Heritage, Operations & Maintenance, Plant, Machinery & Equipment, Rollingstock & Manufacturing, Sustainability

KiwiRail’s oldest locomotive retires

The replacement of KiwiRail’s oldest diesel shunt locomotive with a modern, zero-emissions equivalent symbolises the transformation going on in KiwiRail.

New Zealand Transport Minister Michael Wood and Climate Change Minister James Shaw joined KiwiRail staff and other guests at a small event in Wellington’s Hutt Workshops last week to mark the retirement of the 85-year-old shunt engine TR56.

It is being replaced by a new, battery-powered shunt, as part of the Government’s $1.6 billion investment in replacing KiwiRail’s aging locomotives and wagons, and upgrading mechanical facilities.

KiwiRail acting chief executive David Gordon said TR56 began working in New Zealand in 1936, and since the late-1960s had been based at Hutt Workshops – bringing locomotives, carriages and wagons onto and off the shop floor.

“It has served us well all those years but we have moved into a new era. Its replacement offers improved control and safety, and is fully electric. It is part of a renewal across KiwiRail that is preparing us for a low carbon future.”

Gordon said diesel trains already have 70 per cent fewer emissions than heavy trucks, per tonne of freight carried. However, KiwiRail was focused on further reducing its environmental footprint.

“Like the Government, we are aiming to be net zero carbon by 2050 and, as a start, we are committed to reducing our overall emissions 30 per cent by 2030,” he said.

“Government support is helping us to do this by funding the renewal of our aging fleet of locomotives and Interislander ferries with more efficient, low-emission replacements.

“Rail currently only carries about 12 per cent of New Zealand’s freight task. If we want to reduce transport emissions, rail needs to carry more. New, low emission locomotives and ferries will improve service reliability and encourage more Kiwi businesses to put their goods on rail.”

KiwiRail has received 14 new 300 tonne battery powered shunts and two new 110 tonne shunts, for use in workshops, and is currently working towards the purchase of at least 35 larger shunt engines, with the aim of them being electric or hybrid-diesel.

In other developments:

  • KiwiRail has signed a contract with Spain-based manufacturers Stadler for 57 fuel-efficient, low-emission locomotives for the South Island. They will be built to the highest (Stage 5) European emissions standard and are expected to begin arriving in 2024.
  • KiwiRail is upgrading and extending the life of many of the North Island electric locomotives, which run between Hamilton and Palmerston North.
  • KiwiRail has signed a contract with South Korea’s Hyundai Mipo Dockyard to build two large, rail enabled ferries to replace the current Interislander fleet. These new ferries will make use of batteries and onshore charging to cut current ferry emissions by 40 per cent. The ferries are expected to arrive in New Zealand in 2025 and 2026.

The retired shunt locomotive, TR56, is being gifted to the Rail Heritage Trust of New Zealand, which will lease it to Silverstream Railway in Upper Hutt. It will be used to pull passenger carriages on the short section of line the heritage railway owns.