New Zealand DB class locomotive

The New Zealand DB class and DBR class[nb 1] locomotive is a type of diesel-electric locomotive built for service on New Zealand's rail network. They were built by General Motors Diesel (GMD) of Canada as a narrow-gauge version of the EMD G8 model, with seventeen locomotives constructed. Ten of these were later rebuilt into the DBR class.

New Zealand DB/DBR class
DBR 1295 at Pukeoware Depot.jpg
GVR No.12 (DBR 1295) at Pukeoware Depot on the Glenbrook Vintage Railway
Type and origin
Power typeDiesel-electric
BuilderGeneral Motors Diesel Canada (builder)
Clyde Engineering, Australia (rebuilder)
ModelEMD G8
Build date1965–1966 (built)
1980–1982 (rebuilt)
Gauge3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm)
Length14.0 m (45 ft 11 in)
Adhesive weightDB 47.0 t (46.3 long tons; 51.8 short tons)
DBR 46.0 t (45.3 long tons; 50.7 short tons)
Loco weightDB 69.0 t (67.9 long tons; 76.1 short tons)
DBR 68.0 t (66.9 long tons; 75.0 short tons)
Prime moverDB GM 8-567C
DBR GM 8-645C
Engine typeV8 Diesel engine
AspirationRoots-type supercharger
DisplacementDB 74.33 litres (4,536 cu in)
DBR 84.56 litres (5,160 cu in)
Traction motorsFour EMD D29
Cylinder size230 mm (9 116 in) x 250 mm (9.8 in)
Performance figures
Maximum speed100 km/h (62 mph)
Power outputDBR 709 kW (951 hp)
Tractive effort100 kN (22,000 lbf)
Number in class17
NumbersDB 1000–1016 (original)
DB 1001–1180 (TMS)
DBR 1199–1295
First runDB 1965 – 1966
DBR 1980 – 1982
Last runDB 1986 – 1989
DBR 2002 - 2017
Disposition7 DBs and 2 DBRs scrapped
2 DBRs preserved
6 DBRs in industrial use


The DB class was introduced to the rail network in 1965-1966 as a result of a requirement for a modern locomotive that could operate on the North Island lines that the DA class was excluded from due to their weight and axle load.[1][2] They were ordered at the same time as the final DA order was placed.[3] While these were mainly branch lines, it also applied to the East Coast Main Trunk line, particularly the section beyond Paeroa through the Karangahake and Athenree gorges until the opening of the Kaimai Tunnel in 1978.[4]

The class was virtually indistinguishable externally from the DA class, being of the same basic design and dimensions, and wearing the same livery. They were some 13 tonnes lighter with a V8 prime as opposed to a V12, though they shared the same A1A-A1A wheel configuration and traction motors for commonality with the DA fleet.


The class was initially numbered DB 1000 to DB 1016, this being in common with NZR practice of the time to number locomotive classes with reference to the power output.

Upon the introduction of the computerised Traffic Monitoring System (TMS) in 1979 the class was renumbered and the designation capitalised. The class received new four-digit numbers beginning with 1, in which the last number is a check digit for the whole number. Under the new system DB 1001 retained its number, becoming DB 1001, with DB 1000 becoming DB1018. The rest of class was renumbered in sequence, with DB 1016 becoming DB1180.

The units being rebuilt to DBR received a new TMS number in the 12XX range when they entered the rebuilding cycle. The exception to this was the first unit rebuilt, DB 1076, which retained its original designation for a number of years before being redesignated DBR and renumbered 1199.

Rebuild to DBREdit

DBR 1254 at Westfield, Auckland.

In the late 1970s the decision was undertaken to rebuild the DB class along similar lines to that being undertaken for the DA class into the DC class.[4] The rebuilt DB units were designated as DBR (R = rebuild). The work was undertaken by Clyde Engineering in Australia and involved the lowering of the short hood to improve visibility for the driver, new cabs and the installation of a new EMD 8-645 engine. Ten units were rebuilt between 1980 and 1982.[5][6]

In serviceEdit

The DB class was employed primarily freight duties, though they did also see occasional service hauling passenger trains. As lines and bridges were upgraded, and in the case of the ECMT the Kaimai Tunnel opening, the weight advantage the locomotives had over other classes used in the North Island became less of a factor and the locomotives were operated as part of a general pool.

