The history and development of locomotives has been well covered in publications of the NZ Railway and Locomotive Society. Two rather special steam locos are owned by RHTNZ and operated and maintained by volunteer staff and former staff.
The F class 0-6-0ST locomotive dominated New Zealand’s railways in the 1870s and 1880s. Between 1872 and 1888 88 were built, by which time almost one locomotive in three was an F.
F 163 was built by the Scottish maker Dübs and Co in 1880, and entered service in Auckland the following year. It went to Whangarei in 1885 and Christchurch in 1891. Three years later it was shipped to the isolated Nelson section, where it remained until 1903. Following overhaul at Addington it went south to Invercargill in 1904 and stayed in Southland for 23 years.
In 1927 it returned to Christchurch, where it was based until retirement in 1964 - it was one of the exhibits at the 1963 railway centennial celebrations there.
Until 1979 from tine to time it was towed about the country to be exhibited at various events. Then followed an overhaul at Addington Workshops, and a short period in steam during the workshops' centennial celebrations. After that it reverted to its former non-steaming display-only role until 1984, when a group of Palmerston North railway staff volunteered to return it to full working order.
Since then it has been steamed regularly, and with its volunteer crew has roamed over most central and southern North Island routes at the head of excursions.
W 192 was the first locomotive to be built by Railways in its own workshops, at Addington in 1889, and the first "second generation" tank locomotive.
Earlier tank locomotives, like the A (0-4-0T), C (0-4-2ST), D (2-4-0T), F (0-6-0ST) and L (2-4-0T) classes, were small, so the 2-6-2T W 192 (and sister W 238) represented a considerable advance. Having both leading and trailing trucks made them better suited for running in either direction, and they had a useful power output with adequate capacity for fuel and water.
The two W locomotives started their careers on the 1 in 35 grades of the Upper Hutt-Summit section. They also helped out on the Fell-worked 1 in 15 grades of the adjacent Rimutaka Incline, being fitted with centre-rail brakes for the purpose.
By 1904 they were working on the Rewanui and Roa branch lines in Westland, routes with Fell centre rails for braking, and there they remained until ending their revenue-earning lives in the late 1950s.
W 238 was scrapped, but W 192 was preserved. At first it was cosmetically restored and towed to various events as a non-working exhibit, but then Addington Workshops staff restored it to full working order. Today, after the demise of the workshops, a group of Christchurch railway staff and former staff looks after it at Linwood Depot. It is frequently steamed for use on excursion trains.