LIGHT LINES LOCOMOTIVES AND PROTECTION
Protection of colonial manufacturing and the sale of land hitherto occupied by squatters were the twin planks in the radical liberal platform.  Protectionists were bent on forcing local manufacture onto the railways, and selectors were pushing for cheap railways that would hasten the opening up of wheat farming. Control of the locomotive branch of the Victorian Railways therefore became vital for politicians seeking radical change, and after snatching it from Higinbotham’s domain they proceeded to meddle in its management throughout the Seventies and early Eighties. This created a quite chaotic situation, with ten new locomotive designs in as many years, together with the rebuilding of three older types.
Imported Locomotives, 1855-1866
Thomas Higinbotham took over as Engineer-in-Chief in May 1860 and by the end of that year he had charge of a railway of 68 route miles,  and 24 locomotives of no less than seven distinct designs. Ten more locomotives were on order to yet another design.  Most of these engines were made to the designs of Daniel Gooch, the Locomotive Superintendent of the GWR in England. It appears Gooch was consulting locomotive engineer for both the G&MR and the VR  , which were amalgamated shortly after Higinbotham took over. He realised that none of the locomotives were suitable for the hard slogging work that would be demanded to haul trains up the very steep inclines of the Ballarat and Sandhurst railways that were then under construction.
Ten of the 34 locomotives in service or about to be delivered were ‘Singles’, the six-wheeled 2-2-2 type with only one pair of very large diameter driving wheels. It was a design much favoured in England for express passenger trains.  The single pair of driving wheels made it easy to balance the reciprocating and rotating forces at speeds in excess of 60 mph, but the proportion of the locomotive’s weight resting on the driving wheels was small. This ‘adhesive weight’ is vital to a locomotive’s adhesion or grip on the rails, and as Singles exerted only a third of their weight for adhesion they were ill suited for steeply graded lines or for moving heavy trains. The two designs of Singles inherited from the G&MR were remarkable for having very large drivers – those of the ‘Typhoon’, ‘Sirocco’, ‘Titania’ and ‘Oberon’ being 6’6” in diameter. These engines were also ‘well tanks’, carrying very limited water supplies in a tank slung beneath the footplate. It is difficult to imagine a more inappropriate design for the colony. They could hardly run 20 miles without the need to stop and take on more water! Both designs of Singles purchased by the government had six foot drivers: the solitary No.1 built by George England & Co., at Hatcham near London, and five somewhat larger engines from Beyer, Peacock & Co., of Manchester. Both types sensibly carried supplies of water and coke in a separate tender, and were the mainstay of services on the comparatively flat Geelong line. 
Eleven of the 34 locomotives in the fleet were 0-6-0 goods types, with all the engine weight resting on three pairs coupled driving wheels. They were of three different designs, one being an ex G&MR well tank. These the VR found of little use and also discarded their wonderful names: ‘Goliath’ and ‘Sampson’ became plain Nos. 19 and 21. 
The other two designs were typical English goods engines of the late 1850’s, similar to those on Gooch’s own GWR, and some on the Egyptian railways.  The first delivered were those built by George England & Co., and weighing only 22 tons with a steam pressure of 100 pounds per square inch (psi), they were quite unsuited to the heavy grades on the Sandhurst and Ballarat lines. Beyer, Peacock & Co. supplied the second group, which weighed a little more at 26¼ tons, and carried the higher boiler pressure of 120 psi., enabling these engines to take a load of 100 tons gross or 53 tons net over the Great Dividing Range. But clearly, something capable of taking heavier loads was necessary if the Sandhurst and Ballarat lines were to be economically worked. The only successful locomotives Gooch designed for the VR were the ten 2-4-0s, later classed L. They carried their water supply in a saddle tank slung over the boiler. At 37⅜ tons, they were the heaviest locomotives on the roster 
Confronted with this heterogeneous collection of dubious worth, Higinbotham sought the advice of his old Great Northern Railway (GNR) colleague, Archibald Sturrock. Higinbotham had been a Resident Engineer on the GNR when Sturrock took over as Locomotive Superintendent.  Sturrock supplied two six wheeled designs for the VR. The passenger engine was a 2-4-0 type with two pairs of 6 foot diameter driving wheels, which was very similar to his highly successful 1855 design for GNR’s heavier ‘fast’ main line trains.  They could run as fast as the VR Singles, but with a more powerful 130 psi boiler and greater adhesive weight, they were far better suited to the steep gradients on the Ballarat and Sandhurst lines.
The other Sturrock design was a 0-6-0 goods engine, later classed O. Much heavier than the 0-6-0 designs supplied by Gooch, they also carried the higher boiler pressure of 130 psi and had larger cylinders to exert a more forceful piston thrust. They had wheels of 5’0” diameter, which enabled them to run fast enough to sometimes be rostered for passenger trains,  and they could haul 56 per cent more load over the Great Divide than Gooch’s 0-6-0.  Sturrock’s passenger and goods designs became the mainstay of services on the Ballarat and Sandhurst lines for several decades, additional examples being added to their numbers right up to 1880, when two colonial copies of the 25 year old design were proudly displayed at the Melbourne Exhibition.
The Gooch and Sturrock passenger engines with their six foot drivers were run daily at speeds of 50 mph.  At this speed, the machinery was working at 230 revolutions per minute (rpm), about the maximum then desirable for efficient and economical operation. But they could be thrashed up to 64-66 mph, at which speed their wheels would be spinning at 320 rpm.  They were rostered on the royal trains for the Duke of Edinburgh. On the 20th December 1867 he made a dash by train from Sandhurst to Ballarat to attend a race meeting. His Highness arrived at Sandhurst station before breakfast to the cheers of a ‘merry mob’ of over 600 loyalists and boarded the four carriage train which included the royal saloon. After a short delay while ‘bottles and other comfortable things were passed into the carriages’, one of Sturrock’s gleaming 2-4-0’s accelerated away on what became a thrilling ride. With Locomotive Superintendent Fred Christy on the engine and Traffic Superintendent Jeremy in the train to expedite progress, they covered the 101 miles to Spencer Street in just two hours and three minutes, stopping only five minutes at Kyneton for the locomotive to take water. One of the Gooch Singles then whisked the train the 45 miles from Melbourne to Geelong in a spirited 58 minutes, a feat requiring speeds well over 60 mph. Another 2-4-0 then took the Duke the remaining 52 miles to Ballarat in 72 minutes, the line including 49 miles of continuous rising gradients averaging 1 in 155.  It would be well over a century before ordinary trains would better these times!
By 1866 there were already 50 of Sturrock’s classic locomotives at work, swelling the roster to 83 engines.  With somewhat of a glut, most of the ex G&MR engines were put in a shed and advertised for sale, but with no further railway construction projects in the offing, there were no suitable bids and they stood rusting away after less than ten years of work.  With an effective locomotive roster of 77 engines, it is evident that Sturrock’s powerful B and O classes worked the lion’s share of trains in the colony, ranging over all the lines. Number 51, an O class engine, averaged 22,300 miles per annum over the five years 1864-1871, or about 70 miles per day. If this rate of usage was typical for all 50 Sturrock engines, and there is no reason to believe No. 51 was in any way exceptional, these two classes must have accounted for nearly 98 percent of the train miles.  The remaining 27 locomotives were probably cold much of the time, or else pottering about on shunting duties. So the situation remained for six years, until the arrival of William Meikle, shortly after the construction of the North Eastern line had been approved.
Colonial Manufacture: Main Line Locomotives 1870-1872
The new line to Wodonga would increase the length of the government railway by 72 percent,  and in anticipation of the expected traffic, the government proposed to increase the locomotive fleet by a similar percentage. Francis Longmore was anxious to encourage local construction of locomotives, but during his first term as Minister of Railways he was unsure of his ground. Investigation convinced him that colonial foundries were not up to the task and, following the advice of the English consulting engineers, Brereton and Lewis, he placed orders for 14 locomotives of Sturrock’s designs; six passenger 2-4-0s and eight goods 0-6-0s.  But in June 1870 the new Minister of Railways, William Wilson, cabled the Agent General in London instructing him to cancel the order with Beyer, Peacock’s Manchester works for six Sturrock 2-4-0s. In William Meikle he had a man who could design a locomotive locally and have it built in the Williamstown Workshops. Wilson’s telegram was sent some of the 13,500 miles to London by wire, but as the submarine cable was not yet complete, it travelled across the Indian Ocean by steamer and took six weeks to reach its destination.  The Agent General cabled on 12th August that the contract had been stopped, Wilson receiving the message on 26th September. Wilson then instructed Meikle to proceed with his plans to build eight locomotives at Williamstown in lieu of the cancelled Beyer, Peacock engines. A deputation of unemployed ironworkers was given this good news on 21st October,  but a week later another telegram completed its slow passage from the Agent General in London, informing Wilson that as Beyer, Peacock had already purchased material for eight locomotives, cancellation of the contract would incur a penalty. Given that Williamstown had only sufficient boiler plate on hand to make one locomotive, Wilson decided to let the Beyer, Peacock contract stand, but nevertheless ordered additional boiler plate and encouraged Meikle to proceed with a prototype colonial 2-4-0.  Work on the engine began in November 1870,  and two months later tenders were called for the supply of a pair of cylinders for the new engine, as Williamstown were not yet able to make a complex casting.  With only a handful of draftsmen the engine was not a completely new design; that would have taken thousands of man-hours. Rather it was an amalgamation of the best parts of several of the existing English engines. 
Meikle also commenced the rebuilding of the five Beyer, Peacock Singles as 2-4-0s with smaller coupled driving wheels. Christy had already successfully converted No.12 from a Single to a 2-4-0.  These rebuilds increased the adhesive weight and thereby enabled a greater tractive force to be exerted without the engine slipping, although the smaller driving wheels lowered their efficient speed. The rebuilds were intended to release some Sturrock 2-4-0s from the Geelong and Melbourne line for duties in the North East. Work was put in hand in mid-1870, and trials with the first rebuild were encouraging. Being smaller than the Sturrock 2-4-0 it consumed less fuel, and its increased tractive effort enabled it to get smartly away from station stops and manage 50 mph, enabling it to maintain passenger train schedules.  Two rebuilds had been completed by May 1871, but with more than enough engines on the roster, the pace slowed, and the conversion program stretched out into the second half of 1872.  Another reason for slackening the pace was the uncertainty generated in 1871 as to the future of the 5’3” gauge. For a while it seemed possible that the North Eastern line would be altered to narrow gauge, making all Meikle’s work redundant. Much as Francis Longmore may have preferred this course, it was not politically feasible to take away from the North Eastern electorates the high standard line that was under construction and replace it with a narrow gauge affair. He therefore contented himself in ensuring that all subsequent locomotives for the line would be locally made.
Meikle’s new passenger engine took over a year to construct, and was outshopped in January 1872, with the number 100.  It was a proud achievement and was chosen to take the first train over the North Eastern line a few months later. Once work on No.100 had commenced, Meikle turned to designing a heavy 0-6-0 goods engine for the North Eastern line, assisted by his very small staff; probably less than five men.  A preliminary specification was ready by March 1871 and it was announced that tenders would be called for its construction in the colony. The boiler of the new design was a little smaller than the Sturrock 0-6-0 in order to save weight, but it was given smaller driving wheels to apply an almost equivalent tractive force and thereby haul equivalent loads, albeit at a lower efficient speed.  Railwaymen almost certainly hoped to build the new engines at Williamstown. In June 1871 another change of government brought Francis Longmore back as Minister of Railways, and Meikle found a sympathetic ear for his plans to expand Williamstown Workshops. A contract for a new boiler shop was let the following October for £1,190,  a move that would give Williamstown an edge over any other colonial contender for locomotive construction. It is likely the intention was for Williamstown to build more of Meikle’s 2-4-0s but they would not have the capacity to also build the 0-6-0.
Shoddy workmanship in the six locomotives imported to a design similar to the VR’s heavy Sturrock 0-6-0s played into the hands of the protectionists. The order had been given to the relatively unknown Yorkshire Engine Co., which had only made about 150 locomotives.  Dubbed ‘Yorkies’ by enginemen,  the first of the six arrived in May 1871 and Meikle wrote to the Commissioner soon after tabulating a litany of faults, concluding that no British railway company would accept an engine delivered in such a state.  Neither were they cheap; on average they cost nearly £3,000 each,  whereas the 4-4-0 delivered at the same time for the M&HBUR from Robert Stephenson & Co. cost £2,400. Elsdon took Longmore for a ride on it,  but the Commissioner had already made up his mind to go local, having called tenders for ten 0-6-0s on 22nd June.  There was no intention to seek expressions of interest from English builders, the tenders closing in six weeks. Just to make sure, and also to freeze out any interest from manufacturers in Sydney, Longmore announced a 20 per cent import duty on locomotives: before federation in 1901 each colony imposed its own import duties and had customs posts at their borders. Longmore also granted the fledgling Victorian manufactures a two week extension of the tender deadline.  To fend off any criticism from free traders, Longmore tabled Meikle’s report on the ‘Yorkies’ faults and their cost in parliament.  Then to drive the nail further into the free trade coffin, he reported that the agent employed to supervise all railway equipment contracts in England had been passing shoddy work. This agent had been employed at a cost of £20,000 and Longmore decided to terminate his contract. 
Meikle’s 0-6-0 was a neat design but somewhat austere for the day, as he wanted the cost of his colonial built locomotives to be competitive with English imports. He therefore avoided unnecessary brass work embellishment by specifying plain wrought iron ‘stove pipe’ chimneys, dome covers and wheel splashers. The painted dome covers prompted their nickname ‘Greenbacks’.  Perhaps due to criticism of his predecessor for putting an iron cab on No.13,  Meikle specified a simple wooden cab with corrugated iron roof similar to that provided on the Sturrock engines; a cab that became standard for engines built over the following decade. 
On 14th March 1871, about the time Meikle’s 0-6-0 specifications were being readied, James Hunt’s Victoria Foundry in Ballarat outshopped a tiny 8 ton locomotive for the 3’6” gauge Western Australian Timber Company.  Three months later it was announced that the Phoenix Foundry in Ballarat had secured a contract from the Rockingham Jarrah Timber Company in Western Australia to build a 3’6” gauge locomotive.  This was only days before tenders were called for Meikle’s goods engines. The engines for Western Australia were not the first locomotives built in Ballarat. A decade earlier the Victoria Ironworks produced the tiny ‘Lady Barkly’ for a wooden railed tramway at Meredith, which subsequently was shipped to Invercargill and became the first locomotive to run in New Zealand. The Soho Works at Ballarat followed with two small locomotives for the same railway in 1864.  Ballarat interests were therefore ready and willing to build larger locomotives for the government, provided materials could be purchased duty free. 
Despite Longmore’s promotion of narrow gauge, the government stayed with the decision to build the North Eastern line as broad gauge, and the locomotive contract was tentatively awarded to the Phoenix Foundry on 18th August 1871  and confirmed on 15th September.  These ten 0-6-0s may well have been the last 5’3” gauge locomotives put on the Victorian Railways, as the struggle between Higinbotham and Longmore over the gauge issue remained unresolved until mid-1872.
Light Lines And Unreadiness In 1872
Higinbotham may have ensured the new light lines would be built with a gauge uniform with the rest of the railway network in Victoria, but when it came to locomotive power, the effect was nearly as serious as a break of gauge. Of the 102 locomotives on the roster or on order when the broad gauge was confirmed for the light lines in July 1872, only a handful were light enough to work over 50 lb iron rails. But of crucial importance for the success of light lines was the locomotive. The heaviest goods wagons weighed about 14 tons, or 3½ tons per wheel. The heaviest locomotives were twice this weight, with wheel loads of 6½ to 7 tons.  They did more damage to the track than all the rest of the train put together, partly due to the fatigue and distortion of the rails and track foundation caused by heavy wheel loads, and partly to the poorly balanced reciprocating masses on the locomotive kicking the rails out of true alignment. If the weight placed on iron rails was too great, they were crushed or laminated long before they wore out; sometimes in a few months. Steel rails proved less brittle, but could still be worn into a distorted shape.  Excessive wheel loads also pound and split wooden sleepers, further weakening the track. Stresses increase with train speed, as illustrated in the stremmatograph tests shown below.  The top diagram shows an accentuated effect of rail deflection under wheel loading. The lower diagrams show compression and tension effects on rails of moving trains at 19 mph, (Record No.1) and 40 mph, (Record No.2). Note the increased stress at higher speed, and the higher stress imposed by the locomotive relative to the cars.
Throughout the first age of railways there was no means of enforcing speed limits on enginemen. (The same occurred later with road transport, with speed limits not being imposed until the early 1950’s). No Victorian Railways locomotive was fitted with a speed recorder until 1897, and light rails and sharp curves suffered a great deal of damage from badly balanced locomotives being driven too fast. Hence the preference of engineers for heavy rails on a good foundation of sleepers, ballast and sub-grade, as this ensured track with the resilience to absorb impacts and maintain a true vertical and horizontal alignment. The passing of the 1871 Railway Construction Act was a ticket to trouble; the lines were to be laid with 50 lb. iron rails, but there were no suitable locomotives in the colony. Worse, the protectionists had closed the door to American imports and the colonial engineers had no experience of light lines locomotives.
The American Solution
Designs of locomotives of adequate power for use on light railways were developed in America from the 1830’s and were perfected in 1852 by the firm of Rogers, in Paterson, New Jersey.  The Rogers locomotive spread its weight over eight wheels, instead of six, as was normal practice in England. The leading pair of axles and their wheels were placed in a sub frame, or bogie truck, which guided the mass of the locomotive into curves. The frames of the Rogers engine, which became known as the ‘American’ type 4-4-0, were made of iron bars, instead of plates, reducing weight and giving the engine more flexibility. The boiler was pitched quite low, and given a three point support: at the frames of the driving wheels, and on the centre pivot of the leading bogie. This arrangement further added to the locomotive’s flexibility which was a great advantage on indifferent track. To simplify maintenance for the crude frontier workshops that had to keep the engines in service, Rogers placed most of the working parts on the outside, where they were easily accessible. By locating the cylinders and connecting rods outside the frames, they also obviated the need for a crank axle. These were difficult to make, and more liable to fracture than simple straight axles. (When locomotive production commenced in Victoria during the early 1870’s, local firms were unable to make axles, either cranked or straight. They had to be imported, but the cranked axle cost £220 against £80 for a straight axle.  English practice favoured rigid framed six-wheeled engines with cylinders between the frames connected to a cranked axle. This arrangement facilitated the balance of piston thrusts, although it made the working parts difficult to access. Rogers solved the balance problem inherent in English locomotives with outside cylinders, by using a long connecting rod. All these features combined to produce a truly remarkable machine that could and did negotiate the worst track with ease, by following the uneven alignment of rails that would have derailed an English locomotive at similar speed.
By 1870, 85 percent of all American locomotives were of this type, and a total of about 25,000 were built.  English engineers, however, remained in ignorance of the Americans’ achievements, and were prejudiced against the totally different system that had evolved in the U.S.A. and Canada. A contributing factor to this ignorance was the American Civil War and Reconstruction, which curtailed export of American railway technology until the mid-1870’s. The first exhibition of an American eight wheeler in Europe was not until 1867,  but away from the pioneer railroads it was built for, it must have been a mere curiosity. Thomas Higinbotham and other colonial engineers shared this ignorance and prejudice. Even if English engineers like Brunel, Gooch and Sturrock had been aware of the American type, as consulting engineers they were on substantial commissions and were not disposed to lose business by referring the colonists to American builders like Rogers or Baldwin!
With iron rails, the conservative rule of thumb was that the proportion of weight per yard of rail to the maximum wheel load was 12 lb. to every ton.  The 80 lb. per yard rail laid on the V.R. mainlines could therefore carry wheel loads just over 6½ tons; the weight of the heavy passenger locomotives. The heavy goods locomotives were marginally heavier, at 7 tons per wheel, but as they generally ran at lower speeds that was acceptable. Higinbotham adopted a less conservative standard by running these same locomotives over 72 lb. rail, lowering the ratio from 12 lb. to 11 lb. of rail per yard to the ton of wheel loading. The Americans used similar standards, but applied to much lighter rail, with weight restricted to 4 tons per wheel.
Locomotives suitable for light lines were geared down with smaller driving wheels. This gave them a reasonable tractive effort but at low speed. A small locomotive with three foot diameter driving wheels would only attain 25 mph at an engine speed of 230 rpm. At this speed the cylinders would be using steam at a very high rate; so high in fact, that a small boiler could not maintain the steam supply for more than a few minutes. This created a dilemma, because the whole idea of a light railway was to avoid expensive earthworks by following the terrain, even if this meant steep gradients. But on steep gradients, the small locomotives that were mandatory simply ran out of puff. The little C class engines purchased by Queensland Railways in 1867 for the Toowoomba railway only managed a load of 65 tons up the 1 in 50 grades of that 40 lbs. per yard line. The C class weighed only 16¼ tons and had 39 inch diameter driving wheels.  The heaviest of Sturrock’s goods engines on the VR, which were very big engines for their day at 39¼ tons and with 60 inch diameter driving wheels, could plod up the 1 in 50 grades on the Sandhurst line with trains of about 200 tons; three times more load than the Queensland locomotives. 
When broad gauge light railways were approved in July 1872 it was clear that there was no local manufacturer with the capacity to build the 15 locomotives required, as Phoenix was still building the ten Meikle goods engines for the North Eastern line and was on a very steep learning curve: the first of those ten would not steam until March 1873.  Williamstown had taken a year to build No.100 and had very limited facilities. Only overseas manufacturers could make the needed engines in time to run the first trains on the new lines. With Francis Longmore once again on the Opposition benches, Higinbotham and Meikle therefore prevailed upon the new government to call tenders in England for the immediate supply of suitable locomotives. The government felt they ‘had no alternative but to yield to the unqualified and repeated representations of the permanent officers’, and instructed the Agent General in London to call tenders for six engines as a stop gap measure. They further agreed to call tenders in England for two up to date light locomotives, one to a bogie design, which could be dismantled in the colony and used as patterns for local copies.  But the protectionists got wind of developments and raised a storm in the Legislative Assembly on 14th August.
Foremost among them was Mr William Collard Smith MLA, often referred to as Major Smith, or just ‘The Major’, which was his militia rank in the Ballarat Rifle Rangers and later on, after a promotion as ‘Colonel Smith’. He was the Member for Ballarat West and Mayor of Ballarat, but also Chairman of Directors of the Phoenix Foundry.  Conflict of interest standards were still not well developed in colonial Victoria! Major Smith complained that the Phoenix Foundry had imported machinery at a cost of £6,000 to £7,000. 
‘And yet, after doing all this’ he went on ‘…the firm find that, while they have been selected to construct the heavier engines, the orders for the lighter engines are sent home…I quite admit the propriety of sending home for two pattern engines…but what about the six?…I trust that the Government will make an effort to withdraw the contract for the six engines.’
Early in the debate, Zeal questioned the need for any new engines, and drew attention to the old G&MR engines, ‘which could be utilised and made to do the work required on the new lines’.  Speaker after speaker attacked the Government, and the Minister of Railways tried to placate them by announcing that he proposed to call tenders within a fortnight for nine of the required engines. This did not satisfy Major Smith, who wanted the whole fifteen.  The pressure continued and Graham Berry summed the debate up, declaring,
‘I doubt if we have had a more valuable one this session. It has shown that, notwithstanding party conflicts and changes of government, the House is still very sound at heart with respect to the great principle of protection’.
Shortly afterwards, the Chief Secretary, O. G. Francis, capitulated, telling the Assembly that a telegram would be sent on the morrow instructing the Agent General to refuse acceptance of any tenders, and that tenders would be called in the colony.  This time the telegram cancelling the order was delivered in time, as the submarine cables had been laid and only a small gap remained in the Overland Telegraph line north of Tennant Creek. Telegrams were sent over this section on horseback.  Only the orders for the two pattern engines for light lines were placed with the Manchester firm of Beyer, Peacock.
Next day, Thursday 15th August 1872,  the atmosphere in the Overseer of Locomotives’ office in Spencer Street must have been near panic. It is likely that design work had been under way for some weeks for the nine engines Gillies had referred to, although it is doubtful if this work would have been advanced enough to call tenders with two weeks’ notice. This work had now to be expedited, and a specification for the six additional engines hurriedly prepared. The two designs that emerged from this maelstrom of activity were contraventions of Meikle’s own professional ideas. The previous year, a deputation of ironworkers had assured Longmore that local manufactures could make a complete locomotive, with the exception of wheels and crank axles.  To avoid the need to import crank axles, John Woods was also pressing Meikle to prepare a design with its cylinders outside the frames.  Meikle resisted, as at that time the VR had only two locomotives with outside cylinders; the small Singles inherited from the G&MR. Woods had obtained information from railway sources and claimed the high mileages run by these engines was evidence that Meikle’s prejudice against the type was ill founded.  But Meikle had to make a much larger locomotive with small driving wheels, which would magnify the inherent problems of placing cylinders on the outside, instead of between the frames. He believed the difficulty of firmly fixing cylinders outside the frames resulted in leaking steam pipes, and that the more exposed position of outside cylinders cooled the steam, and therefore lowered power. Most significant of all, he objected to outside cylinders when used on six wheeled goods engines, stating that ‘if you want a perfect engine, you must have an inside cylinder’.  His own statements imply that he knew the flaw in a powerful engine of this type of engine was its inherent lateral instability. On the other hand, the situation in 1872 was desperate. No works in the colony had the capacity to make crank axles that were a necessary part of an inside cylinder engine, so if the new engines were to be made wholly in the colony, simple straight axles were a design prerequisite, and this dictated the outside cylinder arrangement. For the sake of avoiding the import of one component, the protectionists nearly wrecked the whole light lines experiment.
There was one locomotive in the colony which might have saved the day. Following his overseas visit, Elsdon had ordered a small outside cylinder 4-4-0 Well Tank for the M&HBUR.  It was commissioned in 1871, but even if the private company had been prepared to have its only new engine taken out of service and dismantled so the parts could be copied in the government workshops, some re-design work would have been necessary to alter it from a short range well tank for suburban service to a longer range design with fuel and water in a separate tender. It would still have been underpowered for the 1 in 50 gradients on the new lines, but in hind sight that would have been the lesser disadvantage. Some years later a trial of one of these M&HBUR bogie engines was made on the Woodend line. 
Meikle had to design locomotives capable of hauling trains of 100 tons up a 1 in 50 gradient. This was not a very big load, even in those days, but he knew that the best he could manage with a 4-4-0 design based on the little M&HBUR engine would be about 80 tons up a 1 in 50 grade.  He was in a cruel dilemma, for either way the light railways could not be economically worked. A small 4-4-0 would suit the track, but not the traffic. A low wheeled goods engine would suit the traffic at the expense of the track. He chose the latter, and working with his small staff of draftsmen  hurriedly put together the outline of two such engines, one a goods 0-6-0, the other a passenger 2-4-0, and within two weeks he was in a position to call tenders for their manufacture. 
It was normal to supply only the sketchiest specifications for a locomotive order, as the detailed design work was completed by the locomotive builder. This process enabled small railway systems, like those in the colonies, to reap the benefits of technological improvements developed by the large overseas railway companies and locomotive builders.  The M&HBUR is reputed to have sent its orders direct to Robert Stephenson’s Newcastle works, without directions as to construction or price.  But Victoria had no experienced locomotive builder, and Meikle had no hope of making detailed engineering drawing with the time and resources at hand.
While prospective contractors in Victoria and NSW were preparing their estimates, Meikle expedited the conversion of the remaining Gooch Singles to 2-4-0 types, and also turned his attention to the two ex-G&M outside cylindered Singles. One of these little locomotives was rebuilt as a small wheeled 0-6-0, the other to a more easily balanced 2-4-0, again with small wheels.  It is likely they were put to work on the construction of the new light lines, and in some respects they were precursors for the two prototype engines Meikle began building at the Williamstown Workshops. Building prototypes was essential for his draftsmen and the workshops staff as a means of solving practical design issues as the engines took shape. But even this process was short circuited as on 9th October 1872, less than three months after the crucial division in the Legislative Assembly which set broad gauge for the light lines, the Phoenix Foundry at Ballarat was awarded nine 0-6-0s and six 2-4-0s to Meikle’s specification.  In total, 17 engines had been ordered ‘off the drawing board’, to dubious designs, and with no opportunity to test the prototypes before the order was placed.
As he did with his passenger and goods designs for the North Eastern railway, Meikle excluded all embellishments, going even further by choosing a domeless boiler and the simplest of safety valve covers. These cost reduction features were being urged by Mr. Woods, who advocated
‘doing away with unnecessary finish, and thereby bringing the cost closer to imported English locomotives.’
In order to further reduce the cost of manufacture, and save time in preparation of the specifications, the passenger and goods engines were similar, with some common parts.  Meikle was mindful of the politicians and narrow gauge propagandists who had argued forcibly that speeds on light railways would be held down to something like 20 mph.  The 0-6-0 goods engines, later classed U, were given driving wheels of only 3’6” diameter, which fixed their efficient speed in the range 10 to 25 mph.  The passenger engines were 2-4-0s, later classed K, and had four foot diameter driving wheels which gave them an efficient speed of 30 mph. Faced with the need for a high tractive effort to haul reasonable loads up the 1 in 50 inclines on the new lines, the boiler on both designs, although smaller and lighter than those of Meikle’s main line engines, had a firebox of equivalent size. A large firebox enables the boiler to recover maximum steam pressure quickly, in the event of the peak steam demand needed to get a train over a steep incline. By eliminating a steam dome on the boiler, together with unnecessary embellishments, some weight reduction was achieved,  but it was not enough.
