Keep in touch with Reeftons Facebook pages


Fitness centre


Our 24 hr fitness centre offers a variety of the latest cardio and resistance gear.



crch thumb

The Reefton area is home to five churches



classified thumb

Online classified, employment and real estate section.



conf thumb

A range of meeting and conference faciilites to suit all your needs



edu thumb

From early learning to primary and secondary school and  into tertiary learning


Recreation & sport

sprtnrec thumb

There are numerous sport and recreation facilites for you to enjoy in Reefton.


Local services

servam thumb

Health, financial and community amenites are readily available in Reefton


Help us restore the R28

Friends of R28

“Friends of R28" are the supporting group to make the project happen and ensure the long term sustainability of the locomotive, a national treasure.

To be a "Friend of R28" you kindly donate $25 a year, but you might also like to donate at a higher level (by direct debit or lump sum) that maybe at $5/week over the year, $10/week over the year, or other sum/week, that may also be a lump sum donation. You will be informed of project progress (you’ll be part of the email news letter mail-out, and you will be able to be part of the volunteer effort that will enable the restoration project to gain momentum. You will also be invited to attend project milestone events. You will be acknowledged as a supporter of the project.

Foundation Group

“Friends of R28 - Foundation Group” are the leading supporting group along with sponsors, other funders to raise the funds to achieve the 1/3rd project funding (Estimated to be $120,000) to enable the Lottery WW1 Commemorations,

nvironment & Heritage Grant to be applied for in November 2016 to enable the 2/3rds other funding ($240,000) to be obtained. You will be informed of project progress (you’ll be part of the email news letter mail-out), and you will be able to be part of the volunteer effort that will enable the restoration project to gain momentum. You will also be invited to attend project milestone events. You will be acknowledged as a foundation supporter of the project, receive a framed Black & White photograph of R28 in its original condition and be eligible for a 10% discount on travel behind R28 over a 5 year period.

Your donation will be $1,040, that can be a lump sum donation or a pledged donation spread over 52 payments of $20/week by direct debit

Business Sponsorship

You are part of the leading supporting group and have the knowledge that your business support will make a significant contribution to carrying the restoration project forward. You will determine your level of investment and with the R28 Re-firing Project Management Group we will work through your investment recognition. As a start you will be eligible for advertising on our website and social media pages.

As business owner or representative you will be informed of project progress (you’ll be part of the email news letter mail-out). You will also be invited to attend project milestone events. You will be acknowledged as a foundation supporter of the project, receive a framed Black & White photograph of R28 in its original condition and as owner or as nominated representatives be eligible for a 10% discount on travel behind R28 over a 5 year period.

Restoration programme

Aims and objetives

  • Highlight its national importance as one of the early and unusual steam locomotives associated with the early period of NZ’s railway development (1870s).  It was both an Otago and Canterbury engine.
  • Emphasise its retirement use post its NZGR (New Zealand Government Railway) use at the Port of Timaru and the link with Reefton and the coal industry. [Note: Timaru Harbour Board’s other ex NZR engine Wd 357, was formally an operating engine at Ferrymead Heritage Park]
  • Be a feature in the Reefton rail heritage precinct.
  • Give the opportunity for passenger train running both on and off the     national network so that people get the opportunity to witness the engine working and its uniqueness, that could include use on the private lines such as Ferrymead Railway (not far from the Port of Lyttelton where the engine operated) / ‘Steam Scene’ Railway / Shantytown Railway / Oamaru Steam & Rail Railway / Dunedin Railways, Taieri Gorge Railway (formerly the Otago Central Railway on which the engine used to run on) / The Weka Pass Railway etc.
  • Provide the opportunity for the locomotive as a regular operating exhibit at national Railway Museum, Ferrymead, Christchurch.


Graham Gollan removing fittingsGraham Gollan removing fittings from the R22 replacement boilerThe loco is an asset owned by the Buller District Council (BDC) on behalf of the community.  An existing lease dating back to 1981, between the Inangahua County Council (amalgamated with the Buller District Council in 1987) and the original Single Engine Fairlie Group is in place, but does need updating in line with the new local authority (Buller District Council) and the current restoration plans. 

