‘A’ 64 was built in 1873 by Dubs & Co, Glasgow, Scotland. It is a 0-4-0T and was one of the first 3″ 6′ (1067mm) gauged locomotives to operate in New Zealand. This small light-weight (11ton) locomotive performed well in branch line and shunting services. ‘A’ 64 worked with the railways department up until 1890, when it was written off from the railways department. At the time of ‘A’ 64 being written off it was sold to a grain store company in Lyttelton, where it was used to supply steam to various machinery until 1900 when the Canterbury Frozen Meat Co. Ltd. purchased the locomotive, and placed in service as their shunter. The ‘A’ served the C.F.M. Fairton Plant well, being reboilered in 1904 and was finally withdrawn from service with C.F.M. in 1960, though it remained on site as a back-up until 1962.
‘A’ 64 was donated to the Ashburton Steam and Model Engineers Club and was placed in display in the Tinwald Domain. In 1971 The Ashburton Railway and Preservation Society was formed to restore the ‘A’ to working order for use on their newly founded Plains Railway, utilising a small section of the former Mt Somers branch. The ‘A’ is still owned by the Ashburton Steam and Model Engineers Club and is leased to the AR&PS’s Plains Railway. The ‘A’ has been in regular service at The Plains ever since. For many years it continued to display the letters ‘C.F.M.’ on its side water tanks, which had had their rounded ends removed while in service with Canterbury Frozen Meats.
In recent years the ‘A’ has been re-painted into a green livery with yellow lining out, the letters ‘C.F.M.’ were removed from the tank sides, and the rounded end water tanks have been re-instated, and a cowcatcher has also been fitted to the front of the locomotive. The A does still have a rear coal bunker, which is affixed to the back of the cab. This feature is unique amongst the preserved ‘A’ class locomotives as it was not as feature on the ‘A’ class when it was built, it is instead an addition made at some point during its life-time at C.F.M.. It is likely that this bunker was fitted at the same time the original round-ended water tanks were removed.
Dubs ‘A’ 64 carries the builders number of 651, making it New Zealands second oldest operational steam locomotive after The Ferrymead Railway’s (Canterbury Railway Society) ‘F’ 13 of 1872.