The lightweight nature of the locomotives was called upon again however to operate some South Island lines following the withdrawal of the DI and DJ classes in the early 1990s.[5] The last DBR returned north from the South Island around 2007.[7]

Auckland TransportEdit

From 2003[8] to 2014 two locomotives were leased to the Auckland Regional Transport Authority and then its successor, Auckland Transport, with the services operated under contract by Transdev. The two locomotives, DBRs 1199 and 1254, are operated in a top and tail configuration with the five car SX carriage set, and wear the full MAXX Blue livery. A third unit, DBR 1226, is also painted in MAXX Blue but without the MAXX logo. DBR 1226 is usually used for freight services or work trains by KiwiRail, but was used as back up for DBR 1199 or DBR 1254 as it has the necessary modifications to work with the suburban carriages. The leases expired in 2014 and the locomotives returned to freight service.[9]

Wellington bankersEdit

For many years two DBR class locomotives formed the basis of a banker set out of Wellington, primarily assisting trains between Wellington and Paekakariki but also performing multiple other jobs including the Hutt Workshops shunt, work trains around the region and any unusual movements. DBRs 1199 and 1200 were the initial pair, becoming known as the "Bobsy Twins" (sp), likely a reference to the Bobbsey Twins due mainly to their consecutive numbers (a rarity under the TMS numbering system). In the early 2000s DBR 1199 suffered a failure and was withdrawn from service and laid up, replaced on the banker set by DBR 1267. DBR 1199 was later sent to Hillside for repair and use on the Auckland SX set commuter trains, by which time the pairing of DBRs 1200 and 1267 had become known simply as "The Twins". Following prolonged electrical trouble, in July 2013 DBR 1200 was taken out of service, and was replaced with other locomotives that were available.[citation needed] DBR 1267 was later transferred to Auckland to replace DBR 1282,[10] with the Wellington banking role taken over by other locomotives.


The locomotives were delivered in the same overall deep red livery as the DA class, with the same white stripes along the sides and "wings" on the ends. With the introduction of TMS the locomotives road numbers were applied in large white numbers to the long hoods.

This livery was worn by many of the original DBs until their retirement, while the DBRs were returned to service in the International Orange or "Fruit Salad" scheme (red and grey with yellow safety ends) being applied to most NZR locomotive classes at the time. DBs 1082 and 1099 also received this livery in the 1980s.

DBR 1295 was repainted into the Toll Rail "Corn Cob" scheme (yellow and green), and the three units used on Auckland services have received the MAXX Blue livery (deep blue and yellow). More recently DBR 1267 has received the KiwiRail grey, red and yellow scheme.

Withdrawal and disposalEdit

DBR 1267 at Whangarei

As of May 2017, all units have been withdrawn from service. The locomotives were withdrawn on account of being either surplus to requirements, or in poor mechanical condition. All of the DB locomotives were withdrawn by February 1989. In the early 2000s, DBRs 1199, 1239 and 1241 were withdrawn and placed into storage at Hutt Workshops.[11][12] However, 1199 was reinstated a year later for suburban trains in Auckland,[8][13] and 1239 and 1241 were scrapped at Hutt Workshops in February 2008.[14]

More withdrawals commenced in July 2013, with 1200 being the first.[15][16] A few more were laid-up over the next few months.[17][18] In February 2014, 1267, 1282 and 1295 were reinstated due to the DL class locomotives being taken out of service after samples from one locomotive tested positive for asbestos.[18][19] Withdrawals began again in May of that year when 1282 was laid up.[19][20] The rest have been withdrawn, with 1226 being the last.[21]

In June 2017, KiwiRail issued a Request for Quotation (RFQ) via the Government Electronic Tendering Service (GETS).[22][21] In August 2017, it was announced that DBRs 1254 and 1295 have been purchased by the Glenbrook Vintage Railway.[23][24] The remaining DBRs were originally sold to an locomotive/rolling stock dealer in South Africa[24], but have now been sold to DBM Contracting.[23][25]


