Ja 1250 Diana was built at the New Zealand Railway’s Hillside Workshops in Dunedin, she and all succeeding locomotives were equipped with roller bearings on all except one pair of crank pins. Everything on the modern engine was new including a new type of Westinghouse electric speedometer.
1250 was based in Dunedin for the entire of her working life, running as far north as Oarmau in Canterbury and as far south as Invercargil in Southland, a common practice during heavy overhauls of locomotives was to swap boilers if the one that was currently on a loco need repairs and a fully operational one was already on another locomotive, 1250 currently has the boiler that started out in life being on Ja 1240, the first Ja ever built. It was then used on 1264 before being given to 1250 this swap occurred in 1956, her current boiler carries the number 1314 and a crown sheet number of 8819.106, while her original boiler was numbered 1399.
After pulling express passenger and express freight trains for 19 years she was withdrawn from active service for the railways in 1968, however after a brief period of laying idle (And having a few parts taken off for use on other Ja’s) she was repaired and returned to running order to join the select handful of Ja’s and J’s who where running the overnight expresses from Christchurch to Dunedin, the last regular steam working in New Zealand. 1250 had many overhauls during her time in service for the railways, these ranged from minor repairs and checks (classed ‘C’) to full strip down overhauls (classed ‘A’) These would be undertaken after the engine had done a certain amount of mileage. In October 1971 the age of steam ended in the South Island, Ja 1250 was used in conjunction with a number of other J’s and Ja’s to haul excursion trains to and from Dunedin on the 29th of October, 1250 has the distinction of pulling the very last north bound night express from Dunedin on the 30th of October.
It was at this point that the Railway Enthusiast Society was seeking a ‘Ja’ for the fledgling Glenbrook Vintage Railway, originally Ja 1261 was considered but then this locomotive ended up being scraped it was decided that 1250 would be the best choice. Next came delivering the loco to Auckland, it was decided that she would work her way north from Wellington at the bottom end of New Zealand’s North Island by means of an excursion train, this is how the ’South Pacific Steam Safari’ was born, using the Easter Weekend of 1972.
The decision was taken at this point to also purchase another locomotive to assist Ja 1250 in the run to Auckland, J 1236 was chosen for this role. The route took the train from Wellington around the Wairarapa up to Palmerston North, up to Wanganui and then across to Taumarunui, from there the train ran down to Raurimu at the foot of the world famous Raurimu Spiral, unfortunately at Kairoi J 1236 suffered a failed boiler tube, Ja 1250 hauled the train (21 carriages) and J 1236 (Partly assisting) up the Raurimu Spiral. The next day a ‘Da’ class diesel locomotive was added to the train to assist 1250 with the run to Auckland. Upon arrival in Auckland the train was meet by crowds of people at the line side, thousands turned out to meet and see the train that day. After having received repairs earlier on J 1236 joined Ja 1250 in running a delivery trip to the GVR from Auckland in 1973, upon arrival at the GVR 1250 was handed over to its new owner Phil Goldman, who named 1250 after his wife ‘Diana’ this is the name that she still carries today.
From then on until 1981 Ja 1250 remained on display at the GVR until she was given an overhaul back to running standards and joined Ww 480 and GVR No.4 in hauling tourist trains over the GVR. She remained on the GVR until 1985 when 1250 was selected (Along with Ka 945 from Steam Incorporated) to haul the ’Steam Centennial Excursion’ from Auckland to Wellington and return. This trip celebrated 100 years since work began on construction of the North Island Main Trunk Railway Line (NIMT) and also was the official end of the NZR’s ban on steam trains running on the national network. From here 1250 ran many trips with the RES/GVR’s mainline fleet of carriages all over the country, ranging from trips up to the most northern outpost of the NZR at Otiria, right down over Cook Strait to Christchurch for the Rail 125 celebrations.
In 1986 the GVR opened the then new extension to Fernleigh, for this Ja 1250 ran a public excursion from Auckland city out to the GVR ’The Sunset Coast Express’ comprised of Ja 1250, an NZR ‘Da’ class diesel and a large rake of the Auckland suburban carriages. Ja 1250’s next journey was 1000 kilometres all the way down to Christchurch for the 125th Anniversary of the railways in New Zealand, the ’Steam Trek 88’ as it was called was a tour that ran from Auckland to Christchurch and return. After returning to Auckland 1250 continued to run many excursions around the North Island, with trips up north to Otiria, across to Thames, and down to Palmerston North. In 1992 1250 was hired by NZ Steel to appear in a television commercial, this was to test the strength of the paint on their new roofing system, this involved 1250 running over a piece of the new roof and the paint not being scratched or harmed in anyway.
1250 running alongside the Kaikoura Coast during October 1988
In 1992 however 1250 was withdrawn to undergo a heavy overhaul, this means that the engine was taken apart right down to the last nut and bolt, she was entirely reconditioned, while receiving a new smokebox, new tyres (like the rubber tyres on your car, but made of metal for trains) on the bogie axles. The boiler was completely stripped down, having new tubes and flues, plus a large amount of new metal welded into the firebox, the tender had extensive metal work replaced with all the baffles in her water tank being renewed. After 4 years of mostly volunteer labour Ja 1250 was returned to service just in time for the start of the new operating season in October 1998, she made her return to the mainline in 1999 for her 50th Birthday special to Helensville and return, this excursion featured a double header combination with J 1234 (Which was leased from Steam Incorporated from 1998 - 2015)
1250 being stripped down for her 1994-1998 overhaul
From 2000 onto 2005 1250 ran the highly successful ‘Round the Block’ excursions that went on a trip around the suburban network of Auckland in a loop, these where public excursions that ran several times a day during one weekend of the year, for the first 4 years these where known as the ‘Boardway Limited’ as they originated and terminated at Newmarket (Whose main street is ‘Broadway’) In 2004 the suburb of choice was changed to Remuera, and the next year in 2005 it was changed to Ellerisle. 1250’s was hired in 2006 by Trans Scenic to haul the ‘Overlander’ passenger train from Pukekohe just outside of Auckland to Te Kuiti south of Hamilton. After these trips 1250 remained on the GVR hauling trains as normal until Easter Weekend 2010 when she was chosen to haul the first official train on the new extension into the township of Waiuku, she hauled the members train onto the new track being driven by the late Paul Heighton who he himself drove the final train into Waiuku in 1967. In 2011 1250 returned to the mainline in conjunction with Steam Incorporated’s Ja 1271 for an excursion from Glenbrook to Hamilton and return. In 2013 1250 returned to the North Auckland line to haul her final excursion to date from Glenbrook to Helensville and return. After 4 years of further running on the GVR Diana was withdrawn from service for an overhaul, she is currently on display on our workshop until the overhaul is started.
Diana sitting at Pukeoware Depot on her last day in steam - 30th April 2017