The overconfidence and impatience of the protectionists nearly wrecked the light lines experiment. Had they not forced Meikle to rush designs for light weight locomotives for local construction and pressured Wilson to cancel the contract with Beyer, Peacock in Manchester, the light lines would have been a success from the start. As it was, Beyer, Peacock’s two pattern engines were placed in service before the first of the new light lines were opened,  and a copy of the 0-6-0 was ordered by the Deniliquin & Moama Railway the following year.  Both the Beyer, Peacock 0-6-0 and a 2-4-0 designs were subsequently built locally in some numbers, having proved to be perfectly adequate for the task.  Instead, Phoenix subsequently had to undergo re-tooling for six designs where two would have sufficed. It would have been cheaper to locally copy a large number of the two Beyer, Peacock designs, and would also have been more profitable for Phoenix.
Building The New Engines
Williamstown Workshops immediately began construction of the prototype light lines 0-6-0 while Phoenix was still struggling to make the ten 0-6-0s for the North Eastern line. But Williamstown had no foundry, and had to contract out the making of cylinders to Phoenix.  Forced to flesh out his design  quickly, Meikle was cast back on the existing locomotives and chose the most suitable features to adapt. The boiler chosen bears a striking resemblance to that on the five Gooch Singles which were domeless. The trickiest part was the machinery, as Meikle’s new engines had to have wheels, cylinders and valve motion quite unlike any of the VR’s existing engines. This was worked out on the shop floor as the engines were built, with engineers and artisans combining theory and practice in a manner so typical in railway mechanical branches. But when first tested on the road it was evident further modification to the valve gear was necessary.  The results were used in specifications for the fifteen light lines engines contracted to Phoenix.
As a gesture to his artisans at Williamstown, Meikle had one of the new prototype engines they had made rostered on the annual Workshops picnic train to Ballarat on 30th December 1873. No.105 was a goods engine, not meant for more than 20 mph, but this was a heavy passenger train of sixteen carriages. Meikle was riding on the engine and all seemed well until a few miles beyond Lethbridge, when a design flaw in the machinery intervened. One of the piston rods sheared and damaged the cylinder head. It must have been an embarrassment for Meikle, but he sent a man back to Lethbridge station, where a telegram was despatched to Geelong for a relief engine. So they all had a picnic afternoon tea at Ballarat, in lieu of lunch. Later Meikle instructed Phoenix to suspend work on the machinery of the new locomotives until the design flaw was understood and rectified. 
Some faults had already been found in the locomotives Phoenix had built for the North Eastern line, and an article critical of the Ballarat company appeared in The Age. Phoenix defended itself through the pages of the Ballarat Star,’  but the tension between Williamstown Workshops and Phoenix continued to simmer away, eventually boiling over. The relationship between design office and shop floor was not always easy, and when they were separated by distance and in different organisations, difficulties increased. Meikle, his Chief Draughtsman Solomon Mirls  and Foreman Robinson Jackson worked as a team at Williamstown, but Ballarat was 96 miles distant and Phoenix was a private company in competition with the government workshops. Higinbotham later reported that the workmanship in all the early Phoenix locomotives was not up to that of the best American and English manufacturers. He believed the VR received an inferior product for an inflated price and would do better building its own locomotives.  His observation was backed up by independent engineers, who found that ‘considerable alterations have been made in the engines of all the contracts at the Government expense.’  Not that English locomotives were perfect, especially the ‘Yorkies’.
Phoenix were in a very strong position, having already secured the contract for the ten North Eastern line 0-6-0s and equipped their works with machine tools at between £6,000 and £7,000.  With the outspoken Major Smith MLA as company Chairman, they also packed considerable political clout as a decentralised industry employing many workers. After securing the light lines engine contract on 17th January 1873  they took in 60 to 70 boys to be trained as apprentices. Three years later they were employing 150 men and boys.  The fifteen locomotives in new contract were delivered between July 1874 and May 1875  at an average cost of £3,300 each.  They were expensive little engines; Elsdon had purchased one of similar size for £2,400 for the M&HBUR.
In public, Meikle was proud of his creations,  but a storm was brewing. There is no doubt that both Meikle and Phoenix intended the new light lines engines to run at low speeds, but this was ignored with devastating effect on the tracks, where they were not only driven fast, but were put in service before the newly laid track had been properly bedded down. An adverse report was submitted to the Commissioner of Railways (Gillies) in June 1874, by W.H. Greene, the Resident Engineer at Kyneton.  He was supervising construction of the Castlemaine to Dunolly line, the first laid with 50 lb. iron rails, about which he had nothing good to say. At this time Higinbotham was touring North America, but Greene did not hesitate to blast the light construction standards of the new line, and make a powerful case for adoption of heavier, and more expensive, 60 lb rails on subsequent lines. Meikle’s engines were Greene’s ace card. He believed they were heavier than the 22 tons Meikle had estimated on his designs,  and he was right. The finished engines from Phoenix were later found to weigh 27 tons,  but in the absence of accurate weighing equipment in Victoria no one was sure at the time. About one thing Greene was sure, and this was the swaying and pitching motion of the engines would rapidly cause problems on the 50 lb iron rails.  As the new locomotives were introduced their oscillation from side to side with the piston thrusts was even greater than Greene expected. They moved with a pronounced waddle, prompting enginemen to call them ‘Buzzwinkers’,  the nickname of Ellen Grimes, a notorious madame of the Ballarat goldfields! 
Although there were defects with the locomotives when delivered, the underlying problem was not Phoenix’s fault. Meikle and his team at Williamstown had been virtually forced to design a dog of an engine, but aside from its basic design there were inadequacies and flaws in detail. At the time it was claimed that the Williamstown team supplied Phoenix with ‘sectional drawings of every single fitting, even to the smallest bolt ’, but three years later, responding to criticism of Higinbotham, William Shaw, the manager of Phoenix went on the attack, and prompted a long newspaper article castigating the light lines engines and shifting the blame for their troubles onto Meikle and his team. Phoenix complained that they were given
‘…only a half plan and a half longitudinal section, neither of which…shows the footplate to its extremity’
and that some plans included
‘specimens of inaccurate and inconsistent figuring’
‘caused the Contractor both trouble and loss.’
To rub salt in the wound, Shaw gave a specific instance to denigrate Meikle.
‘After the whole of the valve motion for the 15 engines had been forged, a difficulty arose as to the method of support, which, as will be remembered, was not provided for by the drawings. A plan was suggested by Mr. Shaw which, on being submitted to Mr. Meikle, the locomotive superintendent, was rejected, and a new plan sent up from his office. The various forgings involved in this plan were all prepared, but when they came to be fixed it was seen that they would not do, and an engine having been mounted on one side according to Mr. Meikle’s design, and on the other in the manner proposed by Mr. Shaw, Mr. Meikle was sent for. Upon his arrival it is said he failed to recognise his own design, and condemned it, and eventually Mr. Shaw’s plan was adopted, this tinkering process, however, cost several hundred pounds.’ 
Had Meikle and his team been given time to work out the design with the two prototypes being built at Williamstown before the Phoenix contract was let, this would never have happened. The team at Williamstown documented all the faults in the engines delivered from Phoenix, but refrained from seeking restitution, in spite of a written offer by Shaw to make good any faults at Phoenix’s expense. They were later criticised for this, but what was Meikle to do? He was answerable to staunch protectionists so determined to foster local manufacturing that inexperience, faulty workmanship and high costs were accepted. The same political forces that were determined to control the railways by keeping them in government hands sought to keep manufacturing in private hands, but there was a growing confidence within the railways that they could do a better job. Higinbotham expressed this in March 1874 on the eve of his overseas trip,  and again in his official report on his return.  But his criticism of Phoenix was rebuffed; even the conservative Argus leapt to their defence. 
Nevertheless, the government saw to it that Williamstown was given the wherewithal to keep the increasingly diverse fleet of locomotives and rolling stock operational, and to quietly make good any defects. After Gillies replaced Longmore as Commissioner in June 1872  he allowed plans to proceed which almost doubled the capital value of Williamstown workshops. A series of contracts were let between June and September 1873 totalling £7,817, or 96 percent of all previous expenditure. 
The Beginning of Troubles – 1874
Less than a year after the prototype Buzzwinkers were commissioned in November 1873, questions were being asked about them in Parliament. Meikle responded that they had cost £3,604 each, explaining that this heavy expense was due to alterations made during construction which would be incorporated in the engines being made by Phoenix. He pointed out that outside cylinder six-coupled designs were used on Scottish, Irish, European and Queensland lines.  The QR locomotives were small 2-6-0’s, with a pair of guiding wheels to carry some of the engine weight and guide them into curves, a feature sadly absent on Meikle’s engines. Even if Meikle had the time and resources to design a 2-6-0, the type was almost unknown in British practice.  But no politician had the technical understanding to query Meikle, or to appreciate the developmental costs associated with a new design. Williamstown’s first locomotive, No.100, had cost even more at £3,936. 
The Second Group of Light Lines Engines, 1875-1876
The two light lines pattern locomotives arrived from Beyer, Peacock of Manchester in June 1874, the same month as Greene’s damning report, and simultaneously with the commencement of deliveries of the 15 Buzzwinkers from Phoenix. Both imported engines had inside cylinders, and while approximately the same power as the Buzzwinkers, were far more neatly arranged.  After a trial period of nine months, during which all the Buzzwinkers were also delivered, it became clear that the English designs were superior, and tenders were called locally for 10 copies of the 2-4-0 passenger design, later classed F.
The contract was awarded to the Phoenix Foundry in May 1875.  They were loaned the Beyer, Peacock’s pattern engine, No. 98, and stripped it completely, copying every piece down to the precise location of rivet holes. Meikle received some criticism for allowing Phoenix to reverse engineer No.98, instead of preparing detailed working drawings.  What the critic did not mention was that Meikle’s staff would have had to follow the same process to produce working drawings. It is quite possible this criticism was sour grapes from people associated with the Williamstown Workshops.  The railway administration was criticised at this time for awarding the contract to Phoenix, whose workshop was ‘far less commodious’ than that at Williamstown, on which improvements since 1871 had risen to £11,000. 
A second group of light lines was authorised in 1873 before Phoenix were given the order for the 10 F class engines. As these lines opened, train mileage jumped by nearly 20 per cent  and the average mileage per locomotive rose by 20 per cent.  Over this critical 18 month period, only three new locomotives were added to the roster, yet new lines were opened to Stawell, Beechworth, Avoca, Inglewood and Winchelsea; a total of 112½ miles.
