4)
Neilson & Co., Scotland (2)
Serial number Avonside 1072–1075
Neilson 3468–3469
Build date 1875 (4)
1886 (2)
Configuration 0-4-2T
Gauge 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm)
Wheel diameter 32 in (813 mm) driving
23.5 in (597 mm) adhesion
Wheelbase 14 ft 3 in (4.34 m)
Length 24 ft 1 in (7.34 m)
Width 8 ft 6 in (2.59 m)
Adhesive weight 32.4 long tons (32.9 t; 36.3 short tons)
Loco weight 39.8 long tons (40.4 t; 44.6 short tons)
Fuel type Coal
Fuel capacity 0.5 long tons (0.51 t; 0.56 short tons)
Water cap 714 imp gal (3,250 L; 857 US gal)
  Firegrate area
16.8 sq ft (1.6 m2)
Boiler pressure 160 psi (1,100 kPa)
Heating surface 794 sq ft (73.8 m2)
Cylinders Four total
two driving, two adhesion
Cylinder size 14 in × 16 in (356 mm × 406 mm) driving
12 in × 14 in (305 mm × 356 mm) adhesion
Valve gear Stephenson (199 - 202)
Joy (203 - 204)
Performance figures
Maximum speed 15 mph (24 km/h)
Tractive effort 12,550 lbf (55.8 kN) driving
11,000 lbf (49 kN) adhesion
Number in class 6
Numbers 199 – 204
Locale Rimutaka Incline, Wairarapa, North Island
First run 1878
Last run 29 October 1955
Retired March 1956
Preserved One (H 199)
Restored 1981 - 1989
Scrapped 1956
Current owner Fell Engine Museum
Disposition 5 scrapped
1 preserved
The underside of H 199, showing details of the Fell railway system, 20 March 2002.

The NZR H class locomotive was a unique class of locomotive used by the New Zealand Railways Department on the famous Rimutaka Incline, the 3-mile (4.8 km) section of 1 in 15 (6.67 %) gradient between Cross Creek and Summit, over the Rimutaka Ranges. The locomotives worked on the Fell mountain railway system and had four horizontal driving wheels between the frames, gripping a centre rail and providing the extra adhesion needed for the climb. The outside engines drove the rear pair of coupled wheels of 32 in (813 mm) diameter, and the inside cylinders four spring-loaded grip wheels of 22 in (559 mm) diameter. On the descent, powerful hand-brakes bore against the centre rail, and brake vans with similar braking gear were interspersed at intervals in the train. The locomotives were never required to run at speeds higher than 15 mph (24 km/h), and their usual operating speed was between four and six miles per hour (6.4 and 9.7 km/h) ascending the incline, about ten miles per hour (16 km/h) descending.


After the Second World War, the locomotives were starting to show their age, and the New Zealand government was looking for a way to cut time between Wellington and the Wairarapa. On 7 May 1951, the contract to construct the 8.8-kilometre (5.5 mi) Rimutaka Tunnel was let, which spelled the end of the incline, and the need for the H class.

The last revenue service for the H class was on 29 October 1955, when locomotives 199, 201, 202, 203 and 204 hauled a Carterton Show day excursion train up the incline on the return journey to Wellington. When the Rimutaka Tunnel opened five days later, two of the engines were put to work dismantling the incline that they had travelled on for 77 years.

After closure and dismantling of the line, in February 1956 all of the H Class - except H 200 which had been out of service for some time with a collapsed internal steam pipe - were towed to Hutt Workshops. All were written off in March 1956 and all except H 199 were towed to the old Silverstream rail yard in 1957 where they were scrapped. H 199 was towed to Featherston on 9 August 1958 by DE 508 (itself preserved) and put on display in the park in Clifford Square the following month. Years later the locomotive became the centre piece in the Fell Locomotive Museum at Featherston.


At the opening ceremony for the Rimutaka Tunnel on 3 November 1955, the then Minister of Railways John McAlpine gifted locomotive H 199 to the town of Featherston. Following dismantling the incline, H 199 was stored at the Hutt Workshops (Woburn) for three years, before being moved through the Rimutaka Tunnel to Featherston. The locomotive was placed on a concrete plinth in a children's playground.

Over the years, exposure to the elements and vandalism had deteriorated the locomotive's condition. In 1980, the Friends of the Fell Society was formed with the intention of restoring H 199 for static display. Restoration began in 1981, and in 1984, the locomotive was moved into the new Fell Engine Museum adjacent to the playground. The restoration of the locomotive was completed in 1989.

However, with the Rimutaka Incline Railway Heritage Trust deciding on building replica locomotives and Fell Vans will be commissioned by the trust when the incline section in future between Summit and Cross Creek for Stage 3 of the project will be opened in the future, but Hugh McCraken is yet to decide on building these engines,

Class register

Key: In service On lease Out of service Preserved Overhaul/Repair Scrapped
Number Builder Introduced[1] Withdrawn[1] Notes
199 Avonside January 1, 1877 March 1956 Originally H 1 and named Mont Cenis
Preserved on static display at Fell Engine Museum, Featherston
200 Avonside October 16, 1878 March 1956 Originally H 2 and named Mount Cook
Scrapped at Silverstream in 1957
201 Avonside October 17, 1878 March 1956 Originally H 3 and named Mount Egmont
Scrapped at Silverstream in 1957
202 Avonside October 18, 1878 March 1956 Originally H 4 and named Mount Tongariro
Scrapped at Silverstream in 1957
203 Neilson November 1, 1886 March 1956 Scrapped at Silverstream in 1957
204 Neilson August 9, 1886 March 1956 Scrapped at Silverstream in 1957


  1. 1 2 "H Class 0-4-2 T Register". Retrieved 2008-10-29.
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