The International Steam Pages

Tasmanian Railway Museums 2013 

James Waite reports on his visit to Tasmania in March 2013: For a comprehensive listing of Tasmanian steam locomotives see those for Tasmanian Government Railways and Private and Industrial Railways.

Examples of most of the steam locos which served the Tasmanian railways in the later years of steam operation can be seen at the Don River Railway at Devonport on Tasmania’s north coast, at the Tasmanian Transport Museum at Glenorchy near Hobart in the south and at the West Coast Pioneers Museum at Zeehan in the west. It makes sense to review the three museums together.

The Don River Railway is run by the Van Diemen Light Railway Society which was formed in 1971 by merging two older enthusiast groups with the object of starting a preserved steam operation in the north of the island. They reviewed no fewer than 45 potential sites and eventually chose a 4km stretch of the old Tasmanian Government Railway’s branch line from Don Junction to Melrose which had been closed in 1963 and dismantled soon afterwards. It lies close to major conurbations and has a main line connection and there was plenty of land available at the old Don station to build museum and workshop buildings.

The line was rebuilt and opened to the public on 20th November 1976. There are extensive and well-equipped workshops at Don and historic railway buildings have been relocated to provide the main station and signalbox. Over the years steam has been operated for most of the years since 1976 though currently there’s a pause while reconstruction work continues on the operating fleet. Altogether twelve steam locos are currently based there along with a number of what are now historic diesels and a superb collection of carriages.

Several of the museum’s non-runners are displayed outdoors around a turntable which was moved here from the old Antill Ponds loco shed. There’s a good indoor display area attached to the workshop where some of the restored carriages and locos are on show and good viewing facilities in the workshops themselves. The railway is open and runs trains every day of the year except for Christmas Day and Good Friday.

The Tasmanian Transport Museum Society which runs the Glenorchy museum was formed as long ago as 1962. Its first steam loco was bought three years later. The society took possession of the Glenorchy site in 1972 and moved the bulk of its collection there between 1976 and 1979. Two steam locos, Pacific M4 and Mogul C22, are currently in working order.

Most of the locos are housed in a purpose-built semi-roundhouse. There are separate halls devoted to trams from the Hobart and Launceston systems, buses and stationary steam and a short length of running line within the museum’s grounds. The museum opens on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays only with steam operation on the third Sunday of each month. I called in on a Tuesday afternoon on my way to the airport. I didn’t really expect to find anyone there but it turned out that there are regular Tuesday working parties and I was made very welcome.

Both groups were able to operate steam on the main line for many years though future steam operation is currently on hold while the ownership and operating responsibilities of the island’s main line railways are restructured.

The locomotives and stock at Zeehan form part of a much larger publicly run display housed in the old Zeehan School of Mines to conserve relics of the mining industry on the island’s west coast. It’s not far from the preserved Mount Lyell line between Queenstown and Strahan. The three locos on display there are housed under a roof in what is otherwise an open air area. 

Steam locos preserved at the three museums:

C class 2-6-0’s

More than 200 of these 2-6-0’s were built by Beyer Peacock for service throughout Australia with the exception of Victoria, the only state or territory which had no 1067mm (3ft 6in) gauge lines. Nineteen of these went to Tasmania between 1885 and 1892. Eight more followed between 1901 and 1907 and a twenty eighth loco arrived second hand in 1937. They were intended as freight locos but in Tasmania many saw use in passenger and mixed traffic service.

The TGR’s Launceston shops rebuilt six of the locos, no’s. 16 to 19, 26 and 27, between 1912 and 1916, a process which involved lengthening the frames and fitting larger boilers, cylinders and cabs. They were reclassified as the CC class. Four more, no’s. 21 and 23 to 25 were the subject of more drastic rebuilding between 1924 and 1925 to become the CCS class. They were fitted with superheated boilers and outside Walschaerts valve gear.

Withdrawals began in the 1930’s though many of the locos lasted much longer. The last unrebuilt C ran in 1964 and the last CC in 1965. The last CCS was withdrawn in 1964 though CCS25 saw further use on steam specials until 1975 and spells as a supposedly stationary boiler until 1978, interspersed with periods of hire to the Don River Railway after it reopened in 1976. ANR donated it to the railway in 1979 after it had taken over the TGR the previous year.

C22 (BP 4414/1902) was bought by the TTMS in 1967 and was restored to working order at the Glenorchy museum. It’s still in use there and is the only survivor to carry the original characteristic Beyer Peacock-design sloping smokebox front. The only other surviving C class loco is C1 (BP 2509/1885) at the Zeehan museum though it has an extended smokebox with a vertical front. It ran in service until 1961, a total of 76 years and a record for Tasmanian locos. CCS23 (BP4415/1902) and CCS25 (BP 4417/1902) are both at Don and are currently being overhauled.

CCS25 at Don The workshop at Don with CCS23 to the left and CCS25 to the right. C1 at Zeehan C22 at Glenorchy
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In the middle of the second picture above is the body of petrol railcar LP2. This was one of two of these cars built for the TGR by the Victorian Railways at their shops at Newport, Melbourne, in 1925 as a follow-on to four similar cars which they were building for their 5ft 3in gauge system. In 1938 the two cars were rebodied and LP2's old wooden body was sold for use as a shack or shed at Clarence Point in the north east of the island from where it was rescued in 2000 and taken to Don.

A class 4-4-0’s

Six of these stylish passenger locos were built by Beyer Peacock for the TGR in 1891 and two more followed in 1902. They worked most of the TGR’s principal expresses for many years until the R class Pacifics arrived in 1923. Things weren’t intended to be that way. The TGR were the owners of the world’s first two Garratts, the K class which were built in 1909 for the 610mm gauge North East Dundas Tramway which ran out into the hills north east of Zeehan along with the G class, two altogether more conventional 0-4-2T’s built by Sharp Stewart in 1896 and J1, a weird and wonderful articulated 2-4-6-0 tank loco built by Hagans of Erfurt in 1900. K1 0-4-4-0 is now preserved at the Welsh Highland Railway after many years of storage in Zeehan loco shed after the line closed in stages in the 1920’s and 1930’s. The Garratts were straightforward, rugged machines and immediately proved to be an outstanding success.
The TGR lost little time in acquiring larger Garratts for their 1067mm gauge system.

Unfortunately they also decided to replicate the complexities of the Hagans loco and the resulting passenger design was the first M class, an eight-cylinder Atlantic Garratt intended to replace the A class on the system’s main expresses. Only two were built; the eight-cylinder layout in particular proved to be a fitters’ nightmare and the class was involved in at least one fatal accident. They faded from the scene soon after the R class Pacifics arrived in the 1920’s. One was reportedly sold to the Mount Lyell Abt Railway though with its large driving wheels and limited adhesion it’s hard to think of a machine which would be less suitable for operation on their line. It never got there but instead was cut up at Launceston shed. The railway also acquired two L class 2-8-2 Garratts for freight work. They were straightforward four cylinder locos and considerably more effective. They were cut up together with the surviving M class loco in the late 1940’s.

From 1928 onwards the A class locos were rebuilt with extended smokeboxes which no doubt increased their efficiency but which did nothing for their looks. They were withdrawn between 1952 and 1954. A4 had in its earlier years worked occasional royal trains which was perhaps why it was selected for preservation. In 1960 it was plinthed in a park in Launceston and remained there until going on loan to the Don River Railway in 1990. It’s currently the subject of a long term restoration to working order.

As an aside both K class Garratts and J1, the Hagans loco, were stored at Zeehan shed for many years after withdrawal. K1 was bought by Beyer Peacock in the late 1940’s and was rebuilt at Zeehan before despatch to the UK. It is in effect an amalgam of the best bits of both Garratts. It carries K2’s boiler. The bits that were left over were then cut up along with J1. There’s now a magnificent large-scale model of J1 on show in the Zeehan museum. It’s displayed at eye level to make it easy to admire its complicated mechanism – quite fascinating.

A4 at Don A4 at Don Dundas Hagans J1 Model in Zeehan Museum
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Q class 4-8-2’s

The first six of these heavy freight locos formed part of an order for ten locos built by Perry Engineering of South Australia in 1922 and 1923, the remaining four being the R class Pacifics which incorporated many interchangeable parts. Sadly none of the R class have survived. Thirteen further Q class locos were built between 1929 and 1945 by Walkers of Queensland and Clyde Engineering of New South Wales with the final two, which had been delivered incomplete by Clydes in 1945 on account of the burden of war work being finished by the TGR at Launceston shops. The locos were withdrawn between 1956 and 1963. After a period of storage the survivors were all scrapped in 1965 except for Q5 (Perry 241/1923) which was bought by the TTMS the same year, the first loco that they were able to rescue.

Q5 at Glenorchy Q5 at Glenorchy Q5 at Glenorchy Q5 at Glenorchy
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In the last picture above with Q5 are diesels X1 and Y4 "Rowallan". X1 was the first of the English Electric/Vulcan Foundry locos which had been ordered several years before and which arrived in 1950 before either the H or M classes were delivered. The Y's were, or rather are, a locally built upgraded version. Y4 and Y5 "Sir Charles Gairdner" were built in 1964. Y4 hauled the last passenger train on the old TGR system on 17th October 1978, soon after the takeover by ANR, since when it's been a freight-only system. The loco arrived at Glenorchy in 1996. Y5 is one of only two of the old TGR locos still in service and is now the Burnie yard shunter, see picture at the end.

H class 4-8-2’s

These 8 locos were built by Vulcan Foundry in 1951 (works no’s. 5949-56) as part of a series of orders placed in the UK in the late 1940’s to make good loco shortages on the TGR which had arisen during WW2 and before. In order to reduce delivery times the railway adopted existing designs, in this case a group of 4-8-2’s which had been built for the Gold Coast (now Ghana) Railways back in 1939. Differences included the cabs, based on the standard gauge Liberation class 2-8-0’s built by Vulcan Foundry for UNRRA from 1946, and the use of the Australian-designed SCOA-P wheel design. Vulcan built a further 30 very similar locos later in 1951 for the Gold Coast Railways which became their 248 class. They retained the SCOA-P wheels of the Tasmanian locos but not the Liberation cabs. Sadly all Ghana’s main line steam locos have been scrapped, many of them as recently as the 1990’s.

In Tasmania the H class were painted a dark emerald green, a change from most previous locos which were black. They had short working lives as their arrival coincided with Tasmania’s first main line diesels. They saw only intermittent use after 1962. H1 was donated to the Glenorchy museum in 1974 and H7 to the Don River Railway the following year. Two more, H2 and H5, were sold in 1979 by Australian National Railways which had taken over the TGR the previous year. They are both now at the Derwent Valley Railway at New Norfolk, around 20km west of Glenorchy. There doesn’t seem to be any current intention to restore any of these locos to working order in view of their great size and weight.

H1 at Glenorchy H1 at Glenorchy H7 at Don H7 at Don (M3 behind)
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M class Pacifics

These ten locos were built by RSH in 1951 (works no’s. 7421-30), again to an existing design, in this case the Indian metre gauge YB class with minimal adaptation to suit the TGR’s requirements which included larger smokebox doors, redesigned cabs, the Australian SCOA-P wheel design and different boiler fittings. All ten locos arrived at Hobart docks on 12th March 1952 along with two English Electric X class main line diesels and entered service over the following months. Like the H class they were painted dark green and had limited working lives as they were displaced by newly arrived diesels almost from the start.

In 1957 and 1958 four of them were rebuilt with smaller driving and carrying wheels, the idea being to make them more suitable for working goods trains, and were designated as the MA class. The driving wheels came from redundant Australian Standard Garratts. 57 of these locos had been designed and built in Australia in a great hurry to bolster the loco fleets on the country’s 1067mm gauge railways after the Japanese bombing raids on Darwin in 1942 and subsequent raids on the north of the country. The Australians couldn’t agree terms with Beyer Peacock for a licence to use an existing design and went off and designed their own. The locos were built in quantity by several Australian builders but sadly they had severe limitations and probably rank as the least successful Garratts of all time. By the time the war in the Pacific ended fifty four of the sixty which had originally been ordered had been built and the final six were promptly cancelled. They were so unpopular with the staff that they were boycotted by the unions in most Australian states and the majority were condemned within a few years.

