Category Archives: The Workshops Rail Museum

Farewell to Steam in Queensland

The year 1969 saw most steam locomotives in Queensland drop their fires for the last time. These machines had been a part of life in Queensland for over a hundred years. Harnessing the elemental forces of fire and water they had carried foreign armies on their backs, fed entire cities and made countless awestruck children late for school. But by the end of that year, most Queensland steam locomotives stood cold and silent. Booming voices issued from brass vocal chords no more and steel once burning to the touch contracted and went cold. Lines of locomotives sat at the Ipswich Workshops waiting to be dissected and rendered like the carcasses of whales.  Their metal sinews sent across oceans and fed to foreign factories, perhaps returning to Queensland as shiny new consumer goods. Could the ghost of a 137-ton Beyer Garratt haunt the body of a transistor radio? Wouldn’t it be just a little uncomfortable in such a small space?

Blog Image 1Locomotives sit idle and unwanted at Ipswich in the mid-1960s
(Image courtesy of QR/TWRM)

This is a story about progress, farewells, and maybe even a little heartbreak for those that really cared. It’s the story of steam’s final curtain call, the end, and what came after.

The Queensland Railways had emerged from the Second World War bruised but triumphant. The population of Brisbane had doubled overnight with the arrival of American troops, ambulance and munitions trains crossed the state and workshops juggled war work with keeping the trains rolling. By the wars end the railways were worn out and a new transport landscape was emerging. Air and road travel was beginning to muscle in on territory traditionally dominated by railways. To remain competitive and mend a railway wounded by the pressures of wartime, QR made the decision to modernise their ailing systems. Inevitably this would mean farewelling steam locomotives in favour of more efficient forms of traction.

Initially, it seemed steam might continue to play a dominant role for decades to come. In fact, some of Queensland’s most iconic steam locomotives were commissioned in the immediate post-war era. The Ipswich Workshops built their last steam locomotives in the late 1940s. Designed to haul Brisbane commuter trains and constructed using modern techniques these bulky tank engines were painted in a cheerful blue hue and became known as Blue Babies. The Beyer Garratt’s – the largest steam engines to ever run in Queensland – arrived in the early 1950s from Britain and France. Painted crimson and measuring 27.4 meters long they found work on all sorts of trains but were banned from the Toowoomba range due to the excessive heat they generated in the tunnels on that line. Despite their modern features, these shiny new steam locos would struggle to compete with what arrived next.

Blog Image 2Beyer Garratt No. 1001 being tested in Manchester, England, before being partially disassembled and shipped to Queensland (Image courtesy of QR/TWRM)

The age of the Diesel Electric Locomotive was ushered in with the unloading of 10 new locomotives from a ship in October 1952. Built in Pennsylvania U.S.A, the engines went to work immediately hauling wheat from the Darling Downs into Brisbane. Over the summer of 1952/53, they reduced the number of trains needed to haul freight between Toowoomba and Brisbane by 106 trips. They were stronger and more efficient than their steam-driven peers. They also offered far greater comfort to their crews, with cabs fitted with fans, padded seats, and even cooking facilities. It became clear that the future of QR was with a fleet of these impressive new machines.

Blog Image 3One of Queensland’s first Diesel Electric locomotives, a 1300 Class, is unloaded off
a ship in 1952 (image Courtesy of Keith McDonald)

Steam was increasingly displaced by diesels as the 1950s rolled into the 1960s. Each diesel could effectively do the work of 2 to 3 steam locomotives. In the west of the state where water supplies were poor a diesel locomotive could venture without concern. They placed less stress on the tracks than steam engines and weighed less. This allowed them to haul longer trains over lightly laid tracks where the strongest steam locomotives were too heavy to travel. As a new decade beckoned steam had almost been completely eliminated from Queensland’s Railways.

