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