In the future, post the restoration of R 28 it is likely that the lease will be transferred from Reefton Inc to another community organisation with a specific mandate for heritage management.  The initial step of Reefton Inc coordinating the restoration will enable the restoration of the engine to be achieved, as agreed by interested parties at a community meeting about the engine’s future, chaired by Bert Waghorn Inangahua Community Board Chairperson 2005.

Note to clarify the community groups involved:

The Fairlie Engine Committee – formed to save R28 from being removed from Reefton.  In 1981 the committee moved the engine from the Reefton playground to its current location, The Strand.  A letter of agreement and lease was put in place the following year between The Fairlie Engine Committee and the former local authority, the Inangahua County Council (now merged with the Buller District Council).

The Single Engine Fairlie Restoration Project Group – followed down the track from a meeting in 2005 between the original Fairlie Engine Committee, Inangahua Community Board representing the Buller District Council and additional interested parties/individuals.

Restoration Goal


‘The Single Engine Fairlie Restoration Project Group’  became formed in July 2010 and is a  Reefton Inc sub committee  dedicated to the engine’s restoration and operation.  A goal is to have the engine operational by March / April 2018, it’ will be an opportunity to showcase a significant heritage item in the Buller District

Restoration Considerations

The first step in the restoration process will be to determine the suitability of utilising the spare R class boiler (R22) owned by the Canterbury Steam Preservation Soc, McLean’s Island, Christchurch.  The boiler is the most critical component of the engine and the part of the engine that there is considerable cost associated with its repair.   Inspection of this boiler by SGS in 2012 has determined that the boiler can be brought into survey, i.e. be an operational boiler, with minor repairs.  Fundraising is now underway (2015) to purchase the boiler from the Canterbury Steam Preservation Soc.  The boiler is at Morrow Engineering Christchurch where the repairs will be undertaken.

A fundraising strategy will be developed and implemented to achieve the estimated $360,000 required to bring the locomotive up to operational condition. Where possible the restoration work will be undertaken in Reefton but some of the work requiring particular technical expertise will be contracted out to competent engineering co firms.

to allow the majority of the work to be undertaken on a contract basis by competent engineering firms, and time framed to enable the engine in-part to be part of the 150th rail anniversary celebrations.  But the motivating goal is to be at the planned Dunedin Steam Festival in October 2014.

Restoration work will proceed on a stage by stage basis, and it is likely that several restoration stages will run in parallel with each other depending on funds on hand. March / April 2018 has been set for the completion of the restoration project.

In terms of the operation of the engine, this may well be undertaken under the umbrella of an organisation that is currently involved in network steam operations, such as Mainline Steam, Steam Inc, Fielding & Districts Steam Rail.

Proposed Restoration Programme:    

  1. Inspect the R boiler at Mclean’s Island owned by the Canterbury Steam Preservation Society to determine its integrity and suitability for use as the operational boiler for the R28 project – SGS 2012
  2. On a satisfactory result for the boiler, take steps to purchase the boiler $25,000 inc Gst – Initiated 2015
  3. Undertake a formal assessment of the condition of the locomotive other than the boiler to determine operational requirements by a competent steam engineer, Alastair Maciver, Steam Inc, Wellington – Achieved Oct/Nov 2012
  4. Review the Les Wright written (draft) conservation plan that will guide restoration and enable funding to be sought from such agencies as Lottery World War One Commemorations, Environment & Heritage Grant Fund. Chris Cochran Conservation Architect, Wellington to do the review (Recognised by Lottery’s as an independent conservation specialist)
  5. Forward a pre-registration / restoration plan that is required to be submitted to the Heritage Technical Committee of FRONZ for approval. Approval is a prerequisite to enable the possibility of running on the KiwiRail network
  6. Fundraise / seek sponsorship support, to achieve the 1/3rd or better sum of $120,000 ext Gst to enable a grant application of $240,000 ext Gst for the R28 project to go forward for consideration by the Lottery’s World War One Commemorations, Environment & Heritage Grant fund committee. Closing date for the application, most likely November 2016. Total project cost estimated to be $360,000 ext Gst
  7. Re-submit the Lottery World War One Commemorations, Environment & Heritage Grant Fund application by November 2016
  8. Establish the advocacy group, a ‘Friends of R28’ to build a support base for the project and to help raise awareness, help with funding initiatives and build the competent volunteer base
  9. Identify key stakeholders and maintain ongoing relationships
  10. Update the Buller District Council as to the R28 restoration project and objectives – seek an updated lease of R28 for restoration and operational purposes. Utilise modified FRONZ (Federation of Rail Organisations of New Zealand) lease agreement
  11. Liaise with the Reefton Historic Trust Board for the use of the Reefton Railway (Steam) Engine Shed as a place for R28 restoration work, also liaise with the organisation behind the ‘Mens’ Shed’ located on Bridge Street as another suitable venue for restoration work to take place
  12. Start in 2016 the restoration of the engine components with repair of the leading bogie (as per the re-firing R28 Steam Locomotive Restoration – Work Programme (2016) – available as a pdf ). A start with restoration and progress with restoration builds credibility, attracts interest, sits very comfortably with funders and usually facilitates the possibility of further funding support
  13. Develop operational possibilities / operational programmes for the post restoration phase, which will include showcasing the engine on the railway network on the West Coast, and other parts of the south island, that may also include visiting private railways
  14. Identify revenue possibilities for the engine’s ongoing sustainability, with reference to the operational programme
  15. Have the locomotive restoration completed and operational compliance requirements met by March/April 2018

A Health & Safety programme is to be effectively managed throughout entire project.


The R28 locomotive


R28 first operated May 1879, made for the New Zealand Government Railways in 1878 by the Avonside Engine Company, England.  The following dates outline its history:

1879 – Entered service in Dunedin.

NatLib-FL16688054--Steam locomotive 28, R class, type 0-6-4T, (Fairlie's patent), was built by Avonside (Maker's no. 1217/78), went into service in May 1879 and was written off in 1934. Location unknown. :Collection of albums, prints and negatives. Ref: APG-1124-1/2-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. natlib.govt.nz/records/22409114

1907 – Used in Christchurch at the Port of Lyttelton.

1912 – Returned to Dunedin.

1915 – Re-boilered at Hillside (Dunedin) Railway Workshops, with an Addington (Christchurch) Railway Workshops built boiler

1915 – Worked at Oamaru.

1922 – Returned to Christchurch and Lyttelton.

NatLib-FL16689961-R28-Single-Engine-Fairlie-Port-of-LyttleonAccident showing steam engine hanging half over the edge of Lyttelton wharf, having been dropped from a crane while being loaded or unloaded. Godber, Albert Percy, 1875-1949 :Collection of albums, prints and negatives. Ref: APG-1853-1/2-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. natlib.govt.nz/records/22769601

1934 – Ended service for the New Zealand Railway.

1934 – Sold to the Timaru Harbour Board and worked until 1940.

img624-R28-Single-Engine-Fairlie-Timaru-Harbour-BoardR28 being operated by the Timaru Harbour Board to haul bassalt from a quary for breakwater extension work. Photo bJ.A.T. [Trev] Terry [Pleasant Point Railway and Historical Society Archives]

1944 – Sold to the Morris family, Reefton, worked at Burkes Creek Colliery.

1947 – Owned by the State Mines Department, worked at the Burkes Creek Colliery.

1948 – Locomotive retired.

img621-R28-Single-Engine-Fairlie-ReeftonR28 abandoned adjacent to the old Burkes Creek line which it used to operate on. Photo by Hugh Bennett [Pleasant Point Railway and Historical Society Archives]

1960 – An attempt made by the then Reefton Station Master, Mr Crompton to save the engine.

1960 – Engine gifted to the Inangahua County Council (ICC) on behalf of the people of Reefton.

Fairlie Loco in yard 2006-08-17-1331-28-thm

1960 – The informal ‘Single Engine Fairlie Group’ formed.

1961 – Engine moved by rail to the Reefton playground, Church St.


1982 – Engine re-located to its current covered display site on the strand, a grassed  recreation area between Reefton’s main street (Broadway) and the Inangahua River (Strand).

Farilie Loco 2008-thm

1987 – With the dissolution of the ICC, the engine became an asset of the Buller District Council (BDC).

2005 – Decision between interested parties to consider the restoration of the engine.

2005 – Condition report for R28 produced with the need for intervention identified.

2005 – Cost of restoration report prepared by Ian Tibbles, Engineering Manager, Shantytown.

2008 – Condition assessment / informal restoration strategy made by Allan Familton, engineer and locomotive engineer, Hornby.

2010 – There has been a realisation prior to and beyond 2005 that there is an urgent need to place a significant amount of resource into the restoration of this internationally significant engine.  Rust never sleeps, and while the engine is under cover, significant deterioration has occurred due to the engine being outside and exposed to weather from 1948 (its retirement date) to 1982 (when it was located under its Strand shelter), a total of 34 years.  In addition rust also comes from the inside to the outside.  Moisture in the atmosphere locates itself in parts of the engine that may be protected from the weather, that leads to corrosion.

2011/2012 – Steps taken to assess the condition of the R 22 boiler held by Canterbury Steam Preservation Soc, Christchurch.

2012 – R 22 boiler assessed by SGS as being able to be brought into survey (steamable with minor repairs.

2012 – Mechanical condition of the engine assessed and the cost of the repair.

2015  $5000 pledge recieved from Bladdadder Trust to help purchase the R22 replacement bolier.

2015 – Steps taken to formerly purchase the R22 boiler from the Canterbury Steam Preservation Soc for $25,000 inc Gst

R22 Boiler

R22 boiler at Morrow Engineering, Christchurch, where it has been prepared for inspection and inspected by SGS, a company amongst other things specialising in surveying boilers. Boiler fittings have as of 2015 been taken off the boiler to better determine the overall state of the boiler.

Engine information



R 28, one of 18 of its class arrived in New Zealand from England in 1879. It was built by the Avonside Engine Company of Bristol. It was of the single engine Fairlie form and was fitted with one articulated driving bogie.
It was capable of speeds of 50mph and could easily tackle grades of 1 in 35-50, and traverse curves of 5 chains radius.

It came as a short side (water) tank locomotive (compared to some that came as long side tank locomotives or were fitted with long
side tanks during their life) and remained that way during its length of service life. At some stage the side tanks were fitted with a tool box. The side tanks were of riveted construction.

It was fitted with an Avonside built boiler, which had its safety valves mounted atop the outer firebox, surrounded by a fluted polished brass cowling,
and had a steam dome atop the boiler barrel, with a polished brass cover. The clack valves were located to the side and front of the boiler barrel.

The boiler bands may have been polished brass. It most likely had a boiler mounted sand dome as well as sand hoppers located at the forward end of the water tanks.

The cab was a simple cab hood, open to the sides, with a pair of small hinged rectangular windows to the front and the rear of the cab. It is most likely had a short
smokebox and a balloon funnel. A steel cow catcher was fitted to the front and rear timbered but steel plated headstocks. In front of the funnel, as would have been
at the rear of the tender, was a round and mounted oil lamp.

The engine would have been painted black, with inscribing lines on the cab, tender and side tanks. On the water tanks both sides were placed the rectangular
brass plates with the name Fairlie’s Patent. The tender sides would carry the oval maker’s plate. The class type and number would be sign written on the rear
of the tender and the front buffer.

The wheel size was 361/2 inches.

Physical modifications

Prior to the engine being re-boilered 1915 it was fitted at some stage with an extended smokebox and air brakes, with a Westinghouse pump mounted on the smokebox
on the driver’s side. The front of the smokebox was fitted with K class locomotive headlight bracket that held a large rectangular shaped oil lit headlight. Standard shaped, oval number plates were placed on the tender sides.

In 1915 it was fitted with an Addington Railway Workshops built boiler, but the boiler was fitted at the Hillside Railway Workshops. The new boiler featured safety valves atop the steam dome.
The boiler clack valves were located on the boiler barrel, just in front of the ends of the side tanks. The extended smoke box was still a feature and the engine had a stove pipe funnel or smoke stack. T
he Westinghouse pump was located to the fireman’s side of the loco and mounted on the smoke box. The rectangular shaped headlight was replaced with round acetylene light?

The cab was fitted with driver and fireman side windows front and rear, as well as a tablet exchanger on both the driver’s and fireman’s sides.

From 1934 onwards when working for the Timaru Harbour Board, the buffers were modified, as were the couplings to haul rock wagons for breakwater development.
The buffers were fitted with running boards to allow a crew member or shunter to stand during shunting movements.
The front headlight and presumably rear tender light was removed. The Westinghouse pump exhaust ran externally up the back of the funnel.

The Fairlie’s Patent plates and number plates were still fixed to the side tanks and the tender sides.

From 1947 onwards working for the Morris Family and the State Coal Mines, the modified buffers remained, but the harbour board style couplings were replaced with the standard NZR type coupling.
The front and rear running boards were removed. The Westinghouse exhaust pipe still exhausted to the rear of the stove pipe funnel.

The Fairlie’s Patent and number plates remained.

A56 part from the changes and loss of lighting, the introduction of the Westinghouse air brake system to the engine, and the boiler replacement in 1915,
and the changes in appearance that the boilers brought, including the change to a stove pipe funnel, the engine remained little changed over its entire life.


(1919) Wheel arrangement: 0-6-4T (Tank); Weight 33 tons; Cylinder dimensions 12 1/4” dia x 16” stroke; Driving wheel diameter 36 1/2”; Boiler pressure 160lb/square inch; Speed, capable of 50mph

(2016) Wheel arrangement: 0-6-4T (Tank); Weight 33.5 tonnes; Cylinder dimensions 311.25mm dia x 406.4mm stroke; Driving wheel diameter 927mm: Boiler pressure 1103 Kilopascals; Speed, capable of 80kmh

Significance today

The other two examples are located 1) in the USA at the Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn in Michigan (A Mason Bogie Locomotive, based on the Fairlie Patent) named Torch Lake, built in 1873 and re-boilered in 2009, and 2) in the UK (Wales) at Ffestiniog Railway.  The Ffestiniog engine Taliesan, is a re-constructed engine built in 1999 that used few parts from the original 1876 engine.


Uniquely a double Fairlie engine ‘Josephine’ of the Vulcan Foundry, England, is housed as a feature exhibit in the Toitu Otago Settlers Museum, Dunedin.  NZ is therefore fortunate to have both single and double Fairlie Engine representatives.

The R28 Refirers

Graham Gollan and Paul Thomas removing fittings-Alastair Morrow of Morrow Engineering (Christchurch) and Dave Gray removing fhe steam regulator valve  from the R22 replacement boiler, to aid boiler inspection.

The R28 refiring team and supporters

The Single Engine Fairlie Restoration Project Group

We are a s
ub-committee of Reefton Incorporated (Reefton Inc) consisting of:

  • Paul Thomas (Former Manager Department of Conservation - Project Management / Project Coordination / Locomotive Driver)
  • Ronnie Buckman (Former Visitor Centre Manager Department of Conservation - Visitor Services / Financial Management)
  • Jim Staton (Department of Conservation Manager, Historic Resources - Historic Resource Conservation Management)
  • Peter Hinton (Single Engine Fairlie Group Representative)
  • Graham Gollan (Former New Zealand Railways - Steam Locomotive Engineer, Former Diesel Locomotive Driver - Belfast Freezing Works, Part time Blacks Point Museum Curator – Use and servicing of steam locomotives)
  • The committee notes Les Wright’s contribution to the project, Les who was a committee member tragically died in a back country incident in 2013

Friends of the R28

[Outline of tuture R28 support group and link to Help Refire our R28 page]


[Wrtieup on workshop]

Refiring R28 - Steam locomotive restoration


Refiring the Single Engine Fairlie R28 - a steam locomotive restoration project

R28 steaming days gone by

Now safely undercover in Reefton, ‘R28’, our ‘Single Engine Fairlie’, is the sole survivor of a batch of locomotives built in England during 1878-9. New Zealand Railways, barely born back then, operated it throughout Otago and Canterbury until 1934. On-sold several times for harbour work in Timaru and collier work in Reefton, R28 finally retired in 1948. Later, gifted to the people of Reefton, interest in its restoration gained momentum driven by a unique sense and enthusiasm for its engineering and international significance.


Mr Crompton, Reefton’s Station Master, can be thanked for appreciating any ongoing worth in the lifeless and rusting steel hulk of R28. His 1960 attempt led to its gifting to the then Inangahua County Council (ICC), on behalf of the people of Reefton. By 1961 it had a caregiver, the ‘Single Engine Fairlie Group’ and was run by rail to the Reefton playground in Church St. Attraction as a child’s plaything helped R28 survive, unlike other, engines of its time, sent to the scrap merchants.

Ongoing deterioration required it to be moved undercover in 1982 where, protected from the rain and climbing children's feet, it now displays in the recreation area between Reefton’s main street and the Inangahua River.

The significance of the R Class locomotives for New Zealand

Fairlie Onehunga-Apart from being the last of its type in New Zealand, and one of three worldwide, R28 represents the importance of the Fairlie patented bogie system and the single engine to the New Zealand Government Railways (NZGR).

NZGR (1880) was very new post the introduction of the single engine Fairlies and tax payer resources had to golong distances across large areas of sparse population. For economy, light narrowly-spaced rails needed to be used over extensive rough country, demanding many small short steep grades and tight curves. The ability of the Fairlie’s driving wheels to pivot under the engine for tighter track curves to be traversed and greater stability to be achieved on the narrow gauge (3’ 6” or 1067mm) system.  This same gauge is still used today albeit with heavier rails and far straighter lines.

Positioned under the boiler, the driving wheels took most of the engine's weight, creating more friction with the rails allowing more power to be transmitted with greater control. 

Most Fairlie locomotives were manufactured ‘double ended’, with an engine and bogie each end, and fireboxes midriff.  This enabled them to travel in reverse equally well, and without the need to be turned around, fewer turnstiles were needed saving on costs and much time when shunting.

However NZR’s locomotives also needed to also travel long distances at reasonable speed. Larger coal bunkers, water tanks and trailing tenders were required while retaining the special performance of the Fairlie. Thus ‘halves’ of the Double Fairlie were built by the Avonside Engine Company of Bristol, England, and so much more usable on our main trunk lines.  In essence the Fairlie’s patent, the articulation of the driving wheels was the precursor of the the driving arrangement that we see on modern diesel electric locomotives.  Most often these locomotives have a power or driving bogies in the front (leading) and rear (trailing) that pivots or articulates.

Full steam again to the R28 - the fire in our bellies

NatLib-FL16688054-Steam locomotive 28, R class (Fairlie's patent). This is R28 with its Addington  (Christchurch) railway workshops boiler that was fitted in the Hillside (Dunedin) railway workshops in 1915.  Godber, Albert Percy, 1875-1949 :Collection of albums, prints and negatives. Ref: APG-1124-1/2-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22409114

‘The Single Engine Fairlie Restoration Project Group’ is passionate to restore New Zealand’s only example of this type of steam engine. Not only do we thrive to restore it for showcasing, we will steam it up for riding on private railways, and, more especially, our local railway. Based at the Reefton rail heritage precinct, R28 will both promote and serve tourism, becoming a far greater, self-sustaining asset to the Buller District.

First, we will find the funds to arrest R28’s further decay and assess our two replacement boiler options. We will draw up a conservation plan and undertake more fundraising so an engineering project manager can be appointed and volunteers mustered. To assist, we plan to launch the ‘Friends of R28’ support group, encourage major contributors and attract sponsors. Restoration work would then commence at the Reefton Railway (Steam) Engine Shed, or the Reefton Mens' Shed (the former Waiuta mine workshop building located in Bridge Street, with various component work jobbed out to West Coast and Canterbury engineering firms.

R28 is to achieve operational status by March/April 2018, free to travel the nation’s rail network, carrying many enthusiastic people on not just joy rides and discoveries, but sentimental journeys into the past.

R28 will have been refired!

You are here: Home Our Community

Victoria Park




Big River




Living History


Heritage tours


Reefton Cinema