News & Reviews News Wire Beyer-Garratt locomotive debuts on Australian heritage railway NEWSWIRE

Beyer-Garratt locomotive debuts on Australian heritage railway NEWSWIRE

By Wayne Laepple | November 14, 2019

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Former South African Railway NG-16 No. 129 made its first run on the puffing Billy Railway in Australia on Nov. 11, following an extensive overhaul that included re-gauging from 24-inch to 30-inch.
Puffing Billy Railway: Russ Hicks
BELGRAVE, Australia – Twenty-three years after it arrived at the Puffing Billy Railway, former South African Railways Beyer-Garratt 2-6-2+2-6-2 has made its first run under steam.

Putting this large (for narrow gauge) locomotive into service was a major accomplishment for the heritage railway’s shop crew. As built, No. 129 was a 2-foot gauge locomotive, and the Puffing Billy Railway is 30-inch gauge. While re-gauging steam locomotives to a smaller gauge has been done numerous times, going to a wider gauge is a major engineering undertaking.

The locomotive first arrived in Australia following its purchase in 1996, and it wasn’t until 2007 that the first engineering work and cost estimates were developed. Serious work did not begin until 2012. Among the challenges were manufacturing new frame stretchers, modifying the bearers for the boiler, adding an air brake system and building new water tanks and coal bunkers to fit the widened frame.

For the past few weeks, various tests were performed under steam, and finally, on a rainy and chilly evening, all was in readiness. No. 129 and a single coach departed Belgrave Nov. 11, making several stops along the way to check bearings and clearances.

For Peter Ralph, a long-time member and volunteer at the Puffing Billy Railway, it was a long wait. Ralph is the man who first proposed buying the locomotive, and, 23 years later, he was present to see it rumble across the famed curved trestle at Monbulk. “Doesn’t it look magnificent?” he exclaimed in a note to several friends.

Additional testing and final certification must take place before No. 129 can enter service. It will join several original Victorian Railways NA-class 2-6-2Ts, as well as an older Beyer-Garratt. It is expected that its greater tractive effort will reduce the need to doublehead the elderly 2-6-2Ts on a nearly daily basis, as the Puffing Billy Railway annually carries 500,000 passengers on its 15-mile line.

9 thoughts on “Beyer-Garratt locomotive debuts on Australian heritage railway NEWSWIRE

  1. Michael Gray, yes the WHR Garratts are a sight to behold. My first ever (and so far only) encounter with a Garratt was in Porthmadog as one rolled over the street-running bridge as she entered the joint station. This conversion in Oz looks amazingly well done.

  2. There are similar locomotives, also from S Africa, on the Welsh Highland Railway in N Wales, running between Porthmadog and Caernarvon. Still on 2ft gauge, and very impressive on this steeply graded and picturesque route running past Snowdon (highest mountain in Wales). A real day outing, full line is about 2 hours each way, especially from Porthmadog where the WHR shares a terminal with the Ffestiniog Railway. Much recommended.

  3. Garratts look rather strange to American steam fans but were very popular in Africa. Puffing Billy also has the only operational Climax geared locomotive outside of the USA.

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