The International Steam Pages

Preserved Steam  in Western Australia 2015

James Waite reports on another of his flying visits.

The first three photos are at what calls itself the East Perth Interstate Terminal which is where the passenger trains from Sydney finish their run. I somehow imagined that this would be a grand affair but in fact it's something of a sleepy backwater in the suburbs to the east of Perth city centre. There's just one platform plus one other track and a fair-sized car park and it appeared to be completely deserted when I called about 9.00 on a Saturday morning. The site used to house Perth's main locomotive shed before the standard gauge line was built. The red coach is the oldest surviving coach in WA. The locomotive out in the car park is S class 4-8-2 no 542 "Bakewell", built by the WAGR at Midland Junction shops in 1943 - named not after the tart but one of ten of these locomotives apparently named after mountains, though as all the mountains in question took their names from people's surnames it's not at all obvious to an outsider that this is so. It's a huge locomotive as you can see and the class was used mainly on coal trains from Collie, the state's main coal mining town, to Perth. You could smell the fresh paint and presumably the job had only just been finished. When the contractors'-type temporary fencing is removed it would be easy to take a good broadside view when the car park is as empty as it was seems to be most of the time.

The next two, of the W class 4-8-2 in steam, are at Dwellingup, the operating base of the Hotham Valley Railway about 80 miles south of Perth. The train there was diesel-worked on account of fire risk but happily the locomotive (no 920, BP 7397/1951) was in steam and ran up and down the yard for the small number of spectators present. The line seems to be at a low ebb. This is the only locomotive currently in working order and the line no longer runs into the old main line junction at Pinjarra on account of the high cost of maintaining the insurance demanded by the privatised concern which runs the main line. This must be awkward for them as the main shed and repair shops are at Pinjarra. The locomotives carry what can only be described as silly lettering on their tenders and also names which they never carried for real and so a head-on view is probably the best way to photograph them. The diesel is one of 48 Xa class 2-D-2's ordered from Metrovick (I think) at the same time as the design of the W's was being finalised and delivered in 1954. They suffered from mechanical problems and were all withdrawn many years ago. Apparently their poor performance put the WAGR off buying any more main line diesels for several years and this helped keep steam running into the early 1970s, by which time preservation had got well under way in Australia. The next two are of more W class locomotives awaiting repair at Pinjarra and the last is of G class 4-6-0 no 123 (Dubs 3507/1897) also at Pinjarra.

As my plans to spend the day linesiding at the HVR had come to nothing I decided to press on southwards to seek out some plinthed locomotives. The next two pictures are at the Yarloop Workshops Museum, a truly amazing place about 20 miles south of Pinjarra which consists of several large wooden buildings stuffed full of old stationary engines, belt-driven equipment, patterns, casting gear etc. It was the central repair shop for locomotives from timber railways operated throughout much of WA by a large lumber company. This locomotive, their no 176, was built for them by J. Martin & Co. Ltd at Gawler, South Australia in 1898 to a Beyer Peacock design used by the WAGR and also in South Australia and Tasmania. This was a place well worth going a long way to see and more than made up for the lack of action on the HVR. (Sadly the workshops were totally destroyed by a huge bush fire in January 2016. RD)

I moved on to Collie, rather against my better judgment as it was another hour's drive beyond Yarloop and what little information I could find about the locomotives there suggested that they were in some sort of museum building which only opened mid-week. Happily this proved not to be the case and if the smell of fresh paint had pervaded the area around the locomotive at East Perth here it was overwhelming! The big locomotive in the first of these pictures is V class 2-8-2 no 1215 (RSH 7784/1956), a simply huge machine by any standards and one of 24 of these locomotives also used mainly for coal traffic from Collie. It would be interesting to know how it compares for tractive effort etc with the biggest 3ft 6in gauge locomotives in South Africa and Japan. Its axle loading is 14 tons compared to 13 for the S class and 9.5 for the W class. Next to it is another W class, no 943 (BP 7455/1952). The black engine under the shelter is Fs class 4-8-0 (NBL 20087/1913) also used for the Collie coal traffic when new. All three of these locomotives were bought by the Collie Tourist Board when withdrawn in the early 1970s and have presumably been in this yard next to the main railway line there ever since. Collie is still a mining town though it also trades actively on its industrial heritage and now promotes itself as a tourist destination.

