Memorial locomotive close to being restored for WWI commemoration

Passchendale, the Ab class locomotive named in 1925 by Railways Minister Gordon Coates in memory of New Zealand railwaymen who lost their lives during World War I, is being restored by rail heritage group Steam Incorporated.

Coates considered the names of famous battles such as Somme, Le Quesnoy and Ypres, Coates before choosing Passchendaele. The locomotive was built at Christchurch’s Addington railway workshops in 1915 and was one of the workhorses used to pull express trains through both islands.

After it was retired in October 1967, it was given to the New Zealand Railway and Locomotive Society for preservation.

In 1993 it was agreed that Steam Incorporated would restore it at its Paekakariki depot. The project has been estimated to cost around $350,000 and is expected to be finished later this year (2013).

The plan is for the restored locomotive to feature during the World War One Commemorations.

More than 140 Ab locomotivess were produced between 1915 and 1926. Passchendaele was one of the stars at the New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition in Dunedin in the summer of 1925-26. It was chosen to haul the Duke and Duchess of York’s royal train in the South Island.

The memorial nameplates fitted to the engine’s sides were removed during World War II. They were later put on display at Christchurch and Dunedin railway stations.

Sources: Steam Incorporated; NZ History Online.