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Vogel-era locomotive

Just after 6 a.m. on 7 September 1878, this Rogers steam locomotive, K 88 Washington, left Christchurch hauling the first train to run on the newly completed railway to Dunedin. When it arrived in the southern city 12½ hours later it received a tumultuous welcome, with the mayor hosting a banquet in honour of the occasion.

The two K-class engines brought to New Zealand earlier that year, named Washington and Lincoln, were the first American-built locomotives to operate in this country. These ‘showy little engines’ impressed initially sceptical observers with their pulling power and high speeds, and a further six were imported in 1879 to haul Christchurch–Dunedin express trains.

From the mid-1880s the Ks were superseded by new, larger locomotives and relegated to secondary duties. After being withdrawn from service in the 1920s, K 88 was dumped in the Ōreti River. It was salvaged in the 1970s and painstakingly restored at the Plains Vintage Railway in Tinwald, Ashburton, where it continues to operate – providing a remarkable link to one of the great moments of the Vogel era of rail construction.

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Vogel-era locomotive, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated