In 1898 the steam ship, S.S. Grafton, was carrying the disassembled parts of Abt Loco No. 2, when the ship hit the sand banks of Hells Gates – the notorious entrance to Macquarie Harbour. The ship was deemed a write-off, but Mt Lyell Mining and Railway Co. purchased the sunken wreck for £200 in order to attempt the recovery of over £10, 000 worth of machinery at the bottom of the harbour.
Once salvaged, the long operation of reassembling the salvaged parts could begin and laborers established any missing parts and re-ordered from the original manufacturer, Dübs and Co. in Glasgow, Scotland. In the end, Abt Locomotive No. 3 was operational before No. 2, but once on the track, No. 2 became a reliable part of the locomotive team until the closure of the railway in 1963.
After the railway closed, Abt Locomotive No. 2 was transported to her new home at the Tasmanian Transport Museum just outside of Hobart. Here, she bought joy and sparked the imagination of hundreds of primary school children on their inaugural trip to the museum, whilst delighting other, more grown-up train enthusiasts as well. She spent over half a century as a museum exhibit, leaving the remaining Abt locomotives in Queenstown to live out a different future.
In 2019, the Tasmanian Government funded the West Coast Wilderness Railway’s purchase of the Abt Locomotive No. 2. The funding would also be used to complete the necessary repairs and maintenance in order to prepare her for a return to the unforgiving west coast wilderness and 35km of track that is now an award-winning tourism attraction.
Join us fortnightly over the coming weeks as we take you through some of the hugely detailed work that our crew and their team of experts have had to overcome in order to bring us the return of Locomotive No. 2 in mid to late-2021.