If you look at the right hand side of the third picture you can just see what looks like a traction engine. I would probably only have given it a passing glance but thought you (Rob, Ed!) might like a photograph. I'm glad I walked over to see it as it turned out to have been converted to a locomotive, probably in the early 1900s when the distances it had to travel hauling timber were getting the better of it and a railway was installed to carry the timber. It's named "Polly" and according to a leaflet I picked up in the tourist office next to it it was built by Aveling & Porter in about 1880. If anyone has any more information about it I'd be interested to know! The red engine under the shelter is "Kate" (Thomas Green 132/1889). It's at Margaret River at the bottom left hand corner of WA, a town that nowadays is largely surrounded by vineyards. It's another well travelled locomotive which started its life in north western Tasmania in the logging industry, moved on to a waterworks contract at Werribee in Victoria, then spent several years in the logging industry at Margaret River and at Marrinup, now a station on the Hotham Valley line and ended up in the 1950s at a meat processing factory in Wundham in the far north of WA before returning to Margaret River for preservation. Greens only built a few locomotives and Kate is one of four survivors worldwide. It's a well tank and is more or less in its original condition.

The next few pictures are at the ARHS's Bassendean museum in the north eastern suburbs of Perth. The are more than 20 locomotives here and these are just a few of them. The first is of Pacific U655 (North British 24863/1942), one of 40 of these locomotives built by the WD in 1942 for use in North Africa but few of them ever saw service there. Some went to Sudan and others to Malawi. Fourteen of them ended up in Western Australia. 308 is a Es class Pacific (VF 1846/1903) and I guess it must be one of the world's oldest Pacifics. Note that its firebox is a narrow one which sits between the centre and rear coupled wheels, not a wide one behind the rear wheels as in the Q class in NZ which appeared in the same year and which most people regard as being the world's first proper Pacific.

5318 is of Baldwin 711/1884 "Kia-Ora" which worked in a variety of public works, timber and jetty operations - according to the information at the museum! C class no 1 Katie RS 2391/1880 was the state's first locomotive, though it didn't work the first train as its assembly after shipping to Fremantle was delayed. In its original form it was more or less identical to the New Zealand F class but it was rebuilt more recently with a longer smokebox and a tender. H class 0-6-0T no. 18 (Neilson Reid 3631/1887) was one of two locomotives in the class and which spent much of its career shunting in the harbour at Bunbury. A class 2-6-0 no 11 (BP 2711/1886) was one of lots of these 2-6-0s which ran in several Australian states, like the one at Yarloop, though no 11 is one of the oldest and is also rather smaller than the more recent ones. Finally we have R class 4-4-0 no 174 (Dubs 3674/1898), which has only recently arrived in the museum after spending many years on display at a shopping precinct in the city. It reminded me of the early British-built 4-4-0s in Japan.

G class 4-6-0 no. 118 (Dubs 3502/1897) is displayed at Kalamunda station in the hills on the eastern outskirts of the city. The station and locomotive are now part of a large folk museum. Press a button and the locomotive starts to make quite alarmingly realistic steaming noises!

Finally we have the chassis of a 600mm gauge OK 0-4-4-0 Mallet tank at the Bennett Brook Railway, a society-run line in the northern outskirts of the city. I was told that it started out life in western Tasmania and later moved to the Great Boulder Mine near Kalgoorlie. It's been more or less fully restored for several years but hasn't been reassembled because of the small number of volunteers and more pressing work, mainly overhauling one of two South African NG15 locos which have been there for many years. Note that the cylinders of the rear engine unit are mounted at the back, unusual for a Mallet. Everyone I met in WA was friendly but they were exceptionally hospitable and enthusiastic here. The line itself runs for 3 or 4 km through quite wild-looking scrubland and there are many restored old railway structures and interesting rolling stock there.

Rob Dickinson