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Water heating surface
This locomotive was built as WG 480 at the hillside workshop, Dunedin for the NZR in 1910 as a 4-6-4 tank locomotive. The Wg class was designed to meet the need for a more powerful type locomotive for the haulage of suburban trains chiefly at Auckland and Wellington. Twenty of theses locomotives were produced at the hillside workshops between 1910 and 1912. The WG bore a considerable likeness to the WF class of 1905. Indeed it was merely an improved version of the WF class, with the cylinders being of the same dimensions (14’’ times 22’’) coupled wheels of the same diameter (45’’) and the same working pressure of the boiler (200lb.) and tractive effort.
The Wg class proved to be very useful locomotive and soon saw a wide variety of duties including haul-freight trains and mail trains.
During the First World War, 480 was adapted for use on the Rimutaka incline to assist the fell engines to cope with the additional strain of the military traffic to and from New Zealand Expeditionary force training camp at feather stone.
It’s cowcatchers were altered to clear the high centre Fell rail. As a special feature its acetylene headlamp was arranged in such a way as to follow the alignment of the track on curves. WG 480 remained at cross creek depot for the Rimutaka trains unit at least 1928 to assist the Fells in general traffic on the incline.
From here 480 began to wander ‘around the depots and during the next twenty years it worked at various times at Palmerstone North, Wanganui district and East town Workshops, Taihape and wellington. As a shunting locomotive at Taihape it almost certainly banked the heavy express trains north from Taihape towards Mataroa as this was one of the duties of the Taihape shunts.
In 1949 a start was made to convert four standard WG locos to WW class. These engines were built with a new design of boiler having a greater heating surface. This together with modifications to the cab bunker and new boiler mountings made a considerable difference to their appearance. WG 480, with its original boiler No. 733, entered Hutt Workshops (lower Hutt, Wellington) on the 27th September 1950 for conversion and emerged with its new boiler on 16th February 1951. The three other WG’s converted were 479 (1952), 486 (1950)’ and 488 (1951).
The change was made in an effect to modernise and give a new lease of life to very useful locomotives of the WG and WW classes. Design work was undertaken by Mr W. Featherstone to the requirements of NZR Chief Mechanical Engineer P. R. Angus. Although the modifications did nothing to increase the tractive effort it did result in a better steaming locomotive with a slightly improved range of operations due to the increased coal capacity of the new bunkers. It certainly prolonged the lives of the four WG’s so modified as the remaining numbers of their class were withdrawn from service by 1956.
After conversion WW 480 really wandered around the NZR. In the ensuing years it served at Napier, Gisborne, Auckland, Whangarei, Taumarunui and Otahuhu shops. Then in the late 1950’s it returned to Whangarei and Dargaville- Donnelley’s crossing branch (where it is remembered for running the last public train on that section in 1959). It the returned to Otahuhu, was overhauled at Thames North by Prices Ltd. And spent the next three years in Auckland. It passed through Frankton in late1963 on its way south to the south island. It commenced work as a Timaru loco on 25th of February 1964 and in 1965 was sent to hillside Workshops for overhaul (its first visit there since 1910)
Then it was ‘’Westward Ho’’ for 480 and her final life on the NZR. Years earlier she had thrashed up and down the Rimutaka incline. In 1966 it was Greymouth and the still operating Rewanui incline. With its one in 25 grade the incline is now the steepest line on the NZR. Dieselisation finally caught up with this little tank loco and in 1969, it along with her sisters on the west coast was withdrawn from service. But it was from Greymouth that 480 was to go on to greater things. In August 1962 the railway Enthusiasts’ Society of Auckland had used the locomotive for an excursion to Onehunga, in September of the same year she had hauled a loaded train full of railfans to Helensville. So when the chance come in 1969 it was decided to retain this association and the locomotive was bough and steamed to Auckland from Greymonth.
This mammoth journey involved months of planning by the society and NZR officials. In various stages this old tank engine hauled its train of passenger cars and full wagons, stopping to cross express, railcar and freight trains. Water was brought to the trackside by pre- arranged tanker supply. Once in Auckland it was arranged with the NZR for the Railway Enthusiasts’ Society and the Grenbrook Vintage Railway to lease the Papakura locomotive deport and in the next few years much work was done here on the overhaul of WW 480. Overhauled and modified and subsequently reclassified GVR No. 1, the locomotive’s emergence in early 1976 as the first operable steam locomotive of the GVR fleet was major step toward the opening of the Vintage Railway. The GVR has fitted a mainline headlight, taken off one air pump (two were put on for use on the Rewanui incline), removed the toolbox from the boiler top and fully overhauled the boiler and motion.
On the 13th March 1976, 480 was steamed up for show to the public on a Vintage Railway Open Running day. Since that time the engine has been an active member of the GVR's engine fleet, running regularly on Sundays. In 1986 the locomotive ventured in Auckland city to run with GVR No.4 along Quay Street hauling shuttle trains in conjunction with the Great NZ Travel Show. Later in 1993 480 returned to the mainline to run shuttles along the Onehunga branchline in suburban Auckland and again in 1994 the engine ran an excursion with C 847 from Papakura to Huntly and return.
Once back at the GVR 480 ran until 1998 when she was withdrawn for an overhaul that was completed in 2002, the locomotive was again withdrawn for a mechanical overhaul in 2009, she returned to service for a brief period in 2013 until boiler troubles lead to the condemning of her old boiler, since that time 480 has been undergoing a thorough overhaul of all components and is now awaiting the fitting of the newly manufactured boiler.