Standard Railcars

Railcar Society New Logo no BG.png

Six 'Standards' were built in the NZR Hutt Workshops in 1938 and 1939, each with a semi-streamlined design featuring slanting ends. Each car had two compartments, the larger with 36 seats (second class) and the smaller with 12 seats (first class) or 16 seats (second class). The first two railcars were initially first and second class, but later became second-class only. The other railcars were always second-class in both compartments.

Driving controls were located at each end of the railcar so that they did not have to be turned at terminals. Each was powered by two diesel engines, mounted on the bogies. They wore out three sets of engines; the original Leyland engines were replaced with Meadows engines.


Type:  Diesel-Mechanical Railcar

Seating:  48 to 52

Introduced:  1938

Number in class:  6

Manufacturer:  N.Z.R (Hutt Workshops)

Gauge:  3' 6"

Axles:  1A - A1

Length:  67'-11" over buffers

Width:  8'-9" over body

Weight:  29t.10cwt.

Adhesive weight:  15t.7cwt.

Engines:  (2) 6 cyl. Meadows;

bore / stroke 5"

Transmission:  Diesel mechanical through 4 speed gearbox

Power:  2 x 85 kW / 115 hp

Max Speed:  62mph

The original silver body colour with a green stripe was inconspicuous, and was soon replaced by plain red with grey or black roofs. In 1951, the Standard railcars became red with silver (later white) stripes and a grey roof as used on other railcar types and some locomotives.  


All six of the Standard railcars were

named after Māori canoes:

    Rm 30 "Aotea"

    Rm 31 "Tokomaru"

    Rm 32 "Pangatoru"

    Rm 33 "Takitimu"

    Rm 34 "Tainui"

    Rm 35 "Tikitere"

The Standard railcars were first used to operate a fast return service from Wellington to New Plymouth, and soon a Hawkes Bay service between Wairoa and Napier was added, along with a Sundays-only return service from Napier to Wellington.  In 1943, the Wairoa-Napier service was extended to serve Gisborne.

In 1955, the 88 seater railcars were introduced, and 88 seaters and Standards initially shared duties on the New Plymouth and Hawkes Bay services, but soon the 88 seaters took over all of the Hawkes Bay services and the Standard railcars were left to run the New Plymouth route. After the opening of the Rimutaka Tunnel in November 1955, both the 88 seater and Standard railcars soon took over from the Wairarapa railcars and operated a service from Wellington to Palmerston North via the Wairarapa.


The Standard railcars never operated in the South Island, as the Vulcan railcars were built to operate rural services on that island.

The Standard railcars were withdrawn in 1972, and two-thirds of the class have been preserved.  Two cars, RM 30 Aotea and RM 34 Tainui were purchased by the New Zealand Railway & Locomotive Society (NZR&LS) Wellington Branch in 1972 for their heritage project in the Hutt Valley, then located at Gracefield on the industrial branch line of the same name. RM 32 Pangatoru was purchased by the NZR&LS Waikato Branch and displayed at their Te Awamutu Railway Museum until 1991, when it moved to Te Rapa locomotive depot for a proposed overhaul that never eventuated.


The late John Murphy purchased the other three cars - RM 31 Tokomaru, RM 33 Takitimu, and RM 35 Tikitere - in December 1972 for preservation, along with many spare parts and instruction manuals. Although he wanted to keep all three cars, he was later forced to scrap RM 33 and RM 35 as he was unable to look after them. Also, while RM 33 was still potentially operable, RM 35 had been involved in an accident during its last months of service, and its frame was bent in such a way that would have prevented it from running again; even if it was feasible to repair the damage, it would have been beyond John's means to repair it or pay for it to be repaired.

Today, RM 30 resides at the Silver Stream Railway in Wellington and is in operational condition and can be seen running on open days.  RM 32 is now located at the Glenbrook Vintage Railway south of Auckland; the railcar moved there in 2001 after the proposed overhaul fell through and the Te Rapa loco depot was demolished, requiring it to find a new home.  RM34 now resides at Pahiatua along with sister RM31.

Standard Railcar General Arrangement.png