A Miraculous Survivor

Climax locomotive No.1694 is a miraculous survivor of a rare breed of steam locomotive.

For about 100 years from the mid-1850s sawn timber was carted from Victorian sawmills to the nearest railway station by timber tramway. These tramways were generally very rough, steeply graded, sharply curved, and of narrow gauge. Many had wooden rails, and horses provided haulage.

The better ones used steam locomotives. In all about fifty steam locomotives are known to have worked on Victorian timber tramways. These locomotives were usually somewhat peculiar - made to cope with arduous, rough conditions, rather than speed.

Climax locomotive No.1694 is the only one of these locomotives to survive intact. It was built in 1928 by the Climax Manufacturing Company, Corry, Pennsylvania, USA, for the Forests Commission of Victoria.

The distinctive feature of the Climax locomotive is that the cylinders do not directly connect to the driving wheels. Instead they drive a cross shaft near the centre of the locomotive. From there the drive is transmitted to the small driving wheels through rotating shafts, universal joints, and bevel gears. The driving wheels are mounted in two four-wheel bogies so that they can easily follow sharp curves in the track. None of these features are found in normal steam locomotives.

The result is a locomotive that is extremely powerful for its size, and that will cope with sharp curves and steep grades with ease. But this is at the cost of speed, Climax locomotive No.1694 is just about flat-out at 13 km/h (8 mph).

A wood fired steam locomotive travels along a railway track.