Blog Image 4Diesels quickly replaced steam on the railways more prestigious passenger services. Locomotive 1302 is seen hauling the Inlander at Gailes (image Courtesy of Keith McDonald)

Many locomotive crew members were pleased to see the decline of steam and with it the uncomfortable and dirty working conditions of a steam locomotive cab. Others were sad to see them go. It seems that to some the shift in technology also signified a change in the social dynamics of their work. Some men didn’t feel the same comradery with their colleagues working diesel as they did with steam. Others shunned the relative comfort of diesel power in favour of the ‘honest’ hard work associated with steam. For all crews, regardless of their personal opinions, the end of steam bought to a conclusion a way of life practiced in Queensland for generations.

Blog Image 5The comparatively clean and modern conditions of a Diesel Electric Locomotive cab,
seen here in 1967 (Image courtesy of QR/TWRM)

Whilst there were varied opinions about steams passing amongst railway personnel, Queensland’s railway enthusiast community was dismayed by steam’s looming extinction. This passionate group contributed much to our archives on steam’s twilight years. Notes were taken, photographs snapped and even sound recordings made of locomotives hauling trains. The Queensland Division of the Australian Railway Historical Society (established 1957) had even grander ambitions to document and preserve. Working closely with the railways the society successfully lobbied for the establishment of a museum that would display retired steam locomotives out the front of the Redbank Railway Workshops. The society also began running railway tours in the mid-1950s, with special trains hired from QR. The society continues this tradition today.

By 1969 steam had retreated almost entirely. Plans for the new museum at Redbank were well advanced and candidates nominated for display. One of these engines was A10 No. 6. This diminutive locomotive – built in Glasgow in 1865 – had been only the 8th locomotive to operate in Queensland. The Glaswegian was sold out of QR ownership in 1896 and found a new life hauling sugar cane in Bundaberg. Miraculously it remained in use with the mill until 1965, when the mill owner offered it back to QR as a 100th birthday present. It then became something of a goodwill ambassador, being used on a variety of special tours. The ARHS Queensland Division scheduled a final farewell trip for the engine in July 1969. Entrants in that year’s Ipswich Colour City Queen competition formed a guard of honour for the engine as it left Ipswich Station. Hauling six coaches, and accompanied by a Beyer Garratt on another train A10 No. 6 headed to Shorncliffe. The elderly engine needed assistance from a diesel to climb Albion hill on the outward journey, but a further indignity was to come. Just like Don Bradman was out for a Duck on his last test, old No.6 failed at Northgate on the way home, and the Garratt had to haul both trains combined back to Ipswich. The eldest of their number had fallen, for the rest of Queensland’s steam fleet, there were less than 6 months to go.

Blog Image 6A10 No. 6 seen gallantly hauling its 6 coach train near Nudgee on its final run
(Image courtesy of Brian Martin) 

Blog Image 7A10 No. 6 retired to display at the Redbank Locomotive Museum
(Image courtesy of Keith McDonald)

Ipswich – where generations of families had thrived with the presence of steam – set the stage for the final steam-hauled service in South East Queensland. Railway enthusiast Ron Thirkill – at that stage just a young lad- was amongst those to take one last trip by steam. It was the 28th of November 1969, and C17 No. 917 hauled a mixed train from Ipswich to Yarraman, where it would meet up with sister locomotive No. 997 and double head back to Ipswich. On the outward trip a number of passengers, including Ron, decided to leave the comfort and safety of their coach and ride an empty log wagon up the Blackbutt Range. Fellow passenger Stan Moore snapped a photo of these daredevil passengers. Sitting in the front row was a future curator of The Workshops Rail Museum. The train returned in darkness and the sun set on steam in the city which had been its cradle. The last steam revenue service for the entire state would take place in Mackay a few days shy of Christmas 1969.

Blog Image 8Enthusiasts ditch the comfort of passenger accommodation to ride South East Queensland’s last steam-hauled train in the open air! (Image courtesy of Stan Moore) 

Blog Image 9The final steam-hauled train in South East Queensland pauses at Esk as the locomotives take on water (Image courtesy of Stan Moore) 

With the stroke of a pen, the Queensland Railways went from having 178 steam locomotive on the books in 1969 to just 15 in 1970. Most of these remaining engines were residents of the Redbank Locomotive Museum. 3 were kept at the Ipswich Workshops and maintained in operational condition to run at special events and haul charter trains. Through this initiative, vital skills were preserved and passed down. Eventually, the Queensland Rail Heritage Fleet would be formally established working out of the Ipswich Workshops in the early 1990s. The Redbank Locomotive Museum was closed and its residents returned to Ipswich, where several were rebuilt to operational condition. The Heritage Fleet is a remarkable legacy of those final days of steam. Maintained and restored by a dedicated team of Queensland Rail employees it represents one of Australia’s best collections of heritage locomotives, railmotors, and carriages.

Blog Image 10AC16 No. 221A undergoing overhaul work in the Ipswich Erecting Shop in July 2019  (Image courtesy of David Hampton) 

Even old No.6, the elderly Glaswegian that didn’t quite make its final curtain call in 1969 got a second chance. Rebuilt to operational condition in 1991 No. 6 has toured the state, participated in Queensland Rails 150th birthday and hauled Santa from Ipswich Workshops to the Riverlink shopping mall at Christmas. Since 2002 No.6 has been proudly displayed on behalf of Queensland Rail at The Workshops Rail Museum as the oldest operating steam locomotive in the Southern Hemisphere.

Blog Image 11A10 No.6 seen crossing the Stoney Creek Bridge on the Kuranda line north of Cairns after rebuilding.  (Image Courtesy of Keith McDonald)

Whilst the age of steam is long gone, it lives on in the hearts and minds of people from all walks of life. From those who vividly remember daily commutes hauled by some smoke breathing behemoth, to those born well after its demise but still drawn to steam’s unique charm. In Ipswich, if you listen carefully, you might still hear an otherworldly song rise up from the workshops as a locomotive heads out on a charter, or catch the smell of coal smoke on the breeze. A comfort no doubt, to those who couldn’t bear to think those times forgotten.

David Hampton
Curator
The Workshops Rail Museum

 

 

Foundations of Remembrance in Ipswich

In 1920, General Sir William Birdwood, warmly known as the ‘Soul of Anzac’ or the ‘Digger-in-Chief’, toured Australia to meet and present medals to soldiers who had served in World War I. An Englishmen who could relate to and appreciate the Australian character, Birdwood was greatly admired by the Diggers he commanded in Gallipoli and on the Western Front.

Birdwood arrived in Ipswich on Tuesday, May 4th to much fanfare. A procession was formed from East Ipswich Station where he was met by soldiers on parade and then taken by motor car to Queens Park to present medals. Such was the importance of the visit to returned soldiers that the President of the Ipswich Branch of the Returned Sailors’ & Soldiers’ Imperial League Australia asked employers to grant their soldier employees leave to attend all the various functions.

Before leaving for Brisbane, General Birdwood was given the great honour of laying the foundation stone for the Ipswich Soldiers’ Memorial Hall, which would be built in the central gardens (also known as the Pump Yard). This photograph, by Bert Roberts of AE Roberts Carriage Works, was taken from inside the Technical College and gives an impression of how significant and well attended Birdwood’s visit was to the city.

Photo: General Sir William Birdwood laying the foundation stone of the Ipswich Soldiers’ Memorial Hall, 1920. Queensland Museum Network Collection.

Rob Shiels
Collection Manager
The Workshops Rail Museum

The worst Rugby League team ever?

September means football finals. Expectations are high for teams that have been up the top all year and fans of these teams are cautiously optimistic. But for everyone else, it’s just another wasted year and the fresh promise of next season cannot come soon enough.

In the 1940s a Rugby League side from the Ipswich Railway Workshops experienced the highs and lows that are all too familiar to football fans at this time of year.

In 1944 the Moulders’ Shop fielded a side in the Ipswich Rugby League (IRL) Juniors competition. Success was instant. They dominated the competition and achieved back-to-back wins in both the 1944 and 1945 Grand Finals. The team’s performance was so impressive that for the 1946 season, the Moulders’ applied to the IRL to play in the Seniors. Oh, how the mighty would fall.

Accepted into the Seniors and facing teams such as Tivoli, Swifts, West End, CYMS (Catholic Young Men’s Society) and Laidley, Moulders’ suddenly found themselves uncompetitive, taking out the 1946 wooden spoon without a win or even a draw all season. The Moulders’ again played in the Seniors for the 1947 season and hopes were high when they beat the reigning Premiers, West End, with a score of 14-11 in a trial match under lights at the North Ipswich Reserve.

But for all the pre-season optimism, the Moulders’ (also known as the Maroons) started 1947 much like they’d ended the previous season – anchored to the bottom. Halfway through 1947, the team got their first-ever premiership points in an 11-all draw against West End. Ultimately, however, it would be another winless season.

I’ve always subscribed to the belief that there’s a certain romance supporting a rubbish football team – it’s good character building. But in 1948 the IRL top brass, who were obviously not romantics, kicked the Moulders’ out of the Seniors. Their only crime? Being one of the worst sides to have ever played in the history of the IRL competitions.

So, take heart my fellow football fanatics; even if you support the worst team in the league, there’s a good chance they’ll at least be there to let you down again in the future. Remember, there’s always next year… unless you’re a Moulders’ supporter, that is.

Photo: The 1946 Moulders’ Senior Rugby League side from the Ipswich Railway Workshops. (Photographer: Whitehead Studios. Queensland Museum Collection)

Rob Shiels
Brisbane Lions tragic/Collection Manager,
The Workshops Rail Museum

Railway Carriage Secrets

Here at The Workshops Rail Museum, we’ve been working hard to clear the backlog of little jobs necessary to keep our locomotives and rolling stock looking clean and well maintained. Whilst polishing brass on a steam locomotive is something even a curator can do, many of these jobs require outside knowledge and expertise.

This was the case with one of our passenger carriages – BV 269. This timber coach, built-in Maryborough in 1882, is the oldest one in our collection. It spent much of its working life on the line west of Townsville, and before being retired to the museum was used regularly on the Kuranda tourist service. In the last 18 months, we have opened it up to visitors for the first time since the museum opened. Unfortunately, a number of rips had developed in the seats. We decided we couldn’t have our visitors sitting on torn vinyl, so we removed them and took them to Brian at B&B Trimmers and Upholstery for restoration.

When we returned to collect them there was a surprise waiting for us. Not only were there a set of beautifully reupholstered seats, but Brian had also set aside a stained and tatty looking piece of canvas uncovered during the process. On it was scrawled the names of two employees of the Townsville Railway Workshops and the date 14/11/1949. These men, B. G. Delowery and H. W. Hoit, had signed their work! Giving us an insight not only into the last time the seats had significant work done to them, but the pride that these men had taken in their jobs a few months shy of 70 years ago.

Many of our trains hold secrets like this, but rarely do we get to encounter them. Who knows what other messages are hiding in amongst our locomotives and rolling stock…?

By David Hampton

A Toy Train for Christmas

“I remember clearly the Christmas my parents decided I was old enough to have a model railway all of my own. Saturday mornings were spent in the local hobby shop. I was awe struck by the rows of gleaming model locomotives in glass display cabinets, with little handwritten price tags propped up neatly next to each engine. The present I opened up on Christmas day was a complete surprise, I missed the Hornby Train set high up on a shelf in the shop containing a little blue steam engine (that I named Bob) a few goods wagons and a circle of track. It was magic and the start of something much bigger” – David Hampton, Curator of Transport, The Workshops Rail Museum.

For many train travel and Christmas are closely linked. The excitement of train trips home to spend the holidays with family and friends conjure up fond memories. For more than a century trains were the way most people completed long distance travel. Letters, cards and gifts also crossed the country by rail, connecting people across vast distances and communicating love and well wishes between those that couldn’t be together for Christmas.

For others, like myself, the origins of a lifelong passion for railways began with the gift of a toy train for Christmas. The tradition of giving toy and model trains as Christmas presents is almost as old as the railways themselves, tracing the advance of technology and changing tastes in leisure activities. Originally marketed as toys for boys, today model railways are a pastime enjoyed by people of all ages the world over. The trains themselves, once robust and simple caricatures are now delicate and detailed scale models representing as accurately as possible the real thing.

The Workshops Rail Museum in Ipswich is home to hundreds of model and toy trains, most of which are held safely in the museum’s collection store. However, as Christmas treat I’ve gone through the collection and picked out some of my favourites to share with you.

df1705 (002).jpg

Until the First World War toy trains were large, expensive and exclusive. Most were made in Germany and were play things for the rich. They were mostly powered by clockwork mechanisms or live steam.

df1677.jpg

Things changed after the war. German made goods fell from favour and mass production made toy trains more affordable. A demand for British made products inspired Frank Hornby –creator of Meccano – to branch out into toy trains in the early 1920s.

df1698.jpg

Hornby became one of the most popular toy train brands in the world.  Produced in O Gauge the range developed into a comprehensive toy railway system that included locomotives (available with either electric or clockwork mechanisms), rolling stock, track, signals, buildings, figures and scenery.

df1678.jpg

But even in the 1920s people were running out of room as houses and living spaces became smaller. The toy trains available took up the floor of a room for even a basic railway set up. An early attempt to make a more compact railway system was the Bing Table Top Railway, which as its name suggests could be set up and played with on the dining room table.

Image 5.jpg

After the war toys were still scarce. In Australia brothers George and Bill Ferris couldn’t find train sets to buy their children for Christmas 1946. They decided instead that their car radio business would start manufacturing their own range of O gauge trains. Ferris Electric Trains was one of a number of small ventures that made toy trains in Australia in the 1940s and 1950s. These toys were based largely on Australian trains – the first time models of trains running on Australian tracks were made in commercial quantities.

df1681.jpg

As technologies and manufacturing techniques changed in the 1950s, so too did model railways. Trains were being made in plastic rather than tin, smaller scales like HO/OO became more popular and the old O gauge trains fell from favour.

By the 1960s model trains were struggling to adapt to changing tastes and interests. The influence of television, cheap imported toys and declining interest in railways contributed to companies like Hornby suffering financial difficulties and eventually closing down.

df1685.jpg

Despite this decline in popularity model trains endured. Marketing shifted from toys for children to accurate and detailed models for serious collectors. Models Railways became a pass time for model builders, researchers and enthusiasts.

df1688.jpg

Model train collections come in all shapes and sizes. One of the most remarkable collections in Australia is that of business man Marsden Williams. Mr Williams amassed a collection of 20,000 individual pieces of rolling stock in various scales from across the world between the 1970s and 1990s. After Mr Marsden passed away half of this collection was donated to the Workshops Rail Museum.

Until the 28th of January 2019 visitors to Cobb & Co Museum in Toowoomba can see a small display of Marsden’s collection including locomotives from Europe, America and Japan. Out at the Workshops Rail Museum in Ipswich the process of researching and conserving the various collections of model and toy trains in the museum’s care continues behind the scenes. Out on the museum floor an enormous model based on the railways of Queensland operates every day, capturing the imagination of visitors young and old. I wonder if there is a future Curator of Transport amongst them.

df1693.jpg

The Restoration of Hunslet 327

The Workshops Rail Museum has installed a new exhibit 12 years in the making: Hunslet locomotive 327.

In 2005 the Museum was donated a 2 foot gauge tank locomotive that had operated between the early 1920s and the mid-1960s at the North Eton Mill, in Mackay, Queensland, hauling sugar cane. However, the locomotive was originally built in England in 1916 for use on the Western Front during the First World War.

Continue reading The Restoration of Hunslet 327

Meaning in Maps

Written by Dr Geraldine Mate, Principal Curator, Industry, History and Technology.

It’s a nerdy boast, I know, but I love maps! Colourful touristy maps, contour maps, historic maps with wheat, sugar and gold country blithely shaded out, hand-drawn maps with names of people as important as names of places, and even the busy cadastral maps – dimensioned and officially (officiously?) denoting gazetted reserves, roadways, property boundaries and survey points. They all somehow convey a little bit about the landscape they depict. So what do maps have to do with archaeology?
Continue reading Meaning in Maps