In August 2017, it was announced by the Glenbrook Vintage Railway that they had purchased DBRs 1254 and 1295 for eventually hauling mainline excursions.[23][24] After being stored at Hutt Workshops, the pair arrived on-site on 3 November 2017.[25] In March 2018, 1295 was repainted in the "International Orange" livery.[26][27] In May 2018, work started on overhauling 1254 for mainline certification. Both have been given GVR numbers, which are No.11 and No.12 respectively.[28] DBR 1254's restoration was completed in September 2019, and is now mainline certified.


  1. ^ Following the introduction of TMS in 1979, the class classification was capitalised, whereas previously the second letter was a smaller capital letter, that is DB


  1. ^ "Medium Powered Diesels for NZR Secondary Lines". Railway Transportation: 26,27. November 1965.
  2. ^ "New Zealand Railways". Network: 2. August 1966.
  3. ^ "More Diesels Ordered". New Zealand Railway Observer. New Zealand Railway and Locomotive Society. 21 no. 1 (99): 31. Autumn 1964. ISSN 0028-8624.
  4. ^ a b McClare 1980, p. 10.
  5. ^ a b "Railfan". 2 (3). Triple M Publications. June 1996. ISSN 1173-2229. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  6. ^ "Railfan". 8 (4). Triple M Publications. September 2002. ISSN 1173-2229. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  7. ^ "DBR 1213 28/04/2007 Greymouth, NZ". Flickr. Retrieved 6 June 2017.
  8. ^ a b "Railfan". 9 (3). Triple M Publications. June 2003. ISSN 1173-2229. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  9. ^ "Railfan". 20 (4). Triple M Publications. September 2014. ISSN 1173-2229. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  10. ^ "Railfan". 19 (2). Triple M Publications. March 2013. ISSN 1173-2229. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  11. ^ "Railfan". 9 (1). Triple M Publications. December 2002. ISSN 1173-2229. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  12. ^ "Railfan". 9 (2). Triple M Publications. March 2003. ISSN 1173-2229. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  13. ^ "Railfan". 9 (4). Triple M Publications. September 2003. ISSN 1173-2229. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  14. ^ "Railfan". 14 (2). Triple M Publications. March 2008. ISSN 1173-2229. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  15. ^ "Withdrawn locomotives (Official Information Act request)". KiwiRail. 29 July 2014. Retrieved 13 November 2017.
  16. ^ "Railfan". 19 (4). Triple M Publications. September 2013. ISSN 1173-2229. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  17. ^ "Railfan". 20 (1). Triple M Publications. December 2013. ISSN 1173-2229. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  18. ^ a b "Railfan". 20 (2). Triple M Publications. March 2014. ISSN 1173-2229. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  19. ^ a b "Railfan". 20 (3). Triple M Publications. June 2014. ISSN 1173-2229. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  20. ^ "Withdrawn locomotives (Official Information Act request)". KiwiRail. 29 July 2014. Retrieved 13 November 2017.
  21. ^ a b "Railfan". 23 (3). Triple M Publications. June 2017. ISSN 1173-2229. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  22. ^ "KiwiRail - Disposal of various DBR locomotives RFQ". 24 June 2017. Retrieved 24 June 2017.
  23. ^ a b c "Diesel Locomotives Register". New Zealand Rolling Stock Register. Retrieved 10 August 2017.
  24. ^ a b c "Railfan". 23 (4). Triple M Publications. September 2017. ISSN 1173-2229. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  25. ^ a b "Railfan". 24 (1). Triple M Publications. December 2017. ISSN 1173-2229. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  26. ^ "Railfan". 24 (3). Triple M Publications. June 2018. ISSN 1173-2229. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  27. ^ "Railfan". 24 (3). Triple M Publications. September 2018. ISSN 1173-2229. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  28. ^ "Glenbrook Vintage Railway - Locomotives". Retrieved 28 January 2019.