Silver Fern Railcars

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The 3 Silver Fern Railcars entered service in December 1972 on the Wellington to Auckland daylight run having been ordered by the former New Zealand Railways specifically for this role. They were built in Japan by Tokyo Shibaura Electric Co in conjunction with Kawasaki Heavy Industries trading as Nissho- Iwai and are clad in ribbed stainless steel with corrosion resistant steel frames.

Originally numbered RM 1, RM 2 & RM 3, the 47.5m long 96 seat diesel electric railcars are powered by a V12 Caterpillar 398TA engines, producing 1010hp for main traction and a secondary Caterpillar D3000 engine producing 115hp to power all the auxiliary equipment.


Type:  Diesel-Electric Railcar
Seating:  48 to 52
Introduced:  1972
Number in class:  3
Manufacturer:  Kawasaki / Toshiba (Japan)
Gauge:  3' 6"
Axles:  Ao1A0-2, 2-Bo
Length:  47.5 meters
Width:  2.74 meters
Weight:  107 tonnes
Engines:  (Main) V12 Caterpillar 398T;(Auxiliary) Caterpillar D3000
Transmission:  Bogie mounted traction motors via transfer case
Power:  (Main) 1010hp; (Auxiliary) 115hp
Max Speed:  120kph

The 3 railcars, with the later TMS numbers RM 18, RM 24 & RM 30, finished service on the Wellington to Auckland run in December 1991 having been replaced by refurbished locomotive hauled carriage trains.  In 1992, the 'Ferns' were used on two new services; Auckland to Rotorua and Auckland to Tauranga. These services lasted until 2001 at which point the railcars were laid up until commencing a fill in role in 2002 to substitute commuter services between Pukekohe and Auckland until 2009.

Between 2009 and 2011, the 3 'Ferns' were given an extensive and costly internal upgrade including new windows to cater for tourism demand of which mostly only saw RM 30 in active service for the intended roles with KiwiRail.   


The Mangatainoka Tui Brewery tours were one of the more popular charters for a couple of years.  RM 24 was subsequently leased to Dunedin railways between 2012 and 2019 and saw charter service right around the South Island network.  RM 18 saw very little work and ended up as a parts source to keep the other 2 railcars in service.

In 2020 KiwiRail officially retired the 3 Silver Fern railcars after 48 years of sterling service. KiwiRail and the Pahiatua Railcar Society entered into a sale agreement including all parts which saw the 3 railcars towed to Pahiatua prior to Christmas 2020.


The Pahiatua Railcar Society was recognised by KiwiRail for being the only dedicated railcar group in New Zealand and for its hard work and dedication in preserving several examples of older ex New Zealand Railways railcars including the mainline certified and popular Standard class railcar, RM 31 'Tokomaru' and felt it was the right home for the Silver Fern railcars in the preservation era.


This can only be seen as a win for the Tararua District which will benefit once a Silver Fern or two, runs the rails again on excursions and charters.

RM 18 Feilding 26.10.08 (D. Johnston)
RM 30 departs Otaki on BO11, 28.10.08 (D. Johnston)
RM24@No1 Tunnel1, 16.11.1991 (G. McClare)
Silver Fern Railcar GA Drawing

If you wish to support the Silver Fern Project, New Zealand's iconic Railcars, you can make a donation below.