National Railway Museum (Part 2 – Broad Gauge)

This is the second post of a three part exploration of the National Railway Museum located in suburban Port Adelaide.

Rather than repeat the introduction to the museum and South Australia’s railway systems, I invite you to visit Part 1 if you have not already done so. Part 1 looks at the narrow gauge steam locomotives that powered South Australia’s mid-north narrow gauge network.

In this post, attention will turn to South Australia’s 5 foot 3 inch broad gauge railways.

Broad gauge was introduced into South Australia’s capital, Adelaide, by the South Australian Railways back in 1856 to link the city with its creatively named port, Port Adelaide.  The track was some 7 miles in length and came after after an earlier attempt to establish a canal was unsuccessful and abandoned.  A suburban broad gauge network was established, and from there an expansion outwards from Adelaide to the rural and mining hinterland began. Adelaide was connected to Melbourne (the capital of the adjoining colony of Victoria) in 1887.  This was the first single gauge inter-colonial rail link in Australia. Elsewhere, breaks of gauge plagued intercapital connections for many more decades, with a break of gauge between Melbourne and Sydney persisting until 1962.

Later, more broad gauge lines pushed out into the lower north and Murray Lands, but with the development of better roads and the rising use of trucks, few of these later tracks were economic and abandonments started as early as the 1950’s.  Today, the suburban passenger network is the only remaining in-service broad gauge in South Australia.  Key interstate connections have been converted to standard gauge and the rest of the broad gauge network largely ripped up.

SAR P117

An early engine on the suburban network, the SAR P Class was introduced in the 1890’s. The class was based on a 1861 Beyer Peacock 2-4-0 tank engine built for England’s West Midland railway. Twenty were built, the first six coming from Beyer Peacock and the remainder built locally in Gawler. While the P’s were subsequently displaced from suburban passenger services by larger locomotives, they remained in service as depot shunters until replaced by diesels in 1956.  P117 is seen with a Trotting Special service board. At the time, Adelaide’s trotting track was inside the Royal Adelaide Showgrounds at Wayville, only a couple of miles out from the Adelaide Railway Station.

SAR P117

The modest power of the P Class is given away by the spindly coupling rods. There on no visible cylinders or connecting rods as the P Class used internally located cylinders fitted inside the line of the wheels.  P117 is the only example of this configuration held by the museum.

SAR F255

Soon after the federation of the colonies to form the Australian nation in 1901, the new State of South Australia introduced the F Class 4-6-2 tank engines to replace the P Class on suburban passenger duties.   They continued to perform this role for over fifty years before being displaced by diesel rail cars.  The Steamranger Historic Railway had an operating F Class locomotive (F251) that I traveled on somewhere around the late 1990’s.  Unfortunately it was retired soon afterwards when significant mechanical repairs were identified, and its limited load capacity was seeing other locomotives increasingly used in preference to F251.

SAR F255

The F Class was a fair size for a tank locomotive, and although somewhat slow accelerating out of stations, they could deliver quite a turn of speed. When rostered to work the evening “Alberton Flyer” they were capable of running at 60 mph down the Outer Harbor line.

SAR Rx93

Rx93 with its 4-6-0 configuration started life in a Glasgow, Scotland builder’s yard in 1885 and entered service with the South Australian Railways the following year after shipment to Australia.  She and her early sisters were originally designated as the R Class,  but following a rebuild a few years later to install larger boilers, they were re-designated as the Rx Class.  All up, the Rx Class eventually numbered 84 engines and became the most numerous model on the broad-gauge network. They worked the goods trains over the steep southern line out of Adelaide over the Adelaide Hills, and were also assigned to haul the Intercolonial Express following the connection of Adelaide to Melbourne in 1887. Two or even three R/Rx locomotives were needed to get the Express over the steepest grades  – two would be double headed and one pushing from further down the train. They retained these roles until the introduction of ‘Big Steam’ in 1926.  After that, they were shifted to secondary branch lines and suburban passenger duties.  The Rx Class ranged widely, being permitted to work on all of the broad gauge network. They were a very successful design, lasting until the 1960’s.  The Steamranger Historical Railway has two Rx locomotives. Both are currently undergoing extensive repairs but are expected back in service in 2014. Needless to say, there will be a Photo Morsels post when this occurs.

By the early 1920’s, the broad gauge network has expanded greatly, as had the loads to be hauled. The South Australian Railways found itself in a poor state of organisation and very short of motive power.  William Webb was engaged as a new Commissioner of Railways and was tasked with tackling the extensive problems.  He was Ohio, USA born and a highly experienced manager within the US railway system.  He arrived in Adelaide in late 1923 and immediately set about transforming the State’s rail operations.  He left almost no aspect of the old SAR alone and embarked on a extensive re-powering of the broad gauge network.

Unfortunately, all this rebuilding cost money and nearly bankrupted the state.  The resultant political controversy saw Webb return to the US in 1930 as the Great Depression began to bite. Fortunately, we still have examples of the “Big Steam” era locomotives he commissioned. The grand hall of the Adelaide Railway Station is another of Webb’s legacies that remains with us.

Webb assigned SAR mechanical engineer, Fred Shea, to develop three classes of locomotives following US rather than British designs.  These became the 500, 600 and 700 Class broad gauge locomotives.  All were introduced in 1926 just two years after Webb’s arrival, an amazing feat given the scale of the task given to Shea.

The 500 Class locomotives were the biggest weighting in at 222 tons apiece and developing 2½ times the power of the Rx locomotives.  Originally a Mountain 4-8-2 configuration, a second trailing axle was later fitted, changing them to a 4-8-4 configuration. Once delivered, they were immediately assigned to hauling the Overland Express (as the Intercolonial Express was now known) through the Adelaide Hills and they retained this role until the introduction of mainline diesel-electric power in the 1951.