Despite their new status as freight locos the MA’s were painted red to match the red and cream paint scheme which the TGR had adopted for its coaching stock. They were renumbered MA1 to MA4 and some of the unaltered locos were renumbered to make a coherent numbering sequence. The rebuilt locos ran well enough in freight service but probably no more so than the remaining six, some of which also ended up being painted red. Several of the ten locos lasted in service until June 1971 when all were withdrawn, probably as part of a political decision to justify the purchase of a further batch of diesels. Some served as (more or less) stationary boilers for several more years.

All ten were preserved. MA2 and MA4 were donated to the Don River Railway in 1974 and the railway bought M3 and M4 from ANR in 1979. In recent years MA2 and M4 have been in working order and M4 is currently being overhauled. M5 was donated to the Glenorchy museum in 1974 and was restored to working order between 1992 and 1995. It still sees regular use on the museum’s Sunday steam days. M1 and MA1 are stored out of use at the Derwent Valley Railway at New Norfolk, MA3 is plinthed at Margate, south of Hobart and M6 is stored partly dismantled at the Bellarine Railway in Victoria. M2 returned to the UK and is now stored at Marley Hill loco shed on the Tanfield Railway near Gateshead.

M4 being overhauled in the shops at Don M5 at Glenorchy M5 at Glenorchy MA2 at Don
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Next to MA3 is ex-Tasmanian Main Line Ry carriage AAL+1, built by the Bristol Wagon Co in 1879.

Emu Bay Railway 4-8-0’s

The Emu Bay Railway was formed in 1897 to provide a railway connection between Burnie, a port on the island’s north west coast, and the newly-developed mining district around Zeehan. Construction proceeded rapidly despite the wild terrain which through which it passed and the line opened in December 1900. For the last few miles into Zeehan it ran alongside the North East Dundas Tramway and in Zeehan itself it connected with what had once been the TGR’s isolated 1067mm gauge line to Strahan. This in turn connected at Strahan with the Mount Lyell Abt Railway from Queenstown which had opened in 1898.

The new railway incorporated an older line for the first part of its route south from Burnie and with it inherited a collection of five small locos. They were clearly insufficient for the new mineral traffic which was on offer. David Jones, the Highland Railway’s CME, was appointed as its consulting engineer. He designed three 4-8-0’s which were built by Dubs late in 1900 (works no’s. 3854-6) and as no’s. 6 to 8 were delivered early the following year. Big and handsome machines, they were unmistakeably Jones products . If the Highland Railway had ever built any narrow gauge lines this is how their locos would have looked! No. 11, a fourth machine, was built by NBL in 1912, works no. 19576.

The four locos worked most traffic on the line for many years until three Beyer Garratts arrived in 1930 followed by three Australian Standard Garratts which came second hand from the Queensland Railways between 1950 and 1962 and the railway’s first diesel Hydraulic loco in 1953. No. 7 was taken out of service in 1959. It was soon followed by no. 11. One might have expected the other two to disappear soon after but instead they were taken into Burnie shops for reconstruction in 1959 and 1960. When they reappeared the change to their appearance must have been startling. They were fitted with smoke deflectors and a valance in place of the splashers which ran the length of the footplate. Gone was their old black paint scheme. They were now painted a bright shade of blue with the valance in lighter blue edged in yellow to match the two-tone blue in which the line’s carriages were painted. They were also converted to oil firing. No. 6 was now named “Murchison” and no. 8 “Heemskirk” after two mountains along the route. The names were painted prominently in yellow on the smoke deflectors.

All this was prompted by the introduction of a new daily passenger train, including provision for piggy backing cars and buses, which ran trials at the start of October 1960. There was at that time no direct road connection between the Strahan and Zeehan district and the north of the island and the new service was prompted by the burgeoning tourist industry along the west coast. The first public train ran on 17th October 1960 and was a great success. During the summer season as many as thirty cars and three buses would be carried.

All good things come to an end. The railway’s new 10 class diesel hydraulics arrived in August 1963 and took over the tourist service early in November. Only six weeks later the new Murchison Highway opened. It provides a direct connection with the north coast and runs parallel with the railway for much of its route. Within a few more weeks the service was replaced by a mixed passenger and goods train to serve the few passengers who still wanted to travel by rail. No’s 6 and 8 were placed in store and withdrawn in 1966.

No. 6 was donated to the Zeehan museum. In 1968 no. 8 was given a fresh coast of blue paint and plinthed close to the beach in Burnie. Here it remained for ten years until it was donated to the Don River Railway and moved there, remarkably by rail, a process which involved laying a length of temporary track in order to extricate it from its beach-side home. It made the journey behind TGR Drewry-type diesel V9 which today survives as the depot shunter at Queenstown on the revived Mount Lyell line.

Both locos reverted to their pre-1960 condition. No. 8 was restored to working order at Don and entered service there in 1996. It is currently awaiting overhaul. A start has recently been made at Zeehan on putting no. 6 back into its 1960 condition. Smoke deflectors have been refitted and the blue paint scheme has been restored though so far the valancing over the splashers has not reappeared. Whatever view one takes of its aesthetics there’s no denying that it looks striking in its latest guise.

The Emu Bay Railway continued as an independent concern until it was sold to the state railway authorities in 1998. It continued to use the two-tone blue colour scheme with yellow lining for its diesels for the remainder of its existence and there are examples at both Glenorchy and Don. It had its own way of going about life. It never possessed a diesel electric and reportedly disliked them so much that the state railway’s diesel electrics were forbidden so much as to turn a wheel on its rails. Most of the route is still very much in use and acquired a considerable source of additional traffic in the 1980’s when the Mount Lyell concern abandoned shipping its product out of Strahan harbour and instead began to take it by road over the mountains north of Queenstown to a new railhead at Melba Flats on the Emu Bay line. If only the Mount Lyell Abt railway and the TGR connection onwards from Strahan to the Emu Bay line at Zeehan hadn’t closed!

EBR no. 8 at Don EBR no. 8 at Don EBR no. 6 "Murchison" at Zeehan
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Other exhibits

The only other TGR loco type to survive on the island is an E class 4-6-0 (BP 4967/1907) which has been plinthed in a park at Deloraine in the north of the island for many years. I didn’t get to see it during my visit.

Non-TGR locos at Don include a 2-4-2T (Dubs 1415/1880) and a 0-6-0T (Fowler 5265/1886) which both started life in Queensland and ended up working for the Strahan Marine Board on a line built for the construction of the breakwater at Macquarie Harbour near Strahan. The line closed in 1927 after the breakwater was completed and the two locos were stored for many years in Strahan loco shed until 1942 when they moved to Hobart and stored for many more years.

The Fowler was a delightful loco with its typical semi-open cab and outside Stephenson valve gear. It was donated in 1972 to the Don River Railway and subsequently restored to working order. Most unfortunately the restoration involved the replacement of the original cab in favour of a larger Thomas the Tank Engine-type cab and bunker along with a matching paint scheme which have destroyed much of the loco’s Victorian appearance. The loco is now set aside in need of further overhaul and maybe its original cab will be restored. The Dubs was plinthed in 1972 at Savage River and rescued for display at Don in 1989. It’s now displayed on one of the turntable roads. It’s the oldest loco on the island. Sadly its cab is missing but it’s still a pretty machine.

Don has also been home to a 610mm gauge 0-4-2T (Hunslet 1844/1936) which spent its working life on the Ida Bay Railway south of Hobart along with several Krauss-built locos. They were all replaced by petrol locos in about 1950. The Hunslet was still at Ida Bay until 1972 when it was bought privately for preservation and it moved on to Don in 1975. The Ida Bay Railway is now run as a tourist line and the loco has spent periods on loan there. It has now been sold to the Redwater Creek Steam Railway at Sheffield in the north of the island but when I visited in March 2013 it was still at Don, stripped down and without its boiler, and may receive mechanical attention there before moving to its new home.

At Zeehan Mount Lyell’s 0-4-0T no. 8 (Krauss 5480/1906), one of several 610mm gauge Krauss-built locos from the extensive system which used to serve the mines and ran down into Queenstown station, is on display. Several other Krauss locos from Mount Lyell are preserved in varying states of completeness in a number of places throughout the island.

