K1 (or K2) at work in Tasmania. The loco has just crossed the Montezuma Falls trestle bridge.

K1 (or K2) at work in Tasmania.
The loco has just crossed the Montezuma Falls trestle bridge.

The North-East Dundas Tramway

The North-East Dundas Tramway was a system of lines serving ore mines and smelters around Mount Dundas, centred on the "boom town" of Zeehan. Abounding with steep gradients, and sharp curves, as can be seen in the map below, it made severe demands on its motive power. This put it at the forefront, for such a remote line, of 2' gauge locomotive development in the early 20th Century. Small German 0-4-0Ts, TGR H class from Krauss, were used during the construction of the line, however, once the line was completed these were replaced by Sharp Stewart 0-4-2Ts (two of which survived, converted into tender locos with very large boilers by a later sugar mill owner), with the H class being transferred for use on the shorter mining branches around Zeenen. The Sharp Stewart 0-4-2Ts were eventually joined by the massive semi-articulated (swivel-frame) 2-4-6-0T built to Hagen's patent by Locomotivfabrik of Erfurt. It became  the J class, J1. When built in 1901 this was the largest 2' gauge locomotive in the world.

NE DundasTramway Route

Map reproduced with kind permission of
The Light Railway Research Society of Australia Inc

The 'Hagan's' weighed in at almost 42 tons, as against the 20 tons for the Sharp Stewarts, and whilst this was spread over twice the number of axles, the loco was not kind to the track and so was not the successful addition to the fleet it had been hoped for. On its first outing up the line it ended up spreading the track and derailing. Even after track improvements it was still causing too much wear and tear and this resulted in the loco being restricted to use at Zeenan and on the various short branches out of there. Another solution was needed. 

The Garratt is Born

Eight years after J1's arrival, therefore, the Tasmanian Government Railways took a chance on the as yet unbuilt and unproven articulated design of H.W. Garratt, ordering two locomotives from Beyer Peacock of Gorton Works, Manchester. Their works nos. 5292 and 5293 of 1909 entered service in Tasmania in 1910 as K1 and K2, proving an immediate success.

Unusually for a Garratt, the K class used compound expansion - the low-pressure cylinders on the front bogie are larger than the high-pressure ones on the rear bogie. This feature was only perpetuated on one later Garratt, and may explain the inboard position of the two sets of cylinders. In compounding, steam is used twice - here, first in the high pressure cylinders at the rear, and then the low pressure ones at the front. A change valve in the front steam manifold is provided that allows both sets of cylinders to start on high pressure should the loco have trouble starting under difficult conditions such as a heavy load on a gradient. Once moving the valve is then switched to compound. When operating, K1 is the only working compound railway locomotive (apart from miniatures) in the UK.

The fortunes of the NEDT fluctuated, notably during World War One, when the main smelter (German-owned) closed for the duration. The system as a complete unit closed in 1929 - when, coincidentally, the Welsh Highland was still open - and K1 and K2 were put into store. Lower sections of the line did find later use by contractors for timber extraction, however they used locally built petrol locomotives, and even this had gone by the end of the 1930's.

Preparation for return to the UK

The TGR's attempted to sell as much of the NEDT's now redundant motive power and rolling stock. Some of the assets were sold off over a number of years, however attempts to sell the two K class locomotives failed, until 1947, when K1 was sold back to its makers, who had a sense of their history, and appreciated the value of the forerunner of the type which had brought them huge international markets. The loco had been drawn to their attention after Charles S Smith of the TGR (he started as an apprentice in 1940 and retired as chief engineer in 1981) had first suggested contacting Beyer Peacock. The firm was initially only interested in the loco's plates, but Smith, together with chief draughtsman Douglas Wherett, persuaded TGR chief engineer George Mullens to offer the loco to Beyer Peacock at scrap value. He took the photos below in Zeehan shed in 1945 - believed not published before other than in Ben Fisher's original WHT Project website - and these are the actual views sent to Beyer Peacock at the time and which thus played a concrete part in K1's survival.

K1 in Zeenan Shed in 1945 (Photo: Charles S Smith)A view of K1's motion in Zeenan shed 1945 (Photo: Charles S Smith)

The loco Beyer Peacock received was prepared for dispatch by TGR employee Mark Gray. It had long been thought that he had blended the power units of K1 with the boiler unit of K2, which had accumulated the higher mileage, as that was how the loco was received back in the UK. However, recent examination of evidence suggests that the switch almost certainly occurred while the NEDT was still operating; it has been suggested that the marks evident on the boiler seen on the flat wagon in the picture below (dismantled loco at Burnie, Tasmania, en route for the UK, July 27th 1947) match those on the loco as it had stood undisturbed in its shed since closure, as seen in the upper picture (Zeehan shed, March 10th 1947). Both pictures by George Sweetapple, copyright collection of Richard Horne, to whom thanks for permission to reproduce. George Sweetapple also recalled that in 1947 K2 (i.e. K1's boiler unit on K2's power units) was complete and in a different building; it is surely improbable that this doomed loco would have been reassembled if the components had been exchanged that year.

K1 in Zeehan shed 10th March 1947. (Photo: George Sweetapple; Richard Horne collection)K1 dismantled and in transit at Burnie 27th July 1947. (Photo: George Sweetapple; Richard Horne collection)

It seems more likey that K1's boiler, more saleable as it was in better condition, was sold to a sawmill, and was last seen in a Zeehan scrapyard in the 1960s. This mix-and-match of the two K class locomotives was to cause many a headache for K1's restorers fifty years later.

Further Reading

Lots of information about Tasmanian railways is available at the Rail Tasmania website.

More information about Australia and Tasmanian railways can also be found on the The Light Railway Research Society of Australia Inc website, and to whom we thank for the use of the NEDT map at the top of this page. This has a number of articles on the North-East Dundas Tramway.

The now out of print book 'A History of Railways and Tramways on Tasmania's West  Coast' by Lou Rae is also worth tracking down.