The 600 Class was a 4-6-2 Pacific design fast passenger locomotive introduced in 1926. Unfortunately all of the 600 Class has been scrapped.

The 700 Class was designed to be the State’s mainline freight locomotive. Built to a 2-8-2 Mikado configuration, it displaced the Rx Class from mainline freight service.  Another successful Shea design, twenty were brought into service.

And now over to some photos of the 500 and 700 Class…

SAR 504

SAR steam engine No. 504

SAR steam locomotive No. 504

SAR steam locomotive No. 702

SAR Stream Locomotive No. 702

A second 4-6-2 Pacific locomotive was also designed by Fred Shea and came into service in 1936. A more lightly built locomotive, these were designated as the 620 Class and able to work a wider selection of lines than the 600’s. Two examples remain, one at the museum, and a second fully operational unit, No. 621, at the Steamranger Historical Railway. I managed to miss the museum’s 620 Class exhibit, so I suggest you head over to my Cockle Train posts where you can see No. 621, the “Duke of Edinburgh” steamed up and running.  Links can be found at the end of this post.

Another “Big Steam” design came into service during the 1940’s to address the urgent need to transport troops and wartime supplies.  The 520 Class combined the better features of the earlier 500 and 620 Class locomotives.  It used the 4-8-4 configuration of the modified 500 Class, but was also designed for work on lightly built branch lines having light axle loads like the 620’s. The class featured extravagant streamlining using a style borrowed from the massive Pennsylvania Railways T1 class.  The 520 Class locomotives were noted for their power and speed.  They featured specially balanced driving wheels designed for 70-mile-per-hour operation, and were also the first locomotives in Australia to feature roller bearings on all axles.

SAR Steam Locomotive No. 523 Sir Essington Lewis

In the 1960’s, the railway museum was located in an open allotment adjacent to Adelaide’s central goods yard at Mile End. I can vividly remember the towering presence of 523 “Sir Essington Lewis” in one corner and marveling both at the size of the engine and its streamlining. I spent a lot of my childhood art career drawing locomotives like this! The museum relocated to Port Adelaide in 1988 taking 523 with it, and the Mile End goods yards are now also gone.  My days as an artist are also long gone!

SAR Steam Locomotive No. 523 Sir Essington Lewis

Sitting under the canopy of the now closed Port Dock goods yard, Sir Essington Lewis looks as though it’s looks ready to depart.

SAR Steam Locomotive No. 523 Sir Essington Lewis

Inside the cabin of Sir Essington Lewis. The driver just had this tiny window to peer down the length of the boiler and try to ascertain what lay ahead. Must have made night operations at speed rather challenging.  The 520 Class had very large and roomy enclosed cabins which were popular with crews.

The final locomotives to enter broad gauge service were the 2-8-2 740 and 750 Classes.  There are no surviving examples of the 740 Class, but they were based on the SAR 700 Class of which No. 702 survives.  The 750 Class was a group of ten surplus engines sold to the SAR by the Victorian Railways in 1951 and most were near new. Their service life was short, with the transition to diesel power about to begin.

The museum holds No. 752 seen here sitting outside in the open partway through some re-painting, hooked up to a typical mixed goods consist of the era.

SAR 750 Class Steam Locomotive No. 752

And to finish, a quick look at the early diesel-electrics that brought the steam era to an end.

SAR 900 Class Diesel Electric

Lady Norrie, leader of the 900 Class diesel electrics was the arguably the first diesel to enter mainline service anywhere on the Australian continent. Lady Norrie and the rest of her class soon displaced steam from the South Australian mainlines. The 900 Class remained in service upon the transfer of South Australian country railways to the Commonwealth in 1975, and enjoyed a service life of over thirty years. The 900 Class was built in Adelaide at the Islington workshops and, although similar in appearance to a US ALCo design, they were powered by English Electric equipment.

SAR 930 Class diesel-electric

Oh, the ignominy of it all! The leader of the 930 Class diesel-electrics reduced to acting as a tent-peg substitute for a bbq shelter.  The 930 Class came four years after the Lady Norrie. They were ALCo DL500B series locomotives built under licence in New South Wales.  A total of 37 came into service from 1955 to 1967 and formed the backbone of the South Australian Railways diesel fleet, serving as the main replacement for steam power on freight and passenger services throughout the state. They also passed to the Commonwealth in 1975 and were progressively withdrawn from the late 1980’s through to the mid 1990’s.

Camera Gear

Shot on the Pentax K-x with a new to me Pentax FA 20-35 F4 zoom. The majority of images from inside the sheds were taken using the ambient interior light, mostly at ISO 800 and using F4 – 5.6 apertures. Shutter speeds were quite low, down to 1/6th or 1/10th second in the darker corners of the sheds.

To Learn More

More information about the National Railway Museum and its collections can be found at its website here.  The museum is open every day from 10am – 5pm.  I also recommend checking the website for special event days.

The museum is located in Lipson Street, Port Adelaide, South Australia.  It is adjacent to the South Australia Aviation Museum. If wishing to use public transport, buses from the city centre running down Port Road to the Port will get you there, or take the Outer Harbor train service and alight at the Port Adelaide railway station.


Related Posts

Other posts about the National Railway Museum:

National Railway Museum (Part 1 – Narrow Gauge)

National Railway Museum (Part 3 – Everything Else)

Operating South Australian historic railway services:

SteamRanger Cockle Train

SteamRanger Cockle Train (Revisited)


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2 thoughts on “National Railway Museum (Part 2 – Broad Gauge)

  1. Pingback: National Railway Museum (Part 3 – Everything Else) | Photo Morsels

  2. Pingback: National Railway Museum (Part 1 – Narrow Gauge) | Photo Morsels

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