The Uc of 4-6-0 locomotives were ordered in 1900 from Great Brittan, the
builder being Sharp, Stewart & Company and delivered to New Zealand in 1901.
There were ten built, numbers 361 to 370, and was the final development of
the U class series of locomotives, being preceded by the New Zealand built
U and the Ua also form Sharp, Stewart & Company. The Uc was built with a
redesigned modern cylinder block of piston valve type, the same that was
fitted to the B class loco 4-8-0 that was designed by NZR chief draughtsman,
G.A.Pearson who fitted with his own arrangement of the Walscharts valve
gear, built a year earlier by the same manufacturers. This meant the Uc had a
2" longer stroke than the U and Ua class though the diameter of 16" was
common to all three.
Early working life
Our two locomotives, the last two built (No's 369 & 370) entered service in October 21 & 24 1901 respectively, Uc369 at a cost of £3,369 ($574,069 2011 Dollars) and Uc370 at £3,504 ($597,073 2011 Dollars). New they were allocated to Dunedin and Invercargill but for a while all ended up in Invercargill. Two latter came back to Dunedin to work the Otago Central Line, although one or two did come to Canterbury from about 1910 when displaced by the American built Ub class. However after opening of the Otira Tunnel in 1923 these locomotives were progressively transferred to the West Coast between 1923-25.
All were built with saturated boilers but seven of the ten were fitted with the new "U" class superheated type of boiler in the late 1920's and the remaining three locos were gradually written off from 1934 to 1936. As built the Uc had a slighter lighter driving axle weight than the U & Ua Class and with bigger cylinders was prone to wheel slip. A mistake was made when reboilered with the smaller U type superheated boiler as this reduced the grate area and firebox heating surface which then along with the larger cylinders made them hard to steam, particularly on long runs. Both boilers had a working pressure of 200lb/sq in.
Wheel diameter was 49 1/8", cylinders 16x22", firebox heating surface 91sq ft (as built new) and a tractive effort of 18,340lbs at 85% of boiler pressure.
The seven survived until 1955 when between then and 1959 they were gradually written off. Uc 369 and 370 both in January 1957. Right up to the end there loco's could be seen hauling the Hokitika Express to Greymouth to connect with the Greymouth to Christchurch Express and also hauling and banking fully loaded coal trains from Reefton up over the well know Reefton Saddle and through the tunnel and down to Tawhai until the "A" class locos from the late 1950's. They were not a popular engine with the loco crews of the day due to the short comings mentioned above, making them hard to fire and keep the steam pressure up.
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