7 October 2023

Railway museum's 120-year-old locomotive on track for a 'mammoth' restoration

| James Coleman
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 steam train

The 55-tonne 3016 steam locomotive (C30T Class) celebrates its 120th birthday this weekend. Photo: James Coleman.

If you made it to your 120th birthday, chances are you’d need a lot of work. It’s the same story with 3016.

Convinced by the massive success of The Picnic Train tours earlier this year, the Canberra Railway Museum in Kingston is appealing for funds to restore a steam locomotive built in October 1903. They’re asking locals to “give $30.16 to 3016”.

“The last time it was in steam was 2019, and it was leaking everywhere,” museum secretary Andrea Trappes says.

“It’s a mammoth task.”

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The 3016 was one of 145 steam locomotives brought out to service the suburban railway lines in Sydney in the early 20th century, originally as a tank engine. But when the ‘Red Rattler’ electric trains took over in the late 1920s, half the fleet was scrapped, and the other half assigned to mixed passenger/freight duties in rural NSW.

To give them extra range, they were converted to tender engines – “meaning they had a separate container at the back for water and coal”. Five also received a larger smokebox at the front (the bit with the funnel coming out of it), the 3016 among them.

“And instead of ordinary elements taking the steam down to the wheels, 3016 was given superheater elements,” Andrea adds.

“Steam is moist, but the superheaters dry and heat the air to give far more oomph.”

The locomotive racked up “something like two million kilometres” throughout central western NSW – largely between Goulburn and Dubbo – before it retired in the 1970s and found a new home with the Rotary Club of Parramatta City as a run-around for their heritage line.

But there was a problem.

“They found she was too heavy for their line and were about to send her to the scrap heap when the gentleman who was chair of this place at the time found out about it,” Andrea says.

The Canberra Railway Museum agreed to buy it for $5000, “which, in those days, bought a really luxurious car”. There have been two major restoration projects since then, the first in Canberra and the second a few decades later in 2003 at the NSW Rail Museum in Thirlmere.

Canberra Railway Museum secretary Andrea Trappes in the cab of the 3016 steam locomotive. Photo: James Coleman.

The 3016 returned to Canberra in 2019 with a damning diagnosis of “damaged beyond repair”. But several inspections and ultrasounds of the boiler later, and the museum’s army of volunteers deemed there to be “no abnormalities, no nasty bits, nothing that’s going to blow up”.

“We’ve got people on our team who are actually part of the 2003 rebuild and know the locomotive inside out, and we’ve got four reports that say it’s going to take a while and a fair bit of money, but restoration is viable,” Andrea says.

“It’s not like we’re trying to flog a dead horse”.

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The project will begin in earnest next year, but the fundraising appeal launches on Sunday (8 October) to coincide with the locomotive’s 120th birthday month.

“We’re going to be open for our normal hours between 10 am and 3 pm, but we’re going to throw a birthday party with commemorative cupcakes, balloons and a barbecue as well.”

An initial seed budget of $30,000 has already bought new metal covers for the boiler, but Andrea reckons they’ll need “about $250,000” all up. Progress is tied to how long it takes to get this amount, but it’s hoped 3016 will be pulling joy rides to Bungendore and Tarago within three years.

The boiler will be removed and sent to Sydney for specialised repairs. Photo: James Coleman.

“We are getting the message Canberrans love steam trains,” Andrea says.

“When The Picnic Train comes, it’s booked out as soon as the seats come up on sale, and then they come here and watch it re-coal between trips. So yes, we are buoyed by the fact Canberrans do love their steam.”

The Canberra Railway Museum at 2 Geijera Place, Kingston, is open every Sunday from 10 am to 3 pm. Entry is $10 for adults, $7.50 for concession card holders, and $5 for children (children under five get in free).

For more information on 3016’s 120th Birthday Celebrations, visit the event listing on Facebook.

Original Article published by James Coleman on Riotact.

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