Joy for steam enthusiasts who feared the worst

By Geoff Courtney

STEAM enthusiasts in Australia are celebrating two events they feared would never happen – the unveiling of a plan to reopen one of the country’s major railway museums, and the appearance in their capital city of the southern hemisphere’s flagship operational preserved locomotive.

It was the latter event, involving British-built Garratt No. 6029, that particularly raised the spirits of preservationists and heritage railway operators down under after a difficult two years that has seen disappointment and despair in abundance.

Power in reserve: British-built Garratt No. 6029 may be using just a fraction of its 63,016ft-lb of tractive effort, but it still makes an impressive sight as it crosses the Molonglo River between Bungendore and Queanbeyan, NSW, on September 2 with a shuttle from Canberra. The giant Beyer Peacock 4-8-4+4-8-4 was visiting the Australian capital from its NSW Rail Museum home to mark the handing over of Canberra Railway Museum’s keys to the charity Capital Region Heritage Rail. JOHN ST JULIAN

The problems started in November 2016 when Canberra Railway Museum was unexpectedly closed and the ACT division of the Australian Railway Historical Society that ran it was placed into liquidation with debts of at least £425,000. Two of the museum’s prized locomotives, No. 6029 and 4-6-0 No. 3016, were moved within days to another railway museum 150 miles away, and global accountancy firm Deloitte was appointed to sort matters out.

In August last year Deloitte held a controversial auction to sell off some of the museum’s assets, a move which angered many preservationists and was seen by them as a nadir in a dark scenario, but a ray of light pierced their gloom last November when No. 6029, which was built in Manchester by Beyer Peacock in 1953 for New South Wales Government Railways, was bought by enthusiast Phil Davis and businessman David Sommerville.

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