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Chapter Four


Protection of colonial manufacturing was one of the twin planks in the radical liberal platform. The other was to wrest crown land from squatters and turn their sheep runs into farms.[1] Protectionists were bent on forcing local manufacture onto the railways, and selectors were pushing for cheap railways that would hasten the spread of wheat farming. The radicals needed control of the railways to achieve both these objectives.

The Locomotive Branch managed all the locomotives and rolling stock, and the Williamstown workshops. To the protectionists, this hub of manufacturing potential was a plum waiting to be plundered! Having snatched the Locomotive Branch from Thomas Higinbotham’s domain they proceeded to meddle in its management throughout the Seventies and early Eighties. In the ensuing turmoil ten new locomotive designs appeared in as many years, together with the rebuilding of three older types. Six were designed and built locally. The foreign designs were copied for local manufacture.

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,[2] and 24 locomotives of no less than seven distinct designs. Ten more locomotives were on order to yet another design.[3] During Higinbotham’s tenure the number of different locomotive designs would multiply. Passenger engines were given even numbers and goods engines odd numbers, but no means of classifying the various designs was devised until 1886. By then there were so many that nearly every letter of the alphabet was needed to give each a class. If it was confusing then, it is more so for the reader of history. Therefore in this and all succeeding chapters, the 1886 classification is used when referring to specific locomotives.

Most of the locomotives Higinbotham inherited were made to the designs of Daniel Gooch, the Locomotive Superintendent of the Great Western Railway in England. It appears Gooch was consulting locomotive engineer for both the G&MR and the Victorian Railways[4], which were amalgamated shortly after Higinbotham took over. The new Engineer-in-Chief realised that none of his 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.[5] The single pair of driving wheels (or ‘drivers’) 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 supported by the drivers 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.

There were three designs of 2-2-2 Singles which carried the water needed for the boiler in a tank beneath the footplate. These small capacity ‘well tanks’ needed replenishment about every 20 miles. This, together with their single 6’6” diameter driving wheel made them inappropriate for the colony, especially for the heavily graded main lines. The two designs of Singles purchased by the government had six foot drivers. The solitary No. 1 built by George England & Co., at Hatcham near London, was soon followed by 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.[6] They became the J class, but most of the Singles were disposed of by 1886 and remained unclassed.

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, including an ex G&MR well tank. These the Victorian Railways found of little use. The wonderfully named ‘Goliath’ and ‘Sampson’ became plain Nos. 19 and 21,[7] and they remained unclassed. The other two designs were typical English goods engines of the late 1850’s, similar to those on Gooch’s own Great Western Railway, and some on the Egyptian railways.[8] 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 became the V class, and were quite inadequate for the heavy grades on the Sandhurst and Ballarat lines. Beyer Peacock & Co. supplied the second group, which later became the P class. They 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.[9]

Beyer Peacock 2-2-2 Single No. 2 being prepared for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Royal Train. Spencer Street 1868. PROV H3889.

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 Victorian Railways were the ten 2-4-0s, later classed L. They carried their water supply in a tank wrapped over the boiler, prompting enginemen to call them ‘Saddlebacks’. At 37⅜ tons, these ‘saddle tank’ locomotives were the heaviest on the roster.[10] Confronted with this heterogeneous collection of dubious worth, Higinbotham sought the advice of his old Great Northern Railway (GNR) colleague in England, Archibald Sturrock. Higinbotham had been a Resident Engineer on the GNR when Sturrock took over as Locomotive Superintendent.[11] He supplied two six wheeled designs for the Victorian Railways. The passenger engine was a 2-4-0 type with two pairs of 6 foot diameter driving wheels. It became the B class and was very similar to his highly successful 1855 design for GNR, which used them on heavy main line passenger trains.[12] They could run as fast as the Victorian Railways 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.

Sturrock’s 2-4-0 main line passenger locomotive No.72 at Ballarat circa 1870. PROV H2853.

