New Steam Railway Line In Western Australia

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Mighty “S” Class to run again

Eastern states might want to look at what is going on in the progressive Western region of Australia. With donations of up to $6 million from BHP, Brookfield Rail and the WA Government, a stretch of railway line in the Midlands area is being revived for steam operation.

I have fond memories of these engines operating on the Narrogine line back in the early 1970s.

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S 543 “Brockman” operatinig in the South West of Western Australia January 1971

The “S” class were all named after mountains, and have a distinctive cowling which stands them apart from other locomotives in the region. Built from 1943, about the same time as the NSW 38 class, they are a relatively modern locomotive. They were plagued with steaming issues and one wonders whether the Collie coal had something to do with this.  It was rare to see decent smoke in WA except on excursions fueled by Newcastle coal.

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G233 on the tour passes through Wagerup January 1971

While the wheat belt is relatively flat, it is comforting to know that Business and Government are prepared to throw in funds to keep our steam railway heritage alive – at least in WA. Imagine what a cash injection of $18m would do for rail heritage in NSW?  Read the story below from ABC News for full details.

 

A heritage locomotive, which will run between Goomalling and Wyalkatchem during special events in WA.
Organisers hope the heritage train will link Goomalling and Wyalkatchem. (ABC News: Bonnie Christian)

A rail project to revive the old days of steam engines and diesel locomotives is underway in Western Australia’s Wheatbelt.

The Shire of Dowerin began the Wheatbelt Heritage Rail project in 2010 with hopes to unveil the rail network between Goomalling and Wyalkatchem in 2014.

But the project was stalled until the shire finally secured a rail operator and rail infrastructure operator accreditation in December last year.

Now, they hope the heritage locomotives will be working in time for the Dowerin Field Day, which attracts tens of thousands of people to the region each year in August.

Shire president Dale Metcalf said the project, which has attracted State Government funding and in-kind donations from companies like BHP and Brookfield Rail of up to $6 million, had grown much bigger than anyone anticipated.

“The Work Camp here have been involved, young teenagers at risk were brought in and there was a group of them that worked on the rolling stock and they learnt welding, carpentry, painting all sorts of skills so that they had a better chance of getting employment,” Mr Metcalf said.

“There’s also been unemployed people brought in to try and give them some skill sets so they can try and get back into the workforce.

“A couple of those were offered jobs before they finished out there.

“None of this was envisaged when we first started.”

One of the state’s only steam engine drivers will be brought in to help train up more young drivers.

“There’s a chap called Roy Scott who’s a qualified steam engine driver,” Mr Metcalf said.

“Roy will be the man who will train up new drivers and we’ve got to get younger people into this because otherwise the whole exercise will be lost because no-one will be accredited.”

The railway will run the 60 kilometres between Goomalling and Wyalkatchem, transporting people to major events happening in the region.

Wheatbelt Heritage Rail general manager Chris Le Marshall said there would be other exhibits displaying the history of the region and its relationship with Perth.

Here is a video of an S class in action.

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