James Waite visited Western Australia in Early October 2015. Here’s what he found.
The first photo is 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 loco shed before the standard gauge line was built. The red coach is the oldest surviving coach in WA. The loco 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 Bakewell tart (!) but one of ten of these locos 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 loco as you can see and the class were 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 then. The locos’ cowling along the top of the boiler originally ran all the way back to the cab front.
The next, 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 loco (no 920, BP 7397/1951) was in steam and ran up and down the yard for the small number of spectators present. This is the only 3ft 6ins gauge steam loco currently in working order anywhere in WA. The line seems to be at a low ebb. 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 locos 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 in no 5396 is one of 48 Xa class A-I-A’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 1970′s, by which time preservation had got well under way in Australia. 6023 and 6052 are of two more W class locos awaiting repair at Pinjarra. 4479 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 locos. 4624 and 4758 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 locos from timber railways operated throughout much of WA by a large lumber company. This loco, 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.
I moved on to Collie, rather against my better judgment as it was another hour’s drive beyond Yarloop and what little info I could find about the locos 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 loco at East Perth here it was overwhelming! The big loco to the left is V class 2-8-2 no 1215 (RSH 7784/1956), a simply huge machine by any standards and one of 24 of these locos 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 6ins gauge locos 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 locos were bought by the Collie Tourist Board when withdrawn in the early 1970′s 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 now trades actively on its industrial heritage and promotes itself as a tourist destination.
If you look at the right hand side you can see what looks like a traction engine. At first I only gave it a passing glance but I’m glad I walked over to see it properly as it turned out to have been converted to a loco, probably in the early 1900′s 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.
The red engine under the shelter is “Kate” (Thomas Green 132/1889). It’s at MargaretRiver at the bottom left hand corner of WA, a town that nowadays is surrounded by vineyards. It’s another logging loco and must have been a tank loco of some kind I guess.
The next pics are at the ARHS’s Bassendean museum in the north eastern suburbs of Perth. The are more than 20 locos here and these are just a few of them. Pacific U665 (24863/1942) is one of 40 of these locos built by the WD in 1942 for use in North Africa but many went into store and never 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 and not a wide one behind the rear wheels as in a proper Pacific.
A class 2-6-0 no 11 (BP 2711/1886). Lots of these 2-6-0′s 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.
The pictures shows G class 4-6-0 no. 118 (Dubs 3502/1897) which is displayed at Kalamunda station in the hills on the eastern outskirts of the city. The station and loco are now part of a huge folk museum. Press a button and the loco starts to make quite alarmingly realistic steaming noises!
Finally the chassis of a 60cm gauge O&K 0-4-4-0 Mallet tank at the Bennet 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 kms through quite wild-looking scrubland and there are many restored old railway structures and interesting pieces of rolling stock.
I enjoyed Western Australia. It’s hardly a mainstream place in terms of the world’s surviving steam locos but the railway an the locos there are distinctive and well worth seeing, and the local enthusiasts were really welcoming.