At Glenorchy Mount Lyell Abt loco no. 2 remains on display, the only one of the four survivors not to have returned to run on the rebuilt railway. Outside sits a Climax B-type loco, works no. 1653/1923. It was built for John Chambers & Son of New Zealand but if it ever reached the country it can’t have stayed for long as by 1925 it was working in New South Wales. It moved to Tasmania in 1942 and worked on a logging line in the Tyenna River valley which connected with the TGR’s Derwent Valley line. It was abandoned in 1949 after the forest had been worked out and rescued for the Glenorchy museum in 1977. It’s one of only two Climax locos to survive in Australia, the other being works no. 1694 which is believed to have been the last B-type to have been built and is at the Puffing Billy line near Melbourne.

Hunslet at Don Fowler at Don Krauss at Zeehan Climax at Glenorchy
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Also there is a quite fascinating 1067mm gauge vertical-boilered 0-4-0T built by Markhams of Chesterfield. Markhams’ main business was building stationary engines and only ever built twenty four locos. Twenty of these were more or less conventional saddle tanks, one was a battery loco and three were vertical-boilered locos of which this was the only 1067mm gauge one. It was built in 1889 and had arrived in Tasmania by 1898 at the latest when it was reported working on a forestry tramway near Hastings in the south of the island. It later worked at Weilangta mill on the east coast and ended up at Sharps Mill beside the Tyenna River where it must have been a close neighbour of the Climax. Here it finished its active service providing steam to drive a water pump before being abandoned in situ in 1946 and gradually disappeared beneath overgrowth.

The loco’s wheels have 7 inch wide treads and 2 inch deep flanges to make it suitable for working over rough bush tramways laid with wooden rails. It was rescued in 1983 and moved to Glenorchy. The only other Markhams loco known to survive anywhere is “Gladys” (works no. 109) which spent its working life at the Staveley Coal & Iron Company and has been preserved at the Midland Railway Trust at Butterley since 1971.

The Markham at Glenorchy The Markham The Markham
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There’s a representative collection of diesels, both from the TGR and its successors and from the Emu Bay Railway, at both Don and Glenorchy. Also at Don are some magnificent carriages from the earliest days of the island’s railways, most of which have been restored to their early, if not original, condition. They include three 6-wheeled carriages all built for the Launceston and Western Railway, the island’s first railway and a 1600mm gauge line, which were built in 1869 prior to its opening. The railway and its carriages were converted to 1067mm gauge in 1888. Not much younger are coaches built in the 1870’s for the Tasmanian Main Line Railway, the first 1067mm gauge line. Quite amazingly some of these early carriages remained in service until the 1950’s which enabled them to be preserved.

The first two are of 1st/2nd 6-wheeled compo AB2, built for the L&WR by Metropolitan Car & Wagon Co. in 1869 and fully restored to early, if not original condition - it can't be original as these coaches were originally 1600mm gauge! The next two are of similar coach B2 in the state in which it was withdrawn from service by the TGR in the 1950's. By then it was 2nd class only but I guess it may well have been a compo originally. Beautiful though the restoration of AB2 is I particularly enjoyed seeing how the coaches ended up and how original they still were in the 1950's. Finally there are pictures of 4-wheeled 1st saloon/brake no. AD1 built by the TGR shops at Launceston in 1890. Note the double roof. In the extreme left of the first picture of AD1 is the Mount Lyell Railway's Riley railcar no. 1, the chassis of which was built by the same Riley that built Riley cars at Coventry in late 1907 or early 1908, their works no. 2586. The coachwork was built at Mount Lyell. The Mount Lyell line later acquired a second similar car and, in 1929, a larger Daimler car and all survived until the closure in 1963. No. 1 was abandoned at Strahan and was rescued for the Don River Railway in 1985. It's needed extensive restoration which was completed in 1999. The cars reportedly had no problems climbing the rack sections of the line but were prone to slipping in icy weather when going down.

AB2 AB2 B2 B2 AD1 AD1
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2151, formerly Y5, "Sir Charles Gairdner",at Burnie Mount Lyell Daimler at Zeehan
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Rob Dickinson