The other Sturrock design was an 0-6-0 goods engine, later classed O, and was much heavier than the 0-6-0 designs supplied by Gooch. They 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.[13] But they could pull a 56 per cent greater load over the Great Divide than the Gooch V class 0-6-0.[14] The prominent action of their exposed coupling rods earned them the nickname ‘Overarmers’.[15] 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 B and O class designs were proudly displayed at the Melbourne Exhibition.

The Gooch J class and Sturrock B class passenger engines with their six foot drivers were run daily at speeds of 50 mph.[16] 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.[17] 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 Royal Highness arrived at Sandhurst station before breakfast to the cheers of a ‘merry mob’ of over 600 loyalists and boarded the four carriage special 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 B class 2-4-0s 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 J class Singles whisked the train the 45 miles from Melbourne to Geelong in a spirited 58 minutes, a feat requiring speeds well over 60 mph. Another B class 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.[18] 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.[19] With somewhat of a glut, most of the ex G&MR engines were advertised for sale as stationary engines. One and possibly two were sold, but the others were put in a shed and they stood rusting away after less than ten years of work.[20] Discounting the G&MR locomotives, there was an effective locomotive roster of 77 engines.

Of the effective fleet, 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.[21] 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 main line had been authorised by parliament.

Sturrock’s O class 0-6-0 main line goods locomotive No. 37 with other O class 0-6-0s and B class 2-4-0s at the Spencer Street engine shed circa 1870. Author’s Collection.

Colonial Manufacture: Main Line Locomotives 1870-1872.

The new line to Wodonga would increase the length of the government railway by 72 percent[22], 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 because only a handful of locomotives had been made in the colony.

The first engines on the M&HBR were locally made contraptions that had short careers, but in 1862 the Melbourne firm of Enoch Chambers assembled a 2-4-0 that the contractors Cornish and Bruce had ordered from Robert Stephenson in Newcastle-on-Tyne. With it came a duplicate set of wheels, axles, and springs, and boiler tubes. Chambers decided to use these parts in a second locomotive. The artisans in his Little Collins Street foundry copied the frames, cylinders, rods, boiler, tender and other features of the Stephenson locomotive they had just assembled, using it as a pattern. This was the first use of an imported locomotive as a pattern for colonial copies. Over the next twenty years this process became a commonplace.[23]

'First Victorian' 2-4-0 Spencer Street 1862
The ‘First Victorian’ 2-4-0T built in Melbourne by Enoch Chambers for railway contractors Cornish and Bruce, at the Spencer Street engine shed prior to a test trip in October 1862.

Longmore’s investigations convinced him that colonial foundries were not up to the task of making a large order and decided to follow the advice of the English consulting engineers, Brereton and Lewis. He placed orders for 14 locomotives of Sturrock’s designs; six B class 2-4-0s and eight O class 0-6-0s. [24] 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 the six B class engines. In 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. The telegram took six weeks to reach its destination![25] 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, [26] but a week later another telegram completed its slow passage from the Agent General in London.

Wilson was informed 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.[27] Work on the engine began in November 1870,[28] 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.[29] 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 copied from the best parts of several of the existing English engines.[30]

Meikle also commenced the rebuilding of the five J class Beyer Peacock Singles as 2-4-0s with smaller coupled driving wheels. Christy had already successfully converted No. 12 (the original No. 1) from a Single to a 2-4-0.[31] 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 B class 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 of Meikle’s rebuilds were encouraging. Being smaller than the B class 2-4-0 it consumed less fuel, and its increased tractive effort enabled it to get smartly away from station stops. It could manage 50 mph, enabling it to maintain passenger train schedules.[32] Two more of the J class were rebuilt by May 1871, but with more than enough engines on the roster, the pace slowed, and the conversion of the remaining two stretched out into the second half of 1872.[33]

Another reason for slackening the pace was the uncertainty generated in 1871 as to the future of the 5’3” gauge. For a time it seemed possible that the North Eastern line would be altered to narrow gauge, making all Meikle’s work redundant. Much as 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.[34] 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.[35] 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 O class 0-6-0 in order to save weight but it was geared down with smaller drivers to apply an almost equivalent tractive force. It was thereby able to haul an equivalent load, albeit at a lower efficient speed.[36]

