Ka945 is a New Zealand built steam locomotive, used in the North Island by New Zealand Railways for both express passenger and heavy freight service.
- Locomotive running number: Ka945
- Designed by: New Zealand Government Railways
- Built at: NZR Hutt workshops, Lower Hutt
- Date built: 1939
- Builders number: 328/39
- Entered service: July 1939
- Written off: December 1967
- Returned to heritage operation: 1985 to 1995
- Current condition: Undergoing 2nd restoration.
Ka945 was the first built of the Ka class.
- Wheel arrgt: 4-8-4
- Driving wheels: 54 inches dia
- Cylinders: 20 inches dia, 26 inches stroke
- Valve gear: Walschaert, 11 inch dia inside admission piston valves
- Boiler pressure: 200 psi
- Total weight in working order: 145 tons
- Overall length: 69ft 8inches
- Tractive effort: 32,740 pounds @ 85% boiler pressure
- Fuel: Oil fired. (Converted from coal in 1947)
- Capacities: Fuel, 1570 gallons. Water, 5000 gallons
The Ka class locomotives were an improved version of the K class locomotives first introduced by NZR in 1932. Ka945 was the first built of the Ka class, though not the first in the eventual number series. Among the improvements incorporated in the Ka's were SKF roller bearings in all axleboxes, thicker frames, and a stronger design of the cast steel rear frame under the firebox. Some locos were also subsequently fitted with cast steel (instead of cast iron) cylinders. When designed, the K and Ka locos were arguably the largest conventional locomotive that would fit through the loading gauge on the principal North Island main lines. As originally built, Ka945 was fitted with an ACFI feed water pump and pre-heaters covered by a "streamlined" casing at the front end. This was removed in 1947, the pump and feed heaters replaced with an exhaust steam injector and the locomotive converted to oil firing. Its current appearance is as it was after the 1947 conversion. Unlike some locos of the Ka class, 945 was never fitted with a cross-compound air compressor and is currently running with the dual single pumps at the front end that produce the typical "Ka sound".
Ka945 spent its entire working life allocated to Taumarunui depot and worked both freight and passenger trains on the North Island Main Trunk, through the "mountain country" between Taumarunui and Taihape. While most of its life was uneventful, in July 1961 it ran in to a large boulder hidden in a slip across the track at Hihitahi, was derailed, and in the process suffered a bent frame.
Ka 945 as it appeared when first built in 1939. Photo: NZR Archives
The frame is still bent and is one of the jobs that it is hoped can be rectified during its current overhaul.
The locomotive took part in many rail-fan excursions during the 1960's when steam was being replaced by diesel electric locomotives on the Main Trunk. Its last run in NZR ownership was on 30 September 1967, when it made a return excursion between Taumarunui and National Park traversing the world famous Raurimu Spiral. It was officially written-off in December 1967 but remained at Taumarunui until June 1975 when it was towed to the Steam Incorporated depot (The Engine Shed) at Paekakariki. The locomotive had been purchased by the late Sir Len Southward for display at his proposed vintage car museum at Paraparaumu, and came to The Engine Shed for temporary storage.
While at the Engine Shed the locomotive was partly cosmetically restored. Sir Len subsequently donated the locomotive to Steam Inc. and it was then decided to restore the locomotive to main line working order, even though the likelihood of it ever running on the main line was then exceedingly remote.
The engine crew and side view.
By October 1984 the locomotive was in a very stripped down condition for what was expected to be a 5 year overhaul. At that time NZR was planning a steam event to mark the centenary of the start of construction of the last link in the Main Trunk through the "King Country" and Steam Inc. was approached to see if we were interested in having Ka945 take part. Needless to say, we were, but only had six months to restore the locomotive to working order to meet the deadline of Easter 1985.
After much hard work and many late nights the locomotive, accompanied by Ja1250 from the Glenbrook Vintage Railway, and the societies combined vintage carriages worked the triumphal Centennial Special from Auckland to Wellington on 13th & 14th April 1985 and returned to Auckland the following week-end. Although officially a "one-off" operation, this train proved to be the start of the return of steam to the main lines in New Zealand. Steam Inc. was subsequently awarded the A & G Price restoration award for this locomotive.
Ka945 has since run many excursions and charters throughout the country and is very popular with rail fans and the general public alike.
It has, over the years, achieved many places in the rail history books and created many 'firsts'.
To celebrate the locomotive's 50th birthday in June 1989, it hauled a three day excursion from Wellington to Taumarunui and back. At Taumarunui many ex-NZR locomotive crews and maintenance staff had the chance to re-aquaint themselves with an engine that they had known in everyday service many years previously.
May 1991 saw Ka945 become the first preserved steam locomotive to haul an NZ Rail scheduled express passenger train. To celebrate the centenary of the completion of the Wellington to Napier route via the Manawatu Gorge, 945 hauled the Bay Express from Paekakariki to Napier and back to Wellington.
In February 1992, together with J1234, Ja1250, Da1431 and F163 it hauled passenger trains operated in connection with the 2nd BP Pan Pacific Car Rally at Palmerston North. In September the same year it was the first Ka to run over the Masterton to Woodville line.
In 1993 it first ventured across Cook Strait on the interisland ferry on its way to Invercargill.
KA 945 and the Crunchie train at Maheno near Oamaru, during the epic 3-week non-stop trip for the locomotive. Photo: Glen Anthony.
This was perhaps its greatest claim to fame when it ran, over a three week period, from Invercargill to Whangarei, hauling a promotional train for Cadbury Chocolates. It was in steam for the entire period and ran over 4000km in the process.
1994 saw Ka945 together with Ka942 (owned by the Mainline Steam Trust) re-create the sights and sounds of double-headed trains on the Raurimu Spiral and this was repeated the following year. Two Ka's on a heavy train create sights and sounds never to be forgotten and certainly turn the phrase "earth shaking" in to reality.
Ka 945 is an exceedingly well travelled locomotive, having traversed almost the entire New Zealand rail system. The only significant lines it has not run over are from Stillwater junction to Westport in the South Island, and in the North Island, the Rotorua and Taneatua branches, and north of Whangarei.
After 10 years of running, in 1995 the locomotive was taken out of service for a mandatory boiler inspection and overhaul. It was intended at the time that the locomotive should only be out of service for a few years,
Boiler suitably positioned to ease repairs to firebox - 2016.
however the list of things that needed attention kept growing, combined with a difficult financial period for the society due to it being almost impossible to run excursions on the main line saw the restoration stall. When finances improved, it was decided to concentrate resources on AB 608 which also was under restoration and Ka945 has sat waiting for its turn for restoration.
The project to overhaul 945 commenced again in late 2014. Since them the main focus has been boiler related repairs. Especially in the firebox and stays. This was completed by the start of 2017. Attention has now turned to the underframe and running gear. A fund is kept for the restoration costs of this engine – any donations towards it are greatly appreciated.
If you are interested in becoming involved with this project, please come down to the Engine Shed any Saturday and make your interest known.
Working days - Information on operating and working days at The Engine shed.