Blue Mountains Railway Pages Australia

The Wolgan Valley Railway

Its Design and Construction

Read before the Sydney University Engineering Society,
on September 21st, 1910.
Henry Deane, M.A., M. Inst. C.E.

Blue Mountains Australia


The descent: rope incline or locomotive line?
Down the gorge
Choice of standard gauge
Locomotives and sharp curves
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Method of Carrying out the Work

Description of the Route Adopted
Newnes Junction
Murrays Swamp
Descent and Glow Worm Tunnel
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Wolgan Valley

Permanent Way
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Water Supply at Deane

Shay Type camera_tiny.gif (887 bytes)
Mallet Type
Meyer Type
Fairlie Type
Garratt Type

Conversions, Source

Headings marked * have been added by the Railway Pages editor. 

Related pages: Kerosene Shale | Glow Worm Tunnel

Introduction *

My first connection with this work was at the end of April, 1906, when Mr. D. A. Sutherland, Consulting Engineer and General Manager of The Commonwealth Oil Corporation, Ltd., asked me to take charge of the survey and construction of the proposed line of railway.

The Descent: Rope Incline or Locomotive Line?*

I found that some surveying had already been carried out, consisting of a trial-line, for which too little time had been allowed, and therefore insufficiently worked up, between Clarence Siding and the northern end of a long ridge or spur, overlooking the Wolgan Valley, at a point where the mining of shale had already been commenced. For the connection between the top of the spur and the valley, it had been proposed to construct a rope incline. The terminus of the railway proper would thus have been at a high level, about 1200 feet above the Wolgan River.

The question as to whether this was the best scheme to adopt, or whether it would not be better to take a locomotive line right down into the valley if it could be managed, had not been settled when my services where called into requisition. There was also the question of gauge to be decided upon.

Mr. Sutherland was strongly in favour of a locomotive line into the valley, and I fully agreed with him, and the practicability of laying out and building such a line was the first problem to be solved, because if it not be managed, or if the cost was prohibitive, no further time or effort should be wasted on it. This problem was not an easy one to tackle. Those who know the Blue Mountain region, are aware that its valleys and gorges are hemmed round by a generally precipitous wall of cliffs, of ten 300 to 500 feet high; and it is only here and there that a break away occurs, by means of which access from the top to the bottom or "vice versa" can be obtained.

This is particularly the case in the Wolgan Valley, the inaccessibility of which led to its use in former days for extensive cattle-duffing.

The services of Mr. George Marshall, formerly of my staff in the Railway Construction Branch, and who had also had much valuable experience in South Africa, had already been secured, and he was trying to negotiate a somewhat promising descent into the valley with ten chain curves and 1 in 40 grades (3%).

Mr. Sutherland gave me authority to add to the survey staff, and engage additional surveyors, and finding that the number employed was altogether inadequate, I took steps to strengthen it.

The new surveyors included Mr. Them, who had previously held an appointment under me in the Department of Works; Mr. Rhodes, who had been also on my staff in that Department, and was now placed in charge of the survey work for the first 1 9 miles, and Mr. Amphlett, who was told off to assist Mr. Marshall.

The previous survey, which had been run by Mr. Cardew, M. Inst. C.E., junctioned with the Western Line at Clarence Siding. This point, which naturally suggested itself at first on account of its being at an existing and well-established railway station, was, on investigation on, condemned, and I turned my attention to other points.

After trying the spot where Dargan's Creek crosses the Main Western Railway at 87 miles 45 chains, and from which it was possible to get a line to the top of the ridge, I found that the best point of departure was at 86 miles 70 chains, which is about 1½ miles back from Clarence. From this point a fairly continuous ascent was obtained without much difficulty, and the top of the ridge was reached 7 miles out. At this point, which proved to be the summit of the line, alternative routes presented themselves. A deviation off the main ridge had been suggested, along what was known as the Sunnyside route. By following this route the descent to the valley commenced, only a few miles out, while the other alternative, the line on which Mr. Marshall was engaged, left the main ridge only after 20 miles from the junction had been traversed.

It was clear, after r some study of the problem, that the adoption of 5 chain curves, and 1 in 25 grades (4%), was unavoidable. Mr. Them was therefore instructed to work up the Sunnyside route under these conditions, while Mr. Marshall made renewed efforts with the so-called Penrose Creek route.

Mr. Them carried out his work in a very capable manner, and obtained a good line; but as it proved to be considerably longer, and to pass through a good deal of private land, over which, under the older Mining Act, right to construct would not have been acquired without obtaining an Act of Parliament, preference was given to the one surveyed by Mr. Marshall. A great deal of work had to be done, and a vast amount of scheming carried out before a really practicable line was obtained. The gorge through which a great part of the descent had to be negotiated, was so narrow and the levels were so bound by the necessity of passing through certain spots, that many times the task seemed almost hopeless.

Of course, it must be understood that if economy had been no object, and that the construction of a main line, carrying an enormous traffic, were concerned, the difficulty could have been solved by the adoption of spiral tunnels, as on the St. Gothard Railway. In that case, it would have been possible to start cork-screwing down from the top of the ridge, inside the mountain, till the level of the valley was reached, when the line could have passed out into daylight. This method was, of course, out of the question.

To bring the line within the region of practicable cost, as mentioned above, a ruling grade of 1 in 25 was adopted, with curves of 5 chains radius. There was no possibility of compensating for curvature, and the 1 in 25 grades occur, therefore, on 5 chain curves, so that the actual ruling grade may be said to be 1 in 22.5 (4.4%), not 1 in 25 (4.0%). A study of plan and section, as well as an inspection on the ground, will show how rigid were the conditions of the problem.

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Down the Gorge*

As an example of the difficulties encountered, it may be mentioned that when after much trouble it was found possible to get down through the gorge, and out into the open valley, the level of the formation turned out to be at a height of 40 feet above the base of the cliffs, so that either the railway would have had to be carried on a high viaduct along the front of the cliffs, or it would have been necessary to keep it inside the tunnel, and so avoid the open altogether. Of these two alternatives, the latter would have been the only safe location, but it would have been too costly. The problem was attacked once more and, eventually, by lengthening the line, suitable levels were obtained. A tunnel of 20 chains length, however, was necessitated.

All this work and trouble involved the expenditure of much time, which may be shown by the fact that, although the survey of this part of the line was commenced in April, 1906, the final selection and location of the centre line, between 20 and 31 miles, was only just completed in advance of the earthworks in November, 1907.

The heaviest part of the line is situated between 20 miles and the bottom of the long grade, at 28 miles 40 chains; but there is very little of the rest that can really be classed under the category of light lines, and had it not been for the insertion of curves of small radius, the cost per mile throughout would have been very considerable.

I would like, here, to testify to the energy and ability displayed by Mr. Marshall, as also to give my warmest praise to Mr. Rhodes' efforts.


The steepest grade of 1 in 25 has been confined to the length between 19 and 29 miles, and I arranged that from the 19 mile peg, back to the junction, the ruling grade against the load should be 1 in 50 only. The result has been that two train loads, from Newnes to the station at 19 miles (which was named by Mr. Sutherland after me) can be there united, and be hauled by a single engine of the same power to the junction, or if considered more convenient for the one engine to take the same load from end to end, a higher speed can be obtained when n traversing the d distance from Deane to the Junction. From the junction towards Newnes, the loads would be generally light. It would not matter if some grades of 1 in 30 in this direction were inserted, and this was accordingly done from motives of economy.

Choice of Standard Gauge*

Bound up with the whole question was that of gauge. Steep grades on a narrow gauge limit the load too much. It was anticipated that when the Company was in full swing, over 1000 tons of goods would have to be conveyed over the line. It was clear, therefore, the standard gauge must be adopted, especially as the Railway Commissioners had offered to lend their rolling stock if that gauge were not departed from. But how about the curvature, it will be said; was it not excessive? No. Not for the wagons, which were daily hauled safely over the Camden Railway, with its 5 chain curves; but what about locomotives? On the Western Line, curves of 8 chains radius were originally constructed, and had all been cut out because the wear of rails and flanges had been excessive.

This question had to be solved by looking to the practice of other countries. In New South Wales, the locomotives were too stiff. Some other type must be adopted.

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Locomotives and Sharp Curves*

During my trips round the world in 1894 and 1904-5 I studied this question, and the following observations will be of interest. I deal only with railways of a gauge of 4 feet 8½ inches, and wider, because the practice as regards narrower gauges would not help us.

In 1894 I found numerous curves of 16 degrees, equal to 5½ chain radius, one curve of 18 degrees, equal to 4.8 chain radius, and one of 22 degrees, equal to 4 chain radius, on the South Pacific Railway System in the Western United States, and these were traversed by 8-wheeled coupled American locomotives of the Consolidation type. This was rendered possible by providing two of the pairs of wheels with broad, plain treads in place of flanging them. The curves mentioned have now been cut out; but they were worked for many years.

In 1904, I travelled in a train on the main line of the Canadian Pacific Railway, where one curve of 3½ chain radius exists. All the Company's locomotives traverse this curve.

On some of the mining branches of the Canadian Pacific Railway, where curves of 5 chains and grades of 4½ per cent equal 1 in 22.5 exist, Shay locomotives are used.

On the Tamalpais Railway, a scenic line in California, there are curves of 70 and 80 feet radius, the traffic being hauled by locomotives of the Shay type.

On the Kandy Railway in Ceylon, there are curves of 5 chains radius, the gauge being 5ft. 6in. These are negotiated by locomotives built by Kitson and Co., of Leeds. They are 6-wheeled coupled with bogie in front. The middle wheels have thin flanges; considerable play in the axle boxes is allowed, and the connecting rod and siderod pins are barrel shaped, so as to permit of the rods working out of the straight line.

There are many types of locomotives designed for sharp curves. Recently, locomotives of the Mallet type, used for many years in Europe, have been built both by the American Locomotive Co. and the Baldwin Co., and have been received with favour.

Some of the leading locomotive builders of Great Britain have taken up the building of locomotives of articulated types.

The North British makes the Fairlie Engine, the design of which was first adopted for the Festiniog 2 feet gauge railway in North Wales.

Kitson and Co. make locomotives of the Meyer type.

Beyer and Peacock have recently built locomotives of a new type called the Garratt.

On the Continent of Europe, many types have been adopted to suit sharp curves, and the Swiss Locomotive Co., Maffei, of Munich, and several other well-known firms, build engines of the Mallet, Meyer, Hagans and other types.

The Hanoverian Locomotive Co., of Hanover, have introduced a new method called the Goelsdorf, consisting of a means by which the axles have considerable lateral play. That Company maintains that their 10-wheeled, coupled locomotives, fitted with this arrangement, traverse 5 chain curves with ease.

In view of the above facts, I had no hesitation in recommending the adoption of curves of 5 chains radius, and steep grades, and as I had been much impressed with the performance of the locomotives of the Shay type that I had seen, orders were given for locomotives of this design, to the Lima Locomotive Co., of Lima, Ohio, who make them.

The Commonwealth Oil Corporation now possesses three 70-ton locomotives and one of 90 tons has recently been imported, and may shortly be expected to be at work.

The Company have had built 19 bogie opentopped wagons of 32 tons capacity, one bogie covered wagon and five 5000 gallon oil tank wagons. There are also under order ten "D" wagons of 10 tons capacity, with extra large bodies, so as to carry full loads of coke.

Commonwealth Oil Corporation Shay with wagons. Scale model owned by Geoff Murray, 6 inch gauge. Shay_FrontRight.jpg (12949 bytes) Photo courtesy
Geoff Murray


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Method of Carrying out the Work.

All the earthwork and permanent way and all other works and buildings except the engine shed and coal stage at the Junction have been carried out by day labour. A good staff of gangers and timekeepers were employed under the superintendence of Mr. J. D. Simpson, the Engineer-in Charge, and the work has been well and economically carried out. Had it been decided to do everything by contract, much delay would have been sustained, as it is essential, before letting a contract, to have all the setting out complete, as well as all specifications and contract drawings. From the nature of the case, it was impossible to wait for these.

In accordance with the practice on the New South Wales Railways, all curves have been transitioned at the ends and the centre lines has either been laid out at the outset with transition curves, or the ends have been afterwards adjusted by slewing the tangents so as to permit of the insertion of the modified curve. The former method was adopted on Mr. Marshall's length, the latter on Mr. Rhodes'. The former is the one that has been generally adopted i n the Works Department, under conditions where there has been sufficient time for completing the pegging out, but the latter method I have found to possess very considerable advantages, and I believe to be simpler and more economical as to time when surveying in rough country, where curves are frequent and reversed. The type of transition curve used is the cubic parabola.

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Description of the Route Adopted.

Attached to this paper is a diagram plan and section, and I now proceed to give a short description of the location of the railway.

Newnes Junction, between Lithgow and Bell*

The railway leaves the Western Main Line at 86 m less 70 chains, the level of the rails at this point being 3611 feet above mean sea level. In general direction it follows a ridge or spur, which runs northward, and terminates in a bluff overlooking the Wolgan Valley, about 22 miles in a bee line from Clarence Siding.


At 7 miles out, the top of the ridge is reached, at a level of 3,960 feet above mean sea level, or about 350 feet above rail level at the commencement.

At this point there is a crossing loop, after passing which, the line begins to descend on a gradient of 1 in 50. This grade is practically continuous as far as 12 m less 20 chains, where Murray's Swamp is crossed. There are some sharp curves on this section, as without them the cost would have been very high. As it is, the earthworks are not heavy.

Murray’s Swamp*

At Murray’s Swamp, there is a dead end aiding, where the sawmill was originally placed.

From 12 miles 20 chains to 19 miles, the line is undulating in character, and there are very few exceptionally sharp curves.

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At 19 miles, the station, named Deane, is reached, and here the rail level is about 3500 feet above mean sea level, thus showing a drop from the summit at 7 miles of 460 feet. The earthworks on this section are light.


Soon after passing 19 miles, the great drop into the Wolgan Valley begins. The line begins to descend from the ridge and enters the rugged valley of Penrose Creek. Between 21 miles 70 chains and 23 miles 10 chains the line takes the form of the letter "S". On the upper part of this double curve a tunnel of 5½ chains length is situated, and shortly after, where the line is located on the top of a cliff, the continuation of it s below with a difference of level of 160 feet. The line now follows the creek, crossing from one side to the other as occasion requires, enters the second tunnel, which is 20 chains in length, and after traversing the lower end of Penrose Gorge for about 13 chains, it reaches the open valley of the Wolgan. Here it skirts for nearly half a mile the base of some high cliffs, and then continues along the slopes lying at the base of the extension of these cliffs, always on a grade of 1 in 25, till the bottom station is reached at 28 miles 40 chains. It is scarcely necessary to state that on parts of this section the earthworks are very heavy, and the construction was extremely troublesome, especially where the railway traverses the base of the cliffs, and where men had to be supported from above by ropes in order that the necessary action of jumping holes and using bars to lever out loose rocks might be effected. Under the circumstances, it would be misleading if any maximum height of cutting were given, but it might be mentioned that the height of the embankment at 23 miles 35 chains is 77 feet, and that between 24 miles 50 chains and 25 miles 50 chains there are several places where the toe of the embankment is from 100 to 150 feet below the level of the formation.


Mouth of Tunnel (or Penrose) Gorge from Wolgan Valley. Green markers show route of the railway formation. Railway route from below gorge, Wolgan Valley, Blue Mountains Photo courtesy
Geoff Murray


Wolgan Valley*

At 24 miles 10 chains a crossing loop has been provided. From the bottom station, at 28 miles 40 chains, the line skirts the East bank of the Wolgan River, following a generally Northerly direction as far as 30 miles 70 chains, where the township is situated, and where a passenger and goods station has been laid out. Here the river takes an abrupt turn to the East, and the railway follows the same direction, terminating with the works' sidings at about 32 miles 6 chains. The difference of level between the summit at 7 miles and the line in the valley is 2200 feet.

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Permanent Way


An arrangement had been made with the Railway Commissioners by Mr. Sutherland for the purchase of good secondhand double-headed steel rails, 751bs. to the yard, in 24 feet and 21 feet lengths, at a reasonable rate per ton, chairs and fish plates being given in free. This was a suitable arrangement, as second-hand flat-bottomed rails were not immediately obtainable in sufficient quantities, and if new ones had been indented they would have probably cost about £8 per ton delivered.

The 751b. double-headed steel rails were laid from the junction as far as 28 miles 60 chains, from which point 601b. flat-bottomed rails, of which about 450 tons were purchased in Tasmania, were laid down.


Where the 751b. double-headed rails have been used, nine sleepers have been inserted for the eight yard length, but for the flat-bottomed road, two extra sleepers, or eleven to the eight yard length, have been used.

Fish bolts and spikes for the 75lb. rails were purchased from W. Sandford, Ltd., of the Eskbank Iron Works, and hardwood keys from Goodlet and Smith and the Kauri Timber Co., tenders having been previously invited for the same.

About 12,000 hewn sleepers were purchased, prices having been obtained by calling publicly for tenders. The rest have been cut at a sawmill erected at Murray Swamp for the purpose, there being a good supply of stringy bark timber available within a convenient distance. This enterprise proved a complete success, and good sleepers were obtained at a moderate price.


The formation width adopted both for banks and cuttings is 17 feet, a fall of 6 inches being given from the crown to the side. This is the standard for the New South Wales Railways, and thus the Newnes Railway is in this respect in no way behind, and a high-class line of railway has been built.


It was intended to dispense with the use of hard ballast under the sleepers, except on clay banks and in hard cuttings, and to treat the line in the same way as the unballasted lines of the interior; but a good deal of ballasting has been found necessary in some places. The available ballast consists of coarse sand or sandstone, which is scarcely strong enough perhaps to stand under very heavy traffic. Nevertheless, it makes an excellent road, as experience in wet weather has shown. Should it, however, prove necessary, later on, when the traffic from the mines increases to a large amount, to obtain ballast of a superior character, the Chief Commissioner for Railways, whom interviewed on the subject, has promised to supply broken metal from Tarana.

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Observations of the flow of water across the line during storms have indicated the fact that, with few exceptions, it mostly soaks into the soil and passes under ground, and that little provision in the way of culverts is necessary.

Substantial and well constructed log culverts have, however, in all cases, been put in. On the steep sidlings overlooking the Wolgan Valley, special arrangements have been made to divert the water into culverts crossing the line on the solid ground, so as on the one hand to avoid lengthy and sometimes impossible construction along the course of the water, and on the other hand to minimise the possibility of scour.


The design of the tunnels adopted is similar to that of the Railway Construction Department in this State, with the exception that in view of the sharp curves used, the haunches have been widened so as to permit of the passage of the longest carriage in the possession of the Railway Commissioner's Department. No lining has been done, as owing to the soundness of the rock, it was found to be quite unnecessary.

Looking out of the northern portal (Newnes end) of number 2 tunnel.

For more information about the tunnel and surrounds, see

Tunnel 2 portal, Wolgan Valley Railway, Blue Mountains Photo courtesy
Geoff Murray



The earthworks at the Junction end of the line were, it may be said, commenced in November, 1906, and considerable strength concentrated on these, but before Christmas, 1906, a start was made with the line at 26 miles 50 chains, working back towards the tunnel. Gangs were also located as soon as possible on the heavy grades from 20 miles towards the valley, and a commencement was made with No. 2 Tunnel at both ends. A junction between the two headings was effected on June 9th, 1907.

The permanent way was brought along as rapidly as the completion of the formation ahead would permit, and at the end of November, 1907, the rails were laid up to 31 miles 50 chains, when further progress was for the time blocked by a large cutting. As, however, the said cutting is within the works area, the railway may be taken to have reached its terminus within the time mentioned, and I may be permitted to point out that the completion in so short a time as 12 or 13 months of a railway involving so many difficulties is one for congratulation.

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Water Supply at Deane

Considerable difficulty was experienced in obtaining a water supply at or near this part of the line, as the latter follows the top of the spur. A fair supply was eventually obtained at about a mile from Deane Station, where a swamp exists. The gully here has been dammed, and an excavation added to hold a good supply of water. The reservoir thus formed is 200 feet below the level of the engine tank at Deane, and the water has to be pumped up. The plant erected for this purpose is as follows: At the station there is an 8 horse power Cundell Oil Engine, driving by means of a belt a Siemens Dynamo, which produces current at 500 volts. At the dam there is a three throw pump, direct driven by an electric motor. Between the engine house and pump current is conveyed by copper cables, and there is another pair of wires by means of which, with the aid of a starting switch in the engine house, the pump can be set in motion.

In this way the pump can be started without the necessity of any man visiting the pump. Labour is thus saved, and the water in the tanks can be replenished without delay. At both station and dam the machinery is housed in a small building. A line of 3 inch pipes conveys the water from the pump to the engine tank.

In connection with the water supply, an elevated stage has been erected carrying six 400 gallon tanks as at the Junction, and there is also a coal stage to carry 50 tons of coal.

Engine sheds have been provided at the Junction, and near the bottom of the steep incline. At the first of these, water is obtained by pumping at the second by gravity. Triangles for turning the engines are provided at both places.

A separate telephone line has been provided for railway working and in accordance with the conditions laid down in the lease, namely, that traffic is to be conducted to the approval of the Chief Commissioner, steps have been taken to install the staff and ticket system.

It may be interesting here to state that the earthworks in the open cost, on an average, ls.6½d. per cubic yard, and that the tunnel excavation was got out for 8s.6d. per cubic yard, also that the sleepers sawn at the mill, which were chiefly stringy-bark; cost 1s.8½d. each.

On the completion of the deviation works, which are now being carried out to cut out the Great Zigzag, the position of the Junction with the Western Line will be shifted about a quarter of a mile towards Sydney, and the Commonwealth Oil Corporation's trains will have to traverse part of the old line which will be left in to form the connecting link.

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I will now give a short description of the several types of locomotives above mentioned with some of the advantages and disadvantages possessed by each.

Shay Type*


Shay loco
Detail view of Geoff Murray's C.O.C. Shay. Photo courtesy Geoff Murray.


The cylinders are, except in the largest engines, three in number, placed vertically on the right hand side, and the driving power, instead of being applied direct to the driving wheels, is conveyed through a horizontal crank shaft running from end to end of engine and tender. The cranks are placed at equal angles round the crank shaft. In order to allow of flexibility there are universal joints, and as in traversing curves the length of the shaft requires to be shortened and extended according as the curve is to the right or to the left, there are sleeves permitting of this. On the horizontal shaft are placed cone pinions, which at each wheel on that side of the engine and tender engage the teeth of a bevel spur casting bolted on to the outside of the wheels. The front part of the engine is supported on a four-wheeled bogie, and the fire-box end is also supported on a similar bogie. The tender in the smaller locomotives is carried on one bogie, but on the largest types there are two bogies. All the wheels of both engine and tender are driving wheels. In order that the loading may be equally distributed on both sides, and to allow for the additional weight due to cylinders, shaft and gearing on the right hand side, the boiler is placed to the left of the median line of the locomotive, so that when viewed from the front it has a lopsided appearance.

Advantages of Type

Great hauling power, due to the fact that the weight of tender as well as engine is available for adhesion.

In the ordinary two-cylinder engine the number of impulses for one revolution of the driving wheels is four. In the Shay type there are six impulses to each revolution of the horizontal or driving shaft, and the gearing being as 45 to 20 or as 9 to 4 the number of impulses per revolution of the wheels is 6 x 9-4 equal 13½, by which means a very even turning force is applied, and the effect on heavy grades is this, that a locomotive with maximum load behind and coming to a stand on the ruling grade is able to start off again without difficulty.

The rigid wheel base is 4ft. 4in. only, in consequence of which the Shay locomotive is able to traverse very sharp curves.

The tube length being 11 feet only, the difference of level of the water in the boiler on a heavy grade is not serious.

The wear of the flanges of the different pairs of wheels varies according to position; for instance, the leading wheels of the bogies, particularly those of the front one, wear faster than the rest. As all wheels and axles are exactly similar in design, the different pairs of wheels can be changed in position, a pal r that is less worn for instance being put in the place of one that has suffered a good deal. In this way the operation of turning up the wheels may be considerably postponed.

Disadvantages - Slow speed on level and undulating country. The maximum speed at which locomotives of this type will travel without excessive vibration is about 17 miles per hour, but probably a speed of from 12 to 15 miles per hour should be looked upon as sufficient. With greater speeds than these wear and tear begins to be excessive.

The wear and tear of the gearing is often stated to be excessive. I have not found it to be so. Facts are better than theory in a case like this. No. 1 Engine has worked for 3'/2 years without a complete overhaul, and it is only now found necessary to renew the pinions.

The following are some of the particulars of the locomotives owned by the Commonwealth Oil Corporation:-

70 Ton Shay Locomotive.

3 cylinders, 12in. x 15in.
Boiler pressure, 2001b. per sq. in.
Weight, empty, 111,0001b.
Weight, in working order, 141,0001b.
Tank capacity, 2500 imperial gallons.
Gear, 20 to 45
Driving wheels, 36in. diameter.
Total wheel base, 40ft.3in.
Tube length, 11ft.
Rigid wheel base, 4ft. 4in.
Tractive power, 29,8001b.
Grate area, 22.5 sq. ft.

These locomotives have hauled behind them 215 tons gross up the 1 in 30 grades from the junction towards Newnes, and have taken behind them up the 1 in 25 grade from the valley 180 tons gross.

In accordance with general American practice, the fireboxes are constructed of steel, but as the water on the mountains does not produce scale no trouble from that source has arisen. On the contrary, slight pitting was at first observed, which tendency, however, was obviated by the addition of a small quantity of lime to the water.

90 Ton Shay Locomotive

3 cylinders, 14½in. x 15in.
Boiler pressure, 2001b. per sq. in.
Weight, empty, 152,0001b.
Weight, in working order, 185,6001b.
Tank capacity, 2916 imperial gallons.
Loading - Front truck, 70,0001b
Middle truck, 67,0001b
Rear truck, 56,0001b.
Gear, 20 to 41.
Driving wheels, 36 in. diameter.
Total wheel base, 44ft. 1 in.
Rigid wheel base, 4ft. 10in.
Tube length, 12ft.
Tractive power, 40,4001b.
Grate area, 23 sq. ft.

Further information:

See entry on the Railway Page for links relating to Shay locomotives.

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Mallet Type

This type of locomotive has long been used on the Continent of Europe, especially in the more mountainous parts of Switzerland, but until six years ago it has not found favour in America. Since that time many locomotives of large size have been built by the American Locomotive Co. and the Baldwin Locomotive Co., the first that was manufactured having been produced by the former company and exhibited at the St. Louis Exhibition in 1904. It weighed in steam nearly 500,000 lb., and since that time even larger locomotives have been built. While this expansion of the use of the type is going on in America it is curious to observe that it is being abandoned in Europe.

The boiler is carried on two four or six wheeled trucks, the hind one carrying two high-pressure cylinders, being rig id fixed to the boiler r. The front one with the low-pressure cylinders is pivoted and is arranged for lateral movement. In this way sharp curves can be negotiated.

Advantages of type:- Ability to negotiate sharp curves; large hauling power, for although the weight of the tender cannot be utilised, the whole of the weight of the engine is available for adhesion, and there is no loss due to bogie or trailing axle, as all the wheels of the engine are drivers.

Disadvantages:- Conveyance of steam through flexible connections, though in the case of the Mallet it is only the low-pressure steam that is thus treated. On sharp curves the front end of the boiler shifts over very considerably towards the outside rail, and heavy additional loading is thereby placed upon the latter

The boiler tubes are 14ft. to 16ft. long, which is by some considered too long, as the front end of such long tubes is not effective as heating surface.

The following are the particulars of an engine of this type offered to the Commonwealth Oil Corporation:

Mallet Type (Baldwin Locomotive Co.)

Cylinders, 15in. x 22in., and 23in. x 22in.
Boiler pressure, 2001b.
Drivers, 40in. diameter.
Boiler, 54in. diameter. Tube length, 15ft. 6in.
Total wheel base, 22ft. without tender.
Rigid wheel base, 7ft. 6in.
Weight, in working order, 132,0001b.
Weight of tender, 70,0001b.
Total, 202,0001b.
Tank capacity, 3500 gals.
Tractive power, 32,9171b.

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Meyer Type

This type of locomotive differs from the Mallet chiefly in the fact that the boiler is supported by two bogies in both cases resting on pivots, so that the load on each bogie is evenly distributed on the rails. The cylinders are four in number, high pressure, two to each bogie. The wheels of each are four or six wheeled coupled according to the size or weight of the locomotive.

The advantages are the same as in the Mallet, with the additional one that the boiler being pivoted at each end, the load is always central to the permanent way. There is this disadvantage, however, that flexible high-pressure steam connections are required at each end.

The following are some particulars of a locomotive offered by Kitson and Co., of Leeds, to the company, and I give them as an example:-

Meyer Type (Kitson and Co., Leeds).

Class C with Tender
4 cylinders, 15½in. x 23in.
Boiler, 4ft. gin. diameter.
Tube length, 13ft. 4in.
Boiler pressure, 1651bs. per so. in.
Drivers, 3ft. 63/4in. diameter in groups of 6 on two bogies.
Total wheel base, 33ft. gin.
Rigid wheel base, 8ft. 6in
Weight in steam, 113 tons 5cwt.
Tank capacity, 3250 gallons.
Tractive force, 35,2001bs.

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Fairlie Type

This design of locomotive is now of very old standing. It was first designed for the Festiniog Railway in North Wales, which has a gauge of about 2 feet. The chief feature is that there are two short boilers placed back to back, on a continuous frame, the funnel end of each boiler being supported by a bogie, four or six wheels coupled, carrying last a pair of cylinders.

The double boiler has the advantage that the variation of its water level on steep grades does not cause inconvenience; but there is the disadvantage that there are two fires to attend to, and as is the case of the Meyer locomotive, flexible connections are necessitated to each pair of cylinders.

Engines of this type are built by the North British Locomotive Company, and I furnish some particulars of a locomotive offered to the Commonwealth Oil Corporation:-

Fairlie Type (North British Locomotive Co.)

Four cylinders, 16in. 22in.
Boiler pressure, 1651bs. per sq. in.
Drivers, 3ft. gin. diameter. Weight in steam, 73 tons.
Tank capacity, 2000 gallons.
Tractive force, 35,6001bs.

There are several other types of the so-called articulated or flexible locomotives, one of which, Hagans, may be known to my hearers, besides which there have been various methods adopted, such as the Goelsdorf system of the Hanoverian Locomotive Co., already mentioned, to enable the locomotive to traverse sharp curves. The very commonly used bogie or pony trucks, which carries the front end of the majority of locomotives at the present day, and the trailing axle with lateral action are attempts in the same direction.

I will confine myself to mentioning one other type of locomotive of recent design, emanating from the workshops of Beyer, Peacock and Co., namely:-

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Garrat Type

This type differs from the Meyer and the Mallet, inasmuch as the centres of the two bogies are situated beyond the ends of the frame. The pivots at the ends of the frame rest on the bogies between the near and middle pairs of wheels, that is, in the case of the six-wheeled bogie. A tender is dispensed with, and the water is carried in two tanks, one of which, that at the front end is the larger, while that at the fire-box end is less capacious, as room for coal has to be provided as well. The weights have been very carefully worked out, and the loading of the axles is thus remarkably uniform. The boiler is of large diameter, and very short, it being maintained by the makers that the best results are thus obtained.

The advantages of this type are obvious; it is very flexible; all the wheels are driving wheels, and the whole weight is available for adhesion, and although it can scarcely compare with a geared locomotive, such as the Shay for stopping and starting on grades, it has the advantage on easier grades, and on the level in being able to run at high speed.

I give below some particulars of an engine which was offered to the Commonwealth Oil Corporation, and I have no doubt that had the price been a little nearer that of the Shay, one would have been now working on the Wolgan Valley Railway.

Garrat Type (Beyer, Peacock and Co.).

Four cylinders, 17in. x 22in.
Wheels (6 pairs) 3ft. gin. diameter.
Total wheel base, 42 feet. Rigid wheel base, 9ft. 6in.
Boiler, 6ft. 3in. diameter
Tube length, 9ft. 6in.
Boiler pressure, 1601bs. per so. in.
Tank capacity: Smoke box end, 1350 galls.; Firebox end, 650 galls.;
Total, 2000 galls.
Tractive power, 38,400 lbs.
Weight, in steam, 82 tons.

All the above are very serviceable types of locomotives which traverse with ease curves of sharp radius. There can be no doubt whatever of their suitability where it is desirable to save expensive earthworks in very rough country. There are many districts in New South Wales, especially along the coast, which want opening up by railway, but where the cost of a line with curves of large radius and easy gradients would be prohibitive. It is better to put up the disadvantages of sharp curves and steep grades than languish altogether for the want of a railway. The Wolgan Valley Railway is an example of what can be done with the standard gauge. The average cost of the line without rolling stock was about£4000 per mile, whereas if only 12 chains' curves and 1 in 40 grades had been insisted on, the expenditure must have run into £16,000 per mile, and probably much higher.

The End.

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Currency at changeover in 1966:
£1 (pound) = $2.00;
10s (shilling) = $1.00;
12d (penny) = 1s = $0.10

1 ml (mile) = 1.61km
1 ch (chain) = 66ft = 20.1m
12"(in. or inch) = 1' (ft or foot) = 305mm
1" = 25.4mm

1 gal (gallon) = 8 pints = 4.55 liters
1 ld (pound) = 0.454kg
1 ton = 1.02 tonnes


The British form of gradient measurement refers to a rise of 1 foot over a distance of x ft. Thus 1 in 25 means a rise of 1 foot over a horizontal distance of 25 feet (or meters or Outer Mongolian Cathumps).

So: 1 in x = (1/x)*100 percent.

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Henry Deane's address has passed into the public domain. It was scanned from:
"The Wolgan Valley Railway - Its Construction" by Henry Deane, published by Australian Railway Historical Society - NSW Division, Box E129, P.O., St James, NSW, 2000, Australia.

The book contains numerous maps and historical photographs, and is available in softcover from various retailers throughout the Blue Mountains. On-line booksellers can be found in our Shopping Arcade.


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