An indication of the pressure this put on the locomotive resources of the Department is given by the return to service at this time of twenty year old G&MR engines, Nos. 40 and 42, that had been struck off the register in 1866 and left to rust in a shed.  But Meikle’s efforts to make rolling stock suitable for the light lines came under criticism, initially in a series of letters signed ‘Red Light’ published in ‘The Herald’ in mid-1874. These focussed on light weight composite carriages built at Williamstown, which railwaymen nicknamed ‘shivering bandboxes’, as they were inclined to quiver and shake due to their insubstantial construction. ‘Red Light’ also criticised Meikle for trialling Le Châtelier’s counter pressure brake, among other things. 
When the radical liberals briefly regained government in August 1875, they found their railway policy had been white-anted. Gillies had listened to Greene, and adopted heavier 60 lb rails for the Gippsland line, much to the consternation of Francis Longmore and other radicals. It was a setback for their cheap railway policy and Meikle’s Buzzwinkers were blamed. Furthermore, the Buzzwinkers had tarnished the reputation of the colonial locomotive industry so dear to the protectionists. During Woods’ brief incumbency as Commissioner David Syme published seven more of ‘Red Lights’ highly critical letters from September 1875, all of them written with knowledge of procedures at Williamstown Workshops and quite intemperate in tone.  One signed ‘Another Light’ castigated the Traffic Branch. The clear intention was to bring pressure to bear on Woods to get rid of Meikle. Ten specific charges of mismanagement directed against the administration of the Locomotive Branch were subsequently investigated by a parliamentary inquiry. Most of these were trivial and ill founded, and Meikle answered them well in a reply tabled in the Legislative Assembly on 25 November 1875.  The charge that he had not supplied Phoenix with adequate plans was unfair, but would be repeated by protectionists keen to defend the Ballarat firm.
Duncan Gillies defended Meikle, pointing out that one or two of the letters published by the Age had been traced to persons who had been dismissed from the Department. It was further explained by Mr. Hanna MLA that these men had been appointed to the Workshops through political influence, and that
‘when at last their imbecility became so apparent that the Locomotive Superintendent succeeded in getting rid of them…they combined together in an association, and held their meetings at a certain hotel in North Melbourne’.
This may have been a reference to a couple of artisans from the Williamstown Workshops who complained that a labourer named Howorth had been given artisan’s work. This produced disquiet in the Workshops, being seen as a threat to the position of skilled tradesmen. John Woods took up the cause of the artisans but Meikle explained it had not entered his head to put labourers into skilled artisan’s positions, but stood on his right to promote the man. He was strongly supported by the conservative press for endeavouring to adjust work practices to tasks which had been automated by machine tools, then common in private industry and overseas. 
With the support of his Commissioner, Meikle survived, but not without a parting accusation by ‘Red Light’ printed by Syme that ‘some 30’ men employed at Williamstown were prepared to give evidence against him. This was repeated in the House by Mr. Langridge, MLA, who told the House that he had been approached by three or four men from Williamstown complaining against the management. He referred to the letter published by Syme, but the number of men had grown to ‘30 or 40’.  This estimation of malcontents was a politically inspired exaggeration, as Meikle’s send-off two years later was accompanied by solid goodwill.
In an effort to improve relations between the men at Williamstown and those working for Phoenix at Ballarat, Meikle and Shaw arranged for the annual Workshops picnic to be held at Ballarat on 30th December 1875. A train of 23 carriages was arranged to convey about 1,200 Locomotive Branch employees and their families to Ballarat, the train being double headed on the heavy gradients from Geelong. Arriving there about noon the train was met by Major Smith, MLA, the Mayors of Ballarat East and West, William Shaw and the other directors of Phoenix, together with some other notable citizens. A band accompanied the passengers to the Phoenix Foundry where they were astounded to find a banquet waiting. Meikle and Major Smith made speeches which were met with cheers, and the party then moved to the gardens by Lake Wendouree where they danced the afternoon away. The train got them back to Melbourne about midnight, but the apprentices stayed overnight for a cricket match against a Phoenix side next day, followed by another banquet.  Sadly all this goodwill was soon to be undone, but not by Meikle.
The radical government were not in power long enough to reinforce their light railway policy, but their Minister of Railways, John Woods, encouraged Meikle to make a second attempt at designing a locomotive suitable for 50 lb iron rails. Arrangements were made to borrow one of the M&HBUR’s bogie passenger engines, and compare it with one of the 2-4-0 passenger Buzzwinkers, No. 114; and also No. 100, Meikle’s 2-4-0 built at Williamstown. The M&HBUR engine was a British version of the American type locomotives that had so impressed William Elsdon on his overseas visit in 1870. Woods was already out of office before the comparative trials were completed, in November 1875, but not on the Castlemaine-Maryborough light line where the value of the bogie engine would be most apparent. The tests were on the mainline. 
Further impetus to make a 4-4-0 for light lines came with the return of Higinbotham in mid-January 1876. As the RMS Mongolia stopped to pick up the pilot at Queenscliff, four senior railwaymen also came aboard; Acting Engineer-in-Chief Wells and Resident Engineer Greene, who had been left in charge of the Engineer’s Branch, Assistant Traffic Manager Anderson and Meikle. They had taken the ferry across Port Phillip Bay to take part in a three hours debriefing as the Mongolia slowly steamed up to Williamstown. Higinbotham resumed duties the next day,  an ardent convert to the American type bogie locomotive. He was disgusted by the effect the Buzzwinkers had on the 50 lb rails, and was not enamoured with the imported pattern engines either. They were, he said, ‘a vast improvement, but they want a bogie truck…’ 
Meikle and his staff were already working on two prototype light lines 4-4-0s at Williamstown, and preparing plans and specifications for eight more. Tenders for these were called in June 1876, and awarded to Phoenix,  while work proceeded at Williamston on the two prototypes. As with the prototype Buzzwinkers No,103 and 105, the existing locomotives were looked to for parts to copy. They were outshopped at the beginning of 1877 but both were given new boilers five years later, indicating that their original boilers, and other parts, may have been sourced from two of the ex-G&MR engines, Nos.38 and 44. No.38 was the old Single ‘Typhoon’ built by Stothert & Slaughter with 6’6″ drivers, while No.44, the 2-4-0 ‘Cyclone’, was a R&W Hawthorn product; that may explain why Meikle’s rebuilds each had a different safety valve cover, which together with the retention of their old numbers indicates they most likely had other reused parts. They later became the G class. The remaining G&MR engines, Single No.40 ‘Sirocco’ and 2-4-0 No.42 ‘Hurricane’ were still in use but were later used as stationary boilers in the workshops. 
Experimenting with American Rolling Stock
The bogie truck was fundamental to American railway engineering, not just for locomotives, but for carriages and wagons also. Because the wheelbase (distance between fixed axles) of a bogie was so short, the wheels could negotiate very sharp curves with ease. Of greater importance, they could also negotiate distortions in track alignment, which were endemic to light railways with little or no ballast. But the placing of a carriage on bogies was to use eight wheels where, given decent track, four would do. The dead weight of the extra four wheels, their axles, sub-frames, springs and brake equipment, was a penalty English engineers were loath to accept. The Americans, however, decided to utilise the possibilities of the extra wheels by making their carriages and wagons longer and heavier than English vehicles. This enabled them to preserve acceptable ratios between the tare or ‘dead’ weight of the vehicle and its loaded or gross weight.
The long American carriages were end loading vehicles; that is, passengers entered by way of a platform and door at each end, and walked to their seats along a central passageway. This configuration had a number of advantages over the English style compartment carriages, where each compartment had a separate side door. The American bogie carriages, with only two doors and no internal partitions, were simpler and cheaper to build. Stair wells were recessed into the access platforms at each end of a car, thereby eliminating the need for stations to have the high level platforms necessary for side loading English carriages. The absence of the danger of side doors swinging open also meant that the abutments of bridges could be placed nearer the tracks, minimizing the width of bridge span required, and therefore the cost.  For train working, the central passageway enabled tickets to be sold and collected while the train was in motion, the conductor passing from one car to the next by way of a gangway between the end platforms. This feature obviated the need for as many station porters as were required under the English system. All these advantages were unobtainable if a few American carriages were merely added to a fleet of English compartment carriages on a railway built and worked to British standards.
The push for cheap railways in the early1870’s was accompanied by a growing awareness that the rigid four and six wheeled locomotives and rolling stock were not ideal for light rails and sharp curves. William Elsdon had purchased a bogie locomotive for the M&HBUR which arrived in July 1871,  just as the debate about light lines was becoming heated. A month later the Select Committee investigating the Fairlie system recommended that lines be built for £5,000 per mile and use bogie locomotives and rolling stock.  Meikle responded by designing a bogie wagon and having a prototype built at Williamstown Workshops; unusually of all iron construction. He had used iron in a design for a four-wheeled coal hopper built at Williamstown the previous year, although wood was normally used.  His iron bogie wagon was a success, and in March 1872 a contract was given John Thomas to build eleven similar vehicles.  By that time Henry Mais had already introduced bogie carriages on the South Australian Railways,  and the Adelaide, Glenelg, and Suburban Railway Company had some on order.  In New Zealand the government had adopted 3’6” gauge and their first line was under construction from Port Chalmers to Dunedin. Its opening in January 1873 and the report in the Melbourne Herald noted the use of Fairlie locomotives and bogie carriages. 
With broad gauge having been fixed for the new light lines, suitable rolling stock was needed. Probably against his better judgement Meikle obliged by designing some light weight four-wheeled carriages. These ‘shivering bandboxes’ were introduced in June 1874 but were clearly not a success. Higinbotham later noted that
‘…the craze for light rolling stock has completely passed away; indeed, it never took root in England. In this country a few years since, carriages and wagons were made so light for economies sake that they went to pieces at the slightest shock, and have been probably the most costly that were built here. The mistake has been admitted and it is hoped that it will not be repeated.’ 
It was probably the failure of Meikle’s light weight carriages that led to an order being placed with Gilbert, Bush, and Co., of Troy, New York for two bogie saloon cars. These arrived in pieces and the 1st class car was assembled in time for inclusion in the opening train to Ararat on 6th April, where a government sponsored celebration was given to mark the completion of the last of the initial group of light lines. The car created a mild sensation, The Age wondering if it was
‘more after the style of a royal state carriage than a railway carriage for the ordinary purposes of traffic.’ 
