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Dispatch Foundry, Greymouth

Geared Steam Locomotives


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The steam locomotives built by this company were generally a disaster. The early examples were adaptations of their log haulers with a chain drive to the axles. They were mechanical monstrosities with short service lives, but later Dispatch went on to develop successful rail tractors with such good results that other manufacturers were unable to compete.

Usually with Dispatch designs a boiler was mounted at one end of a frame and a log winch at the other. The twin-cylinder winch engine drove a rope drum through a crankshaft from the middle of which a pair of bevel gears powered an intermediate shaft inclined downwards 30-degrees towards the centre of the locomotive. The lower end of this shaft drove a horizontal line shaft via another set of bevel gears. At this point a 2-speed transmission was effected by means of sliding bevel pinions of different ratios. The line shaft was set just above axle height. From the line shaft a complex set of bevels and spur gears conveyed power to the axles. It was a monstrosity! The 3-truck model utilised 24 gears in the trucks and another six in the transmission. As a result of all this complexity, the service life averaged only 11 years.


1904 Early Geared Steam Locomotive

Dispatch Foundry first converted a steam log hauler using a Davidson chain drive. It was not a success but did actually work for at least four years. One of their lokeys was a Gripwheel comprising a hauler boiler and a winch that wound itself along the track by using a cable laid between the rails. The cable passed over the winch drum with a few turns to assist grip. The early models used an underfired boiler but later models used a proper locomotive type boiler. Cylinder diameter was usually around 7 inches (178 mm). No other dimensions available

An early Dispatch loco working near Ngahere where it was in use from 1907. (Alexander Turnbull Library)


1913 12-wheeler

Dispatch engineered this locomotive in a much better fashion than their previous efforts. The principle remained the same in that the boiler was mounted at one end of the frame with the winch at the other. From the winch, drive was taken via two-speed gears down through a line shaft to the twelve axles. The winch was also used to assist in loading logs onto buggies. The locomotive was built for the Westland Sawmilling Co. at Camerons and served there for about ten years when it went off to the Te Kinga Land & Timber Co. The boiler certificate finally expired in 1925 and the hauler was removed and used elsewhere in the bush.

The photograph shows the Midland Sawmilling Co. loco at Camerons. (Dispatch Foundry)

Dimensions: - Length 25'-2" (7671 mm), Wheelbase 20'-11" (6389 mm), Truck wheelbase 3'-4" (1029 mm), Weight 15 tonnes, Boiler pressure 140 psi (965 kPa), Cylinders 8" x 12" (203 x 305 mm), Wheel diam. 24" (610 mm), Gear ratios 1 : 3.27 and 5.76.



Other Dispatch Photos: -

Photo 1 - Dispatch #W2D160 Built 1915 for Perotti & Co. Mawheraiti (Alan Bellamy col.)

Photo 2 - Dispatch - unidentified loco. (MOTAT col.)

Photo 3 - Dispatch #140 Built 1913 for Westland Sawmilling Co. Camerons. Note the light rail and substantial trestle. (MOTAT col.)


  • Survivors There are no known survivors of Dispatch steam lokeys.



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