WCWR NEWS

The story of Abt No. 1

February 16, 2021
On 11 November 1896, Abt Locomotive No. 1 started her long career on the Mt Lyell Mining and Rail Co line

Locomotive Abt. No.1 was built by Dubs & Co. in Glasgow in 1896 and shipped in a dismantled state to Macquarie Harbour the same year. Having successfully navigated Hell’s Gates (unlike her sister, Abt Locomotive No. 2 – yes, the very same we are currently restoring!), she arrived at the harbour port of Strahan and was transferred upriver to Teepookana. Teepookana, was an important port in the early days of the railway and was the last station on the track for several years before the Mt Lyell Mining and Railway Co. extended the railway line through to Strahan.

From Teepookana, the crates of the still disassembled locomotive were transported to Camp Spur, a nearby workers camp, where they were painstakingly constructed. Legend has it that the locomotive was provided without instructions and workers strung the pieces up from nearby trees in order to assist the process.

Image courtesy of Tasmanian Archives (NS3245/1/237)

Camp Spur was also the testing ground for this highly innovative design, and a stretch of line was specially constructed at the camp to allow the locomotive to be tested before being put to work. On September 11 1896, Abt Locomotive No. 1 successfully passed a series of tests that allowed her to commence operation as Mt Lyell Mining and Rail Co.’s first rack and pinion locomotive.

Abt Locomotive No. 1 was different to the other locomotives on our railway as it had its water tank across the rear of the cab and small coal bunkers (pockets) ahead of the cab front wall. It is suspected that that this configuration remained this way until the locomotive was converted from coal-burning to oil-burning in the 1950’s.  This refit also included the addition of steam generators for electric lights.

Image courtesy of Beattie collection, University of Melbourne Archives (1975.0083.00014 PA_241.23)

When the railway was closed in 1963, Abt .1. was gifted to the West Coast Pioneer’s Museum in Zeehan where she was looked after until her retrieval in 1999 for restoration to working order by Saunders & Ward of Kingston.

No.1. returned to service in mid-2001 and has since been a regular performer and has received two further heavy overhauls in 2010 & 2020, in order to keep her in good health!

Big thanks to our Carswell Park rail operations team for your passion and help in sourcing images and historical information for this story!

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