Railwaymen almost certainly hoped to build the new engines at Williamstown, but the facilities there were inadequate. When Longmore returned as Minister of Railways with the change of government in June 1871, Meikle found him sympathetic with plans for a new boiler shop. A contract for the work was let the following October for £1,190.[37] This promised to give Williamstown an edge over any other colonial contender for locomotive construction. It is likely the intention was for Williamstown to build more 2-4-0s like No.100 but they would not have the capacity to also build the 0-6-0.

The 0-6-0 goods locomotives Wilson had previously ordered from England were basically similar, but not identical to the Sturrock designed O class the Victorian Railways had purchased for the Sandhurst and Ballarat lines. The order had been given to the relatively unknown Yorkshire Engine Co., which had only made about 150 locomotives.[38] Dubbed ‘Yorkies’ by enginemen,[39] the first of the six arrived in May 1871. Meikle was disappointed, and wrote to the Commissioner soon afterwards tabulating a litany of faults, concluding that no British railway company would accept an engine delivered in such a state.[40] The shoddy workmanship of the ‘Yorkies’ played into the hands of the protectionists, for not only were they faulty, they were expensive.

On average the Yorkies cost nearly £3,000 each,[41] 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,[42] but the Commissioner had already made up his mind to go local, having called tenders for ten 0-6-0s on 22nd June.[43] He had no intention of seeking expressions of interest from English builders, as the tenders were to close in just six weeks. And to freeze out 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.[44] To fend off any criticism from free traders, he tabled Meikle’s report on the ‘Yorkies’ faults and their cost in parliament.[45] 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 terminated his contract.[46]

Francis Longmore MLA, Minister of Railways and Roads 1869-70, 1871-72. Batchelder & Co. photograph, courtesy Victorian Parliamentary Library.

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 splashers. The painted dome covers prompted their nickname ‘Greenbacks’.[47] Perhaps due to criticism of his predecessor for putting an iron cab on No. 13,[48] Meikle specified a simple wooden cab with corrugated iron roof similar to that provided on the B class engines; a cab that became standard for engines built over the following decade.[49]

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.[50] 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.[51] This was only days before tenders were called for Meikle’s goods engines. But 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 was subsequently 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.[52]

Ballarat interests were therefore ready and willing to build larger locomotives for the government, provided materials could be purchased duty free.[53] The government had stuck by the decision to build the North Eastern line as broad gauge, despite Longmore’s promotion of narrow gauge. So the locomotive contract was tentatively awarded to the Phoenix Foundry on 18th August 1871[54] and confirmed on 15th September.[55] These ten 0-6-0s which became the Q class may well have been the last 5’3” gauge locomotives put on the Victorian Railways. The struggle between Higinbotham and Longmore over the gauge issue remained unresolved for another year.

William Meikle’s 0-6-0 ‘Greenback’ was the first order built by the Phoenix Foundry for the Victorian Railways. No. 83, the first of ten, is posed soon after its completion in March 1873. PROV 2393.

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 light lines were confirmed in July 1872, only a handful were light enough to work over 50 lb iron rails. But locomotives were of crucial importance to the success of light lines.

The heaviest goods wagon weighed about 14 tons, or 3½ tons per wheel. The heaviest locomotives were twice that weight, with wheel loads of 6½ to 7 tons.[56] A locomotive could do more damage to the track than all the rest of its train put together. Heavy wheel loading fatigues and distorts rails and punishes the track foundation. The effect is exacerbated by poorly balanced reciprocating masses on a locomotive kicking the rails out of true alignment. The faster a poorly balanced locomotive is driven, the greater the damage inflicted on the track.

If the weight placed on iron rails was too great, they were crushed or laminated long before they wore out; sometimes in just a few months. Steel rails proved less brittle, but could still suffer distortion of shape.[57] Excessive wheel loads also pound and split wooden sleepers, further weakening the track. The stremmatograph tests illustrated below graphically demonstrate how stresses increase with train speed.[58] The top diagram shows an accentuated effect of rail deflection under wheel loading. The lower diagrams show compression and tension effects on rails of trains moving 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.

Stresses of wheels on rails
Stremmatograph tests made in 1897 showing deflection of rails under wheel loading (exaggerated).) W.H. Sellew.

Throughout the first age of railways there was no means of enforcing speed limits on enginemen. [59] (The same occurred later with road transport, with speed limits not being imposed until the early 1950’s). The Victorian Railways did not fit a locomotive with a speed recorder until 1897,[60] and in the meantime the light lines 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. This ensured track with the resilience to absorb impacts and maintain a true vertical and horizontal alignment. But the passing of the 1871 Railway Construction Act was a ticket to trouble, with lines laid with 50 lb iron rails and no suitable locomotives. The Americans had solved the problem, and even English manufacturers had locomotives that would make do, but the protectionists had closed the door to imports.

The American Solution

Designs of locomotives of adequate power for use on light railways were developed in America from the 1830’s and were steadily improved until perfected in 1852 by the firm of Rogers, in Patterson, New Jersey.[61] 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 or ‘Eight Wheeler’, were made of iron bars instead of plates. This reduced weight and gave the engine greater 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.

Diagram of a bogie truck with centre pivot. J.W. Barry, Railway Appliances, London, 1876, p. 274.

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.[62] (At the time a comfortable cottage could be built for £200).

Straight and cranked locomotive axles. Clive Emsley, Bluebell Railway.

The pistons on two-cylinder locomotives were set 90 degrees from each other. This optimised torque, but the thrusts transmitted through the connecting rods to the axle created balance issues. English practice favoured rigid plate framed, six-wheeled locomotives with cylinders between the frames and the connecting rods driving a cranked axle. Using a cranked axle minimised the balance problem by keeping the two connecting rods close together. But on a locomotive with outside cylinders the connecting rods were separated, each one outside the frames. This amplified the oscillation from side to side caused by piston thrusts, and created lateral instability, especially at speed. The American type 4-4-0 mitigated this effect by using long connecting rods.

The American 4-4-0 therefore combined features in a truly remarkable machine that spread its weight over eight wheels, was robust, easy to maintain and could negotiate the worst track with ease. By following the uneven alignment of rails it was able to dance over track that would have derailed an English locomotive at similar speed. By 1870, 85 percent of all American locomotives were of this type, and in total about 25,000 were built.[63] But English engineers remained ignorant of the Americans’ achievements, and were prejudiced against the totally different system that had evolved in the USA 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.

Diagrammatic illustration of major differences between American and English locomotive design and accentuated tracking of wheels on curves.

The first exhibition of an American Eight Wheeler in Europe was not until 1867,[64] but away from the pioneer railroads it was designed to serve it must have been a mere curiosity. 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.[65] The 80 lb per yard rail laid on the Victorian Railways main lines 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. (‘Axle load’ is the preferred expression in railway engineering, counting the wheel loading of both wheels on an axle).

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 drivers 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.

On steep gradients the small locomotives that were mandatory simply ran out of puff. The little C class engines purchased by the Queensland Railways in 1867 to work the Toowoomba line with its 40 lb iron rails only managed a load of 65 tons up the 1 in 50 grades. The C class weighed only 16¼ tons and had 39 inch diameter drivers.[66] The heaviest O class locomotives on the Victorian Railways were very big engines for their day at 39¼ tons with 60 inch diameter drivers. They could plod up the 1 in 50 grades on the Sandhurst line with trains of about 200 tons; a load three times greater than the Queensland locomotives.[67]

Meikle’s Dilemma

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. Phoenix were still building the ten 0-6-0 goods engines Meikle had designed for the North Eastern line and was on a very steep learning curve. The first of those ten would not steam until March 1873.[68] 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 Longmore once again on the Opposition benches, Higinbotham and Meikle 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.[69] But the protectionists got wind of developments and raised a storm in the Legislative Assembly on 14th August.

Foremost among them was William Collard Smith MLA, often referred to as Major Smith, or just ‘The Major’. That was his militia rank in the Ballarat Rifle Rangers. Later on he was promoted and was addressed as ‘Colonel Smith’. He was the Member for Ballarat West and Mayor of Ballarat, but also Chairman of Directors of the Phoenix Foundry.[70] 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.[71] ‘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.’ [72]

Early in the debate William Zeal questioned the need for any new engines. Always ready to second guess the decisions of railway management, he drew attention to the old G&MR engines, ‘which could be utilised and made to do the work required on the new lines’.[73] Speaker after speaker attacked the government. The Minister of Railways tried to placate them by announcing that he proposed to call tenders within a fortnight for local construction of nine engines. This did not satisfy Major Smith, who also wanted the six intended for English manufacture.[74] 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’.[75]

Shortly afterwards the Chief Secretary capitulated, telling the Assembly a telegram would be sent on the morrow instructing the Agent General to refuse acceptance of any English tenders, as tenders would be invited in the colony.[76] 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.[77] Only the orders for the two pattern engines for light lines were placed with the Manchester firm of Beyer Peacock.

Telegraph Repeater Station at Strangways Springs, in the South Australian desert. Initially a single copper wire was the vital link with ‘Home’ 13,500 miles away. SLSA B-1490.

Next day, Thursday 15th August 1872,[78] 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. 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.[79] To avoid the need to import crank axles, Woods was also pressing Meikle to prepare a design with its cylinders outside the frames.[80] Meikle resisted, as at that time the Victorian Railways had only two locomotives with outside cylinders. These were 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.[81]

Meikle 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’.[82] His own statements imply that he knew the flaw in a powerful locomotive of this type. Short connecting rods would create 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. If the new engines were to be made wholly in the colony, simple straight axles were a design prerequisite, and this dictated the outside cylinders. So for the sake of avoiding the import of one component, the protectionists nearly wrecked the whole light lines experiment.

The South Australians meanwhile pushed ahead with light lines, Mais placing orders on Robert Stephenson & Co in England for additional 4-4-0 locomotives broadly similar to those supplied in 1859.[83] But in Victoria there was just one locomotive 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.[84] (These later became the C class). This engine was commissioned in 1871, but loaning their only new engine to the government railway for dismantling and copying was too much to expect.

Even if a loan might have been arranged, some re-design work would have been necessary. It would need altering from a short range suburban well tank to a longer range design with fuel and water in a separate tender. Even then, it would have been underpowered for the 1 in 50 gradients on the new lines. In hind sight that would have been manageable. Some years later a trial of one of these M&HBUR 4-4-0 engines was made on the Woodend line.[85]

Ex-M&HBUR Stephenson 4-4-0 Well Tank and American Saloon bogie carriage. ARHS Archives.

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 at best a redesigned M&HBUR engine would manage about 80 tons.[86] 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[87] hurriedly put together the outline of two such engines, one a goods 0-6-0, the other a passenger 2-4-0.

Within two weeks he was in a position to call tenders for their manufacture.[88] 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. [89] The M&HBUR is reputed to have sent its orders direct to Robert Stephenson’s Newcastle works, without directions as to construction or price.[90] 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 J class 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.[91] 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.

William Meikle’s 1872 conversion of No. 36, the ex- G&MR Single ‘Oberon’ to a more useful 2-4-0. Charles Nettleton, SLV B47981.

As the prototypes took shape they were a means of solving practical design issues. 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.[92] In total, 17 engines had been ordered ‘off the drawing board’, to dubious designs, and with no opportunity to make and 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 Woods, who advocated ‘doing away with unnecessary finish, and thereby bringing the cost closer to imported English locomotives.’ [93] 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.[94]

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.[95] 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.[96] 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, Meikle specified a generous boiler. Both designs were smaller and lighter than his main line engines, