Last season, Abt Loco #5 was our solo little engine that could, and she ran every single Rack & Gorge departure for us for a number of months. It was the train equivalent of running a marathon and she was a local hero.
After her marathon, and with the return of Abt #3 following a major boiler service, we ordered Abt #5 some bedrest and routine maintenance. But of course, when you’re nearly 100 years old (and still the baby of the family!), routine maintenance is hardly ever routine…
Nonetheless, Abt #5 returned to service triumphantly last week. She had passed all her tests and her return also marked the return of our popular Queenstown Explorer journey, which takes in the full length of our railway line through the West Coast wilderness.
Unfortunately, this week is a slightly different story. On the way up the rack on Monday 27 September, our little marathon runner took a turn. Her connecting rod failed, which caused other damage across the locomotive.
We think that these photos are a bit like looking at an x-ray… and they give a little context to the damage that Abt #5 sustained. The below image is of the damaged connecting rod, which has snapped and unravelled. The connecting rod usually connects the cylinders to the rack pinions, so is a critical element of the locomotive.
As a result of the broken connecting rod, Abt #5 also sustained damage to the expansion link, which usually controls the steam going into the cylinder to power the locomotive. As you will see, the solid steel component has been shattered into four pieces. We plan to manufacture a new one using drawings of the original, which is how we often go about replacing parts on these unique locos.
Whilst we have a recovery plan in motion, it will take some time to heal these injuries. With parts not readily available, we expect this to take some weeks. We have therefore had to take the difficult step of cancelling our Queenstown Explorer services for the some time. Customers booked on this experience will be provided with full refunds or the option of transferring their tickets for the River & Rainforest (half-day) journeys from Strahan with a heritage diesel locomotive, which we have scheduled in place of the Explorer.
We continue to run our Rack & Gorge departures daily out of Queenstown as planned with other Abt locos.
At time of writing, our ticketing team is still working through contacting all passengers impacted by this situation. If you have questions about a booking, or whether your experience is running as scheduled, please contact us directly on (03) 6471 0100.