Each locomotive operating on the Puffing Billy Railway has its own rich history and identity.
The NA locomotive is the only class to have operated on the Upper Fern Tree Gully to Gembrook railway prior to closure in 1954. In fact prior to 1978, they were the only locomotives to run on Puffing Billy Railway. Other locomotives now on the line are "foreign" to the Puffing Billy Railway, although G42, the Climax, and the Tractor Appliance Company Limited (T.A.C.L) can claim association through the Moe to Walhalla railway, where they operated alongside each other on a timber tramway that branched off at Collins Siding, near the township of Erica.
The NA Class locomotives were originally referred to as ‘narrow gauge’. This was later abbreviated to NA Class.
Different community locations had nicknames for the NA Class locomotive during their working lives, those known are:-
- Wangaratta to Whitfield line: Polly or Old Polly
- Upper Ferntree Gully to Gembrook line: Hissin’ Jinnies
- Moe to Walhalla line: Coffee Pot
Some of these names were transferred to the other lines, possibly due to the transfer of staff. All the surviving NA Class locomotives have operated on all four of the Victorian Railways narrow gauge lines during their working careers. They were transferred from line to line as they were required. Only one loco (no longer in existence) stayed on the one line.
All the surviving NA Class locomotives were altered from chopper couplings to MCB auto couplings during the period between 1926 and 1929.
With the NA locos, Heritage policy calls for each of the historic colour schemes to be represented on the locos including the scheme adopted in the early years of preservation. Locos 1-2 were originally painted in the light ivy green with gold lining of the Baldwin Locomotive works; locos 3-6 in two-tone green with white lining, with 1 & 2 receiving that livery around 1903; locos 7-17 in Canadian Pacific red & dark brown with white lining, with 1-6 receiving that livery from late 1903 onwards; and finally, all NA’s were painted all-over black from about 1921. From around 1956, the preserved NA’s received red head-stocks, handrails and footplate valances. Heritage policy also states that locomotives should only be given colour schemes in which they had historically appeared in their working lifetime under V.R. operation. Where possible, each locomotive will also be restored to the physical configuration appropriate to the period represented by its colour scheme. A similar policy applies to some of the other locomotives as well.
Today, only six of the original seventeen NAs remain, the others having been cut up for scrap metal. Following is the specific details for each of Puffing Billy’s locomotives.
Built in 1900 and painted two-tone green, this locomotive was issued to the Upper Ferntree Gully to Gembrook line and was used in the line’s construction. Over the years, it saw service on the Colac to Crowes and Moe to Walhalla lines, but it saw more service on the Gembrook line than any other. It was withdrawn from service in 1955 at Upper Fern Tree Gully and sold in 1960 to the Lord Mayor’s Camp at Portsea where it remained on static display until 1977. From here it was brought to Belgrave for eventual restoration. When restored, it will be returned, as far as possible to its original condition with wooden cow-catchers, original design side tanks, low bunker, no smoke-box ash chute, etc. It will also have its original colour scheme of two-tone green with white lining.
Built in 1905 and painted Canadian Pacific red & dark brown, this locomotive was issued to the Wangaratta to Whitfield line and saw service on all four lines with most of its service on the Upper Fern Tree Gully to Gembrook line. It was temporarily withdrawn from service in 1958 and returned to service at Belgrave in 1962 for the reopening of this line where it has seen almost continuous service since. 1979 saw the early two-tone green colour scheme applied to this loco as a trial even though it never historically carried it, but its physical configuration was not altered accordingly. It is now painted its original livery of Canadian Pacific red & dark brown and will eventually be returned, as far a possible, to its original condition with a low bunker, narrow ash-chute, etc.
Built in 1912 and painted Canadian Pacific red & dark brown, this locomotive was issued to the Colac to Crowes line, but over the years saw service on all four lines. It was withdrawn from service in 1954 at Moe and sent to Newport Workshops for storage where it remained until 1972. After overhaul at Ballarat North Workshops, it was brought to Belgrave in 1973 where it saw continuous service until withdrawn in 1982 for a complete rebuild. It was returned to service in 1992 in close to its early 1940s condition with all-over Black livery. It will be returned to its post WWI condition with low bunker, narrow ash chute, steel cowcatcher and Canadian Pacific livery.
Built in 1901 and painted two-tone green, this locomotive was issued to the Colac to Beech Forest line and was used in that line’s construction. Over the years, it saw service on all four lines, but mostly on the Colac to Crowes and Upper Fern Tree Gully to Gembrook lines. It was temporarily withdrawn from service in 1958 and returned to service at Belgrave in 1962 for the reopening of this line where it saw almost continuous service until being withdrawn in 1983. It has been restored, as far as possible, to its original condition with original design side tanks, low bunker, original size windows, etc., but a steel cow-catcher in place of the original style wooden one. It also has its original colour scheme of two-tone green with white lining.
Built in 1908 and painted Canadian Pacific red & dark brown, this locomotive was issued to the Upper Ferntree Gully to Gembrook line. Over the years, it saw service on the Colac to Crowes and Moe to Walhalla lines, but it saw more service on the Gembrook line than any other. It was withdrawn from service in 1955 at Upper Fern Tree Gully and sold to the Beaumaris City Council where it remained on static display until 1970. After storage at Newport & Ballarat North Workshops, it was brought to Belgrave in 1976 for restoration. It was returned to service in 1982 after a complete rebuild in close to its late 1920s condition with its extended bunker & modified front end including the tapered “stovepipe” smokestack, steel cow-catcher and the all-over Black livery.
Built in 1914 and painted Canadian Pacific red & dark brown, this locomotive was issued to the Colac to Crowes line and saw service on all four lines, but mostly on the Colac to Crowes line. It was withdrawn from service in 1962 at Colac and sent to Newport Workshops for storage where it remained, except for a brief time at Bendigo North Work-shops in 1963. After overhaul, it was brought to Belgrave in 1965 where it has seen almost continuous service since. In 1978, it became the first of the preserved NA’s to trial a historic colour scheme for which the Canadian Pacific red & dark brown was chosen, but ended up mistakenly being painted a “London Tan” & dark brown. In 1996 it received a more correct Canadian Pacific livery. This “temporary” trial livery has now given way to 14A’s designated livery of all-over black. Its physical configuration will match the late 1940s era with the extended bunker, guard irons, etc.
No. originally constructed:17
Other locomotives now on the line are “foreign” to the Puffing Billy Railway, although G42, the Climax and the T.A.C.L. can claim association through the Moe to Walhalla railway where G42 operated alongside the NA’s and the Climax and T.A.C.L. on a timber tramway that branched off at Collins Siding.
Traffic and train loadings on Victoria's narrow gauge railways reached their peak during the 1920s. To assist in handling the longer, heavier trains, the Victorian Railways ordered two larger, more powerful Beyer Garratt locomotives. These were delivered in 1926 and were numbered G41 and G42. They were sent to work on the Colac–Beech Forest–Crowes line and the Moe–Walhalla line respectively. After the line from Moe closed in 1953, G42 was sent to Colac, where it worked with its mate, G41, until closure of that line in mid-1962.
G41 had been in poor condition and was scrapped, whereas a brighter future awaited G42. The Victorian Railways offered G42 to the Puffing Billy Preservation Society, for display as a static exhibit in the Menzies Creek Museum. Over time, a plan evolved to restore G42 to operation, a goal that was eventually achieved by the launch of G42 back into traffic in 2004.
G42 now continues to operate as a beautifully restored member of the Puffing Billy Railway's locomotive fleet.
Built in 1926 and painted all-over black, this Garratt locomotive was issued to the Moe to Walhalla line where it remained—other than for overhauls—until the line closed in 1954. After an overhaul at Newport Workshops, it was issued to the Colac to Crowes line and remained there until that line closed in 1962 when it was returned to Newport Workshops for storage. In 1964 it was sold to the Puffing Billy Preservation Society and removed from the V.R. register 3 months later. It arrived at Belgrave in 1968 and was hauled to Menzies Creek for static display in the museum. 1986 saw the commencement of restoration and has been undergoing rebuilding ever since in the Belgrave workshops and has been restored to its 1946 to 1954 condition with raised cab roof, raised marker lamps, steel cow-catchers and all-over black livery. It was returned to service on April 18, 2004.
No. originally constructed: 2
No. in service: 1 (No. 42)
Boiler pressure: (lb/sq. in) 180
Boiler heating surface: 1268 sq ft (117.8 m2)
Tractive effort: (85%) 26,860 lbs (12.18 t)
Driving wheel diameter: 36" (91.44 cm)
Max axle load: 9t 5cwt
Length Overall: 51' 7" (15.72m)
Height Overall: 10' 8" (3.28m)
Date of manufacture: 1926
Manufacturer: Beyer Peacock
Place of manufacture: Manchester UK
Locomotive Type: Garratt
Coal capacity: 70 cwt
Cylinder diameter: 13" (33.02 cm)
Cylinder stroke: 18" (45.72 cm)
Wheel arrangement: 2-6-0+0-6-2
Roadworthy weight: 69t
Water capacity: 1680 gal (7,637.43 l)
Built in 1951 to a gauge of 3', this Ruston diesel locomotive or rail tractor operated on the State Electricity Commission of Victoria’s Kiewa scheme. Some years later, it was regauged to 2'6" and was operated by the Melbourne & Metropolitan Board of Works. In 1977, it was taken to the P.B.P.S. Steam Museum and stored until 1978 when it was taken to the Emerald Carriage Workshops. Later in 1983 it was returned to service as NRT1 following the V.R. classification procedure as a narrow-gauge rail tractor, but it had number plates installed and was painted Hawthorn green. It will eventually be painted the red of V.R. rail tractors with the number & class painted on in black.
Built to 3'6" gauge in 1968 by the Tasmanian Government Railways and numbered V12, ownership of this Diesel Mechanical locomotive was transferred to Australian National Railways (Tas.) in 1978. It was withdrawn and sold to the E.T.R.B. in 1983, regauged to 2'6" in 1984 and arrived at Emerald Carriage Workshops where it was rebuilt. It was returned to service in 1987 and was renumbered D21 to follow traditional V.R. numbering & classification procedure and given traditional V.R. number plates, but was given an inauthentic livery of Hawthorn green. It has since been repainted the traditional Blue & Gold of V.R. diesel locomotives.
Built to 3'6" gauge in 1970 this Diesel Hydraulic locomotive entered service for the Queensland Railways where it remained until withdrawn in 1994. Purchased by the E.T.R.B. in 1995, it was converted to 2'6" gauge in Queensland and transported to Belgrave in 1996 for overhaul. It re-entered service later in 1996, although instead of receiving a V.R. type classification & number and V.R. style livery, it retained its Q.R. number of DH59 and its Q.R. livery minus the Q.R. logo, but has since been repainted the traditional Blue & Gold of V.R. diesel locomotives and reclassified DH31.
Built in 1926 for the West Melbourne site of the Metropolitan Gas Company, and issued to traffic the same year this saddle tank locomotive was named “Sir John Grice” in 1928. It was withdrawn from traffic in 1941 and stored until sold privately in 1962. In 1965 it was sold again and went to the Whistle Stop Amusement Park in Frankston and again stored until bought at auction by the P.B.P.S. in 1974 and put on static display in the Steam Museum. Restoration started in 1978 and it was returned to service in 1981 painted light green with yellow lining. It is temporarily renamed “Thomas the Tank Engine” with a fibreglass “Thomas” body cover each time it appears in the “Thomas the Tank Engine” shows at Emerald station.
Built in 1886 for the West Melbourne site of the Metropolitan Gas Company, as a four-wheel tank locomotive similar to 986 (see below) and named “John Benn”. It was withdrawn from service in the 1930s and stored until sold privately in 1962. It was rebuilt by its new owners in the style of an American locomotive of the 1880s and was used for some years at Walhalla. It currently has the name “J.C. Rees” and is used for the 861 Footplate Experience.
Built in 1889 for the West Melbourne site of the Metropolitan Gas Company, it is a four-wheel tank locomotive and was named “Carbon”. It was withdrawn from service in the 1930s and stored until sold privately in 1962. For a few years in the 1960s it was used on a circle of track at Walhalla, before going to the Whistle Stop Amusement Park in Frankston.
Built in 1928 for the Forests Commission of Victoria and painted all-over black with the name CLIMAX painted on the sides of the cab in white block letters, this locomotive was issued to the Tyers Valley tramway which branched off the Moe to Walhalla line at Collins Siding. This locomotive was withdrawn from service in 1949 following the closure of the tramway and in 1950 it travelled from Tyers Junction to Collins Siding to Erica where it remained stored until 1965. Loaned to the Puffing Billy Preservation Society for its Steam Museum, it was taken to Menzies Creek in 1965 where it remained until 1982 when the Emerald Tourist Railway Board bought it and transferred it to Belgrave for restoration. It was returned to service for special use on the Belgrave to Gembrook line in 1988 painted in its original all-over black livery, except that the word “Climax” on the sides of the cab was now painted in the style of the Climax Manufacturing Co., a style that this locomotive had never carried.
Built in 1928 for the Forests Commission of Victoria, this petrol rail tractor was issued to the Tyers Valley tramway that branched off the Moe to Walhalla line at Collins Siding. Following the closure of this tramway in 1949, it travelled from Tyers Junction to Collins Siding to the Forest Commission’s sawmill at Erica. From here it was taken to Walhalla in 1971 for the Walhalla & Thomson River Steam Tramway, but was never used. In 1974, it was sold to the Puffing Billy Preservation Society and stored at Emerald until restoration to original condition commenced in 1987 and was completed in 2000.
Sources— Steam On The Two Foot Six Vol. 1, Locomotives—by Peter Medlin.
Heritage Standards Manual—Puffing Billy Railway.