The snooty reporter of The Argus thought the car
‘…exhibited the true American characteristics, the idea being apparently to combine the largest amount of comfort with the greatest display of gorgeousness. The arrangements for supplying the former are such as to satisfy an individual of a very sybaritic turn of mind, but the taste shown in the latter is such as would certainly horrify Mr Ruskin or his disciples, though doubtless the glare of many colours may be pleasing to persons of less aesthetic principles.’ 
That Victorians could think an ordinary American saloon car was fit for royalty is a good indication of the spartan condition of their own carriages. Thankfully Mr. Ruskin and his disciples had no influence with Gilbert, Bush & Co., and similar American car builders who had a greater concern for ordinary railway passengers than the aristocrats who pontificated on style from their own sumptuous dwellings!
The American cars were much bigger than any other carriage, being 50 feet long from buffer to buffer, and a generous 9’7” wide, the maximum permitted. The typical carriages in the Victorian Railways fleet were eight feet wide and only 25-30 feet long.  The dimensions of the American cars challenged the operating objectives of the day, as efforts were constantly made to carefully match the patronage of a train with the accommodation provided. Hauling empty seats and empty trucks around was regarded as a wasteful expense, and the American saloons were frowned on by the management as they were not always full. If thirty passengers comfortably spread in the American car could be squeezed into a six-wheeler half its weight, that was regarded as preferable. Meikle and his senior draughtsman Solomon Mirls therefore designed a short four-wheeled version of the American car, similar in style but with two fixed axles. Built at Williamstown, it was outshopped in November 1875, just seven months after the American saloons were introduced.  The week before its completion Mirls submitted a design for a new carriage in a competition initiated by John Woods during his brief first term as Minister for Railways.  Woods had lost office by the time the entries were opened and the winner declared to be ‘Cosmopolitan’ – a nom de plume for Mirls, who pocketed the £200 prize! The Mirls design was closely based on the American saloons, and the following July Phoenix was given a contract to build it.  Nevertheless, it would take a few more years for bogie carriages to be generally accepted by management.
American locomotives gained easier acceptance. Higinbotham’s prejudice against American railway technology was demolished during his visit, and he returned a strong advocate of the American bogie locomotive. It must have been apparent to the Engineer-in-Chief that unless he could prove that cheap railways could be successfully built and worked to the 5’3” gauge, it would only be a matter of time before the frustrated radicals once more gained power, and perhaps tried again to introduce narrow gauge railways. Although broad 5’3” gauge had been initially adopted in South Australian, Tasmania and New Zealand, all three colonies had switched to 3’6”gauge for new construction in the early 1870’s. During the first half of 1876, he prepared a report on his overseas visit, strongly emphasising the failure of narrow gauge railways in North America, Europe and India, to live up to the claims of propagandists. That he did is clear evidence that he was still haunted by the Fairlie spectre. Higinbotham was no advocate of light railways, and supported the views expressed by Greene, during his absence, that the use of 50 lb iron rails was a costly mistake. Nevertheless, he was determined to make the best of these lines, and now knew that the American type locomotive was the key to their success. His report was forwarded to the new Minister for Railways, Joseph Jones, on 26th July 1876. Jones was an avowed free trader and one of the two representatives of Ballarat West, the other being the protectionist and Phoenix Foundry Chairman Major W.C. Smith.  It was not difficult then, for the Engineer-in-Chief to persuade Jones at least to authorise purchase of a few engines for evaluation, and three days later Higinbotham was authorised to instruct his contacts to purchase two American type 4-4-0s.  The Age made the wry comment that ‘with regard to engines, the well-known conservatism of the Engineer-in-Chief has altogether failed him’. 
Tucked away in his report Thomas Higinbotham also threw his weight behind the use of the government’s own workshops to build locomotives in the colony. He was against contracting the work to Phoenix, because he thought the lack of any real competition meant that the Department obtained inferior engines at an inflated price.  But Jones sat on the report for five months, intentionally or otherwise, until the contract for eight production versions of Meikle’s 4-4-0 design was safely awarded to Phoenix in September 1876: the Phoenix Foundry was in his electorate. By then the government was struggling to pass its railway construction bill and authorise the purchase of the M&HBUR. Higinbotham was pushing the proposed Outer Circle to bring the Gippsland railway into Melbourne and terminate just north of St. Francis’ church in Elizabeth Street, above the present site of the underground Melbourne Central Station. But the cost was prohibitive, and Jones opposed his Engineer-in-Chief.  After an exhausting debate over many days, the Assembly failed to agree on either the M&HBUR purchase or the Railway Construction Bill.  In the middle of this wrangling Jones tabled Higinbotham’s report on his overseas visit. 
The Engineer-in-Chief’s remarks about locomotives escaped notice for 26 days, but then they were discovered by indignant protectionists. The Phoenix had risen in Ballarat, and was not about to crash in flames! William Lock, the Member for Grenville (abutting Ballarat to the south) and Major Smith both went on the attack in the Legislative Assembly, questioning the mechanical engineering credentials of Higinbotham and quoting praise from Meikle. Several rose to support them, and Jones, probably caught off-guard, tried to placate the protectionists by promising an inquiry. Only Simon Fraser, Member for Rodney in Northern Victoria supported the Engineer-in-Chief, claiming a Phoenix tender for locomotives in free-trade New South Wales was £1,000 per engine above the English tenders, and as ‘not a shilling of dividend had been paid to the proprietors of the company yet ’ he expected it would close in five to ten years.  It was the sort of comment that sends a share price tumbling, and next day The Herald leapt to Phoenix’s defence with a stinging attack on Higinbotham.
‘Mr Higinbotham never minces his language, and he cannot write a report without ‘ringing in’ superlatives. It is a dangerous practice in writing official reports – especially when the author has to deal with hard facts. Mr Higinbotham does not say that ‘some’ competent authorities condemn our workmanship – no; – ‘they are condemned by everyone’; ‘the effect they produce on the road is most injurious;’ there is ‘no competition in the trade;’ in the States they have ‘the most (sic) perfect machinery for manufacturing locomotives;’ ‘the Government has no chance of getting good engines under the present system.’… We fear that anything coming from the pen of the ‘most perfect’ engineer-in-chief must be taken, not with a grain, but a pillar of salt…’
Higinbotham had focused on the Buzzwinkers, which clearly were rough on the light lines, but his language gave the impression that all the locomotives made by Phoenix were at fault, which was patently untrue. Predictably, Phoenix did everything it could to shift the blame. Whereas in the Assembly Major Smith had quoted letters from Meikle approving Phoenix engines, and even nominated him as one of the mechanical engineers who should form the inquiry board, the next day the protectionists were biting the hand that fed them.
‘The grave accusations levelled at the engines are properly chargeable upon the Railway Department and its responsible officers. The manufacturers complain that the design of the engine is bad, and who, we ask, is the author of the design?’ 
The Age supported The Herald to a degree, in a report that heaped praise on Meikle’s No.100, ‘the crack engine of the colony’. Their praise for the Ballarat engines was not so fulsome.  Phoenix General Manager William Shaw was furious, and The Ballarat Courier described the attack on Phoenix as ‘mean, cowardly, and contemptible in the extreme.’  All the goodwill engendered by Shaw’s hosting of Meikle and his Locomotive Branch picnic twelve months earlier vaporised.
But there were votes to be gained by building locomotives in the colony, especially from the Ballarat area, where support for the Phoenix Foundry ran so high that the city was decked in flags when its first engines were delivered.  Nevertheless, despite Phoenix having won the contract for the eight new 4-4-0s Meikle had designed, when the fracas began they were anything but appreciative. Far from praising these neat little engines they expressed annoyance at being called upon to abandon the ‘perfectly satisfactory’ patterns they had developed by stripping down and reverse engineering No. 98, the 2-4-0 pattern engine imported in 1874. They now faced the costly business of starting all over again with the fifth new design in so many years, although those costs would be included in the contract price. But they had a point. Meikle’s new design was as pretty and smooth riding as the ‘Buzzwinkers’ were ugly and rough. Its leading bogie made it well suited to the 50 lb iron railed lines, but it was very similar to the F class in weight and tractive effort, so that from a practical point of view little was to be gained by adding another design. Nevertheless, John Woods boasted that he was prepared to ‘back against the world’ the new locomotives. 
The Board of Inquiry into Colonial Built Locomotives
On 9th January 1877, the Minister wrote to the Locomotive Superintendents in the neighbouring colonies, seeking their services on the Board of Inquiry. But despite having thrown the first punch at Phoenix, Higinbotham declined to enter the ring and join the fight. The Engineer-in-Chief was at pains to distance himself from the Board of Inquiry’s deliberations, being
‘…anxious to avoid, as far as possible, taking further active part in it…I do not intend to appear as prosecutor of this enquiry…and I am determined not to permit myself to be placed in the position of defending the opinions which I felt it to be my duty to express to the Commissioner.’ 
Higinbotham’s attitude towards Meikle is impossible to discern from available evidence, nor is there evidence that Meikle criticised or sought to undermine his Engineer-in-Chief. He was one of the loyal few that took the ferry across the Bay to meet Higinbotham at Queenscliff on his return from overseas.  Nevertheless, Higinbotham had cause to be cool towards the man whom Francis Longmore had selected to diminish his accountability. Meikle reported directly to two Commissioners that the Engineer-in-Chief disliked, and produced locomotives that endangered the light railway experiment, which Higinbotham was determined to make a success, if only to save Victoria from the greater evil of narrow gauge. And he had good cause to worry for only a week later the South Australians opened a 52 mile narrow gauge railway from the port of Kingston to within 13 miles of the Victorian border at Narracoorte.  Three of the colonies had abandoned 5’3” gauge and this line had the potential of forming part of a future inter-colonial narrow gauge railway between Melbourne and Adelaide, although the likelihood of that occurring was fading.
The Board of Inquiry was chaired by William Scott, Overseer of Locomotives for the N.S.W. Railways. Also sitting were William Horniblow, Locomotive Superintendent of the Southern & Western Railway of Queensland, and William Thow, who had been appointed Locomotive Engineer of the South Australian Railways the previous October.  They saw their task as providing answers to two distinct questions, which until then had been confused. First, were the designs of the light locomotives suitable for the light railways? Second, was the material and workmanship of the colonial-made locomotives equal to those of the best English makers? 
To answer the first question, they spent two long days on a circuit of the light lines from Castlemaine to Maryborough, Avoca, Ballarat and Stawell.  They rode on six different classes of engine at work on these lines, and inspected the tracks. They were favourably impressed with Meikle’s No. 38, the prototype 4-4-0 built at Williamstown. It ran steadily, and took the sharp curves between Castlemaine and Maryborough with apparent ease. No. 125, the pattern T class 0-6-0 goods type with inside cylinders imported from Beyer, Peacock in 1874 but yet to be adopted for colonial manufacture, was their engine from Newstead to Maryborough, where it approached 40 mph in places and was remarkably steady. At Maryborough, they got their first look at a Buzzwinker, No. 114, one of the passenger 2-4-0 types, which took them out to Avoca and back, and then down to Creswick. This they found much less steady and free on curves than Williamstown’s latest 4-4-0 they had ridden earlier, but on the other hand, they could not find that its motion was extraordinary, as the permanent way staff would have had them believe.
But then, a few miles north of Creswick they were dropped off at the foot of a two mile incline of 1 in 50 to await the appearance of 0-6-0 No. 115 on the regular mixed train from Ballarat to Maryborough. Most trains run at that time consisted of both goods and passenger vehicles. A ‘mixed’ obviated the need to run separate passenger and goods trains, but they were often built right up to the maximum load allowed the engine. This was sound economics, but it made for a slow trip for the passengers at the rear. As time was lost by engines toiling up hills, and shunting goods trucks at roadside stations, the temptation was strong for the enginemen to flog the engines to the limit on the downhill and flatter sections, with ensuing costly damage to the track. Now here was No.115 doing just that, hurtling down the incline at about 35 mph, which was way over its designed maximum speed.
This at last was one of the goods Buzzwinkers so much complained of, throwing itself about like a wild thing, its machinery flying around at almost twice its optimum designed speed. From Creswick, they were taken into Ballarat on No. 6, one of the Beyer, Peacock Singles Meikle had converted to a 2-4-0 for use on the Geelong line. Although overweight, it was being used on the 50 lb. lines due to the engine shortage created by the banning of some of the goods Buzzwinkers from the Maryborough district. No.6 ran well at speeds up to 50 mph over the light rails, and next day they had another pleasant ride out to Buangor on their special engine for the day, No. 128, one of the copies Phoenix had made of the English pattern 2-4-0 No. 98. At Buangor, they found Buzzwinker No.115 again, waiting for them on the regular mixed train to Ararat, with nearly a maximum load behind her small tender.
Now they were given an opportunity to ride it, and experienced firsthand ‘a sinuous motion, distinct, regular, and very apparent at low speeds, combined with a slight rolling motion, equally regular and distinct, and both conformable with the revolutions of the wheels.’ This was at speeds of 10 mph, at which No.115 laboured up the 1 in 50 gradients. On down-grades, it was driven up to 40 mph, the ride changing ‘into a hard, irregular, jerky motion, inconformable to the movement of any part of the machinery.’ They were taken from Ararat to Stawell on their special engine, in time to catch No.119, another of the goods Buzzwinkers, on the regular mixed to Ballarat. This engine was worse than its sister, No.115. A bit later, they watched it come down an incline near Buangor, and then walked to the top of the hill to watch No.123, another of the same class, beat up the other side with a regular train, jerking from side to side. Looking at the track, they saw how it had ‘suffered more displacement and injury than any of the lines seen the previous day’, where the goods Buzzwinkers were banned. Their final test was with No.121, also a goods Buzzwinker, which was coupled to a train of about 105 tons gross at Ballarat.  It proceeded to take this up the Warrenheip Bank at 8 to 10 mph with ‘the same peculiar regular and sinuous motion noticeable on Nos.115 and 119, but very much more marked than in either of them.’ They rolled down the other side to Lal Lal with the steam shut off, and although steadier, she was still ‘uncommonly rough.’ One can only wonder at what sort of lady Ma Buzzwinker must have been! The Board ascribed the improved ride on this last leg of their trials to the excellent condition of the heavy 80 lb track on the Ballarat to Geelong line.
Following their experiences, the Board had all the Phoenix locomotives accurately weighed on an apparatus brought from South Australia by William Thow, one of the Board members. This aspect did not strike them as worthy of comment.  But the goods Buzzwinkers axle load was nearly two tons more than its designed weight and the passenger Buzzwinker 2½ tons more; a 24 to 30 per cent increase on specification. Even the axle load of the little four-wheeled tenders for these locomotives was nearly a ton heavier than Meikle’s specification. 
The repeated passage of overweight locomotives at high speeds over light iron rails created conditions of rapid rail wear that the three mechanical engineers on the Board do not seem to have appreciated. The speed of 50 mph attained by No.6, with its eleven ton axle load, passed without comment. It was enough for them that the engine ‘appeared to have an easy motion on the rails.’ They therefore commended all the classes with inside cylinders, and the new 4-4-0 which had outside cylinders, but condemned the Buzzwinkers, which they not only thought were unsuitable for the light lines, but were mistakes for any type of service. (They were, however, regarded as appropriate for the Beechworth line). They reasoned that it was impossible to balance the strong piston thrusts of engines with average sized outside cylinders when small wheels were used. If the driving wheels were larger, compensating balance weights could be cast in the wheels, but on small wheels there was not enough space to do this. If the cylinders were smaller, as on No.34, the little G&MR Single Meikle had rebuilt, or on the engines he had seen in Queensland, the piston thrusts would be milder, and therefore easier to balance, even on a small wheel. 
Meikle told the Inquiry Board that his 0-6-0 Buzzwinker was designed with the 1 in 30 gradients on the Beechworth line in mind.  This was a bit of a stretch, as the Beechworth line was not one of the original light lines that precipitated the design, although it had been surveyed and was soon to be included in the next Railway Construction Bill.  Meikle had two of the eight goods Buzzwinkers specially fitted with steam brakes for service on the Beechworth line, and both were attached to the fourteen car special train for the opening in October 1876. A third engine was added for good measure at Everton,  but in their haste the train left with inadequate water supplies. Perhaps forgetting his experience on the picnic train to Ballarat nine months earlier, Meikle encouraged the crew to steam harder, but the driver adamantly refused, fearing the consequences if low water in the boiler uncovered the firebox crown sheet with catastrophic consequence. The dignitaries aboard had no idea of the drama on the cab, and proceeded with the celebrations at Beechworth while the engines dashed to the water crane! 
The success of his goods Buzzwinkers on the steeply graded Beechworth line was forgotten in the recriminations that followed the release of Higinbotham’s report, as was the good work being done by No.100 and the ten ‘Green Jackets’ on the North Eastern mainline. Also ignored were his two prototype 4-4-0s nearing completion at Williamstown, and the eight of similar design being built by Phoenix. Someone had to be blamed, as Higinbotham had not only criticised Phoenix but also those in the Locomotive Branch responsible for the designs and the acceptance of the finished rolling stock.  From the outset the conservatives tended to side with Higinbotham, and the protectionists with Phoenix.  Meikle was the scapegoat.
For a man of 57 who had spent most of his career employed by private companies, his years with the Victorian Railways had been very challenging. The constant interference by politicians and the press was wearing, and early in 1876 Meikle had advised the Minister that he would not stay in the job once he qualified for a pension. With the statutory seven years completed, he tendered his resignation on 9th January 1877, the very day Jones began the process for establishing a Board of Inquiry. The resignation was meant to be kept confidential for some weeks, but The Ballarat Star found out next day and announced that Meikle had resigned due to the upcoming Board of Inquiry. This mischievous speculation was quickly corrected by the Minister in The Argus. 
An encouragement for Meikle in the face of the coming storm was the trial of his first 4-4-0. He rode the engine with Workshops Foreman Robinson Jackson, and both were pleased with its performance. Both prototypes, Nos. 38 and 44, were placed in service by the end of January,  in time for testing by the Board of Inquiry. Its three members arrived in Melbourne on Saturday 22nd February and began work the following Monday, Higinbotham being the first to give evidence.  The Board must have been ignorant of Proverbs 18:17 – ‘The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him’, as no one cross examined the Engineer-in-Chief or the men from Williamstown who were interviewed over the following week or so. It was ten days before Shaw got wind of what was happening and penned a protest to the Board. 
The Board had passed through Ballarat and inspected the Phoenix Foundry on their two day tour of the new light lines,  and subsequently took evidence from Meikle and Mirls all day on 6th March.  They gave no indication to the Board that Phoenix had ever been advised of defective materials or faulty workmanship in the locomotives supplied, despite Shaw’s undertaking to make good any poor workmanship at his company’s expense. Neither had Higinbotham or any other railway employee revealed this. When Shaw finally gave evidence on Thursday 15th March, defending 36 instances of alleged faulty construction,  the Board realised it had not looked into the correspondence between the Locomotive Branch and Phoenix.  They decided to recall Meikle the following day, but that evening Mr and Mrs Meikle were given a farewell Valedictory Tea at the Williamstown Congregational Church. They were presented with a beautifully illuminated address, which in part read:
‘As deacon of our Church, you, dear Sir, have certainly “purchased to yourself a good degree,”and in all good works and generous actions you have both exhibited the ‘ready mind and open hand.’
The Argus noted that the presentation was made by the pastor, Rev. J. J. Halley, who bore testimony to the integrity and uprightness of Mr. Meikle, and his value to the church, and that they were to leave for England next day. 
The next day was Friday 16th, and must have been a busy one for Meikle as he had to get their belongings aboard the S.S. Somersetshire and attend a farewell banquet which the Locomotive Branch had arranged for that evening. In the middle of it all Meikle had to appear again before Scott, Horniblow and Thow, and explain why he had not advised Phoenix of the defects found in their locomotives. 
The Board had virtually finished their report, only to find that Phoenix could hardly be blamed for faulty work if they had been kept in ignorance, so a rapid adjustment to their findings was now necessary. Had a Phoenix representative been present during all the proceedings, a far more balanced process would have ensued, but the three Board members were locomotive men, not lawyers. They were pawns in a highly charged political game, and as government railwaymen themselves they appear to have had sympathy with their Williamstown brethren. That the Locomotive Branch were keeping a record of faults was normal practice, but Meikle knew that making complaints to Phoenix while protectionists held sway in the government would be regarded as trouble making, besides which most of the 36 documented faults were due to inadequate materials, about which nothing could be done. Furthermore, Major Smith could also be quite volatile, and had abused one of Meikle’s engine drivers during the testing of Phoenix’s first locomotives built for the Victorian Railways.  Shaw was also vocal in his defence of Phoenix, and both had the ear of the protectionists in Parliament and the Press. Parliament had willingly authorised purchase of locomotives locally at inflated prices for an inferior product, and Meikle no doubt saw his responsibility as making them work. That his men agreed is evident by the wonderful send-off they gave him that evening.
About 150 employees of the Locomotive Branch and friends met at the Sabloniere Hotel in the City, where the chairman reflected on the cordial relations which had existed between Mr. Meikle and all who had been brought in contact with him. He and his wife Jane were presented with a beautiful epergne mounted on a Blackwood base. The silver work depicted a fern tree, native animals and an aborigine, and prominently an engraving of engine No.100. In addition Mr. Meikle received a handsome illuminated address, and Mrs Meikle a gold brooch set with pearls and opals. She had made many friends over the previous seven years and despite being unwell, her husband assured the gathering that ‘although small in body…she is a regular high pressure machine when required’.
The Rev. Halley, who was again present, praised the integrity and uprightness of the Meikles, and spoke of his affection for them and his ‘extreme pleasure’ of their company. William Meikle then reflected on his time in Victoria:
‘Man, you know, is a many-sided creature, with a large number of angularities which constant association with his fellows tends to remove, thus causing them to fit closer together. If a man had no enemies it would not be so well for him, as he would have none to rub against in order to rub him smooth… During my connection with the Victorian Railways I have always found my subordinates to be fully equal to any which I have met with elsewhere, although there may be a little more friction connected with the management of a government undertaking than there is in a private company. But I now find my enthusiasm dying out, and I can appreciate the words of Shakespeare, who said – “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown;” for the crown of authority has sat heavily upon my brow for some time past….I never imagined myself to be infallible in skill, or to be incapable of making a mistake. I have only to ask credit for doing what every other man should do, and that is his best…’
The S.S. Somersetshire steamed away from Williamstown Pier at 1.30pm the following afternoon, with the Meikles as saloon passengers.  The goodwill of their friends at Williamstown and the men of the Locomotive Branch was not reciprocated in the press and parliament. Conservatives and liberals alike could only criticise. He was branded an ‘unknown colonial locomotive superintendent’ and that ‘no English firm would have consented to work on Mr. Meikle’s plans’.  He was accused of laying traps for Phoenix,  and his last days in Melbourne were misrepresented as fleeing the Inquiry:-
‘…strange just at the time the board had discovered the defects of the designs, Mr. Meikle, the superintendent of locomotives, should have left the service and quitted the colony, and actually had to be brought from on board ship to give evidence on matters of vital importance to the constructors.’ 
The conservatives exonerated Higinbotham as ‘an honest and competent Engineer-in-Chief’ without whom ‘the evidence that “some body has blundered,” or that a job of a disreputable character has been perpetrated, would not probably have been elicited’.  The liberals were not so inclined to let him off the hook, noting that the inquiry had really ended in an indictment against him as head of the railway department.  Both conservatives and liberals defended Phoenix and ignored the findings of the Inquiry that commended aspects of Meikle’s engines and condemned aspects of Phoenix’s work that were quite unconnected with the designs.
After the Inquiry, Thow sailed back to Adelaide, while Scott and Horniblow went back north overland,  becoming among the first passengers to use the co-ordinated train-coach-train service established by the Victorian Railways, Cobb & Co. and the NSW Railways between Melbourne and Sydney.  Joseph Jones lost office the following May, being replaced as Commissioner by John Woods. Conveniently forgetting that he had urged Meikle to prepare designs using outside cylinders for the light lines,  he now said that after his engines were put together, painted, and made complete, they should have been run into the bay. He went on to commend Phoenix, which had just turned out a bogie engine which he was prepared to back against the world. He did not have the grace to credit Meikle with its design!  But the Inquiry Board had found Meikle’s design for these eight 4-4-0s a ‘very fair’ one. 
Meikle’s departure left the colony bereft of locomotive design capability. His replacement was Solomon Mirls, the Chief Draughtsman at Williamstown Workshops. Mirls was born in Manchester in 1843 and as a lad was apprenticed to the locomotive builders Sharp, Stewart, and Co. Emigrating to Victoria in 1861 he joined the VR that December as a draughtsman in the locomotive branch under Frederick Christy. He subsequently assumed the duties of Chief Clerk as well as Draughtsman, and was acting Overseer of Locomotives in 1876 while William Meikle was on leave. 
During his tenure at Williamstown Meikle had designed seven locomotives and rebuilt two classes of Singles. Of these only the Buzzwinkers were criticised, but the critics decided to forget the hurried circumstances and constraints under which Meikle had been forced to produce the designs. All Meikle’s engines were locally built, either at Williamstown or Ballarat, and he can rightly be regarded as the father of the Victorian locomotive industry. His designs and the colonial workmanship that went into them were not world-beaters, but nevertheless they were fit-for-purpose. When all the fuss died down, even the Buzzwinkers waddled on for about thirty years after Woods’ premature epitaph, being useful on heavier track at lower speeds. If they had really been bad they would have been scrapped as soon as their boilers needed replacement. Instead, they were reboilered in the course of their service lives, and given modifications such as new cylinders, air brakes, chimneys, cabs and cow catchers, in common with improvements being made across the locomotive fleet. 
American and Colonial Locomotives Compared
The Board had found, much to Shaw’s chagrin, that there were indeed defects in his firm’s locomotives, but in view of the uncooperativeness of Meikle or his inspectors in identifying and seeking to rectify the faults, they were sympathetic to the company.
‘In no respect have we detected any disposition on the part of the Phoenix Foundry, to take undue advantage of the Government’, they found ‘and we think that the many errors into which it has fallen, are such as might be expected to beset a young and inexperienced firm, although it does its best with untrained workmen and inadequate appliances at its command, when it was almost entirely left without the aid and advice of the Railway Department, which might have been of great assistance to it…’
They also found that the government had paid £26,445 more for its engines by contracting to Phoenix, than they would have by importing equivalent power from England.  Shortly after the Board made this finding, the first two American 4-4-0s were landed at Williamstown at a cost of £2,645 each.  In other words, the opportunity cost of the Phoenix contracts was ten additional locomotives and that does not take into account the benefits of their extra haulage power and reduced damage to the light iron rails. Arguably the most eye catching locomotives ever seen in Victoria, the two American type 4-4-0s were landed and assembled in mid-1877. Built by the firm of Rogers, in Paterson, New Jersey, which had perfected the same design 25 years earlier,  they were later classed D, but were called ‘The Giants’ by enginemen. They were equivalent in power to Sturrock’s B class main line passenger 2-4-0s, but nearly 25 per cent longer – making them the longest locomotives on the roster.  Although purchased for running mixed trains on 60 lb iron railed track, they exerted enough tractive power to equal Sturrock’s heavy main line goods engines. All this power was clothed in a magnificent multi-coloured costume, with frilly brass-work, prompting the alternative and more feminine nicknames of ‘Nell Rogers’ and ‘Nell’s Sister’, after the visiting teenage American actress ‘Little Nell’. 
The axle load of these American engines was 10½ tons, still a little heavy for 50 lb. iron railed lines, but nevertheless they were allocated to Geelong and later to Ballarat for work on the Colac and Ararat lines. Throughout their 30 year career they remained on the light lines,  despite their gross weight of 31½ tons, which was just one ton less than the mainline 2-4-0. But the latter engine had an axle load of 13 tons. That the Giants were also capable of a turn of speed is evidenced by their later use on the Adelaide Express between Ballarat and Ararat.
The Rogers locomotives were the first American locomotives in the Australasian colonies, but not by much. Allison Smith, Locomotive Superintendent of the New Zealand Railways (NZR), had ordered two 3’6” gauge 2-4-2’s, also from Rogers,  and John Rae, Commissioner of the New South Wales Government Railways (NSWGR) had ordered a couple of American type 4-4-0s from the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia.  All these engines were placed in service within months of one another.
Three months after the Rogers ‘Giants’ entered service, the first of Meikle’s 4-4-0s was delivered. Although they were a neat design, they turned out no lighter on the track than the small Beyer, Peacock 2-4-0 that Phoenix had copied earlier, and not quite as powerful.  So with more engines urgently needed for the new lines constantly being opened, Phoenix was asked to build another ten locomotives to the Beyer, Peacock 2-4-0 design. After seven years the colony was no nearer a locomotive ideal for light lines, but in December 1877 Dr. Williams arrived for a sales tour of the colony. He was from the firm Burnham, Parry and Williams, otherwise known as the Baldwin Locomotive Works. He had accompanied the two American type locomotives his company had built for the NSWGR, and later visited other colonies.  This resulted in an order being placed for two American 4-6-0 ‘Ten Wheelers’, a flexible design similar to the 4-4-0 but with an added pair of driving wheels. They arrived in early 1880 and at last provided the solution that had eluded anglophile engineers for nearly a decade. Their axle load was a low 8¾ tons, but their boiler was roughly equivalent to that of the Giants. With wheels 4’3” in diameter, they were able to deliver a 20 per cent greater tractive effort than the goods Buzzwinkers, but with an axle load ⅔ ton less. Indeed, they were lighter on their feet than any other locomotive in the fleet. Had Higinbotham been more aware of mechanical engineering, he may have recommended a Yankee Ten Wheeler instead of the Rogers ‘Giants’. He certainly would have seen them working during his tour, as they had been in continuous production in America since 1850, and were second only to the 4-4-0 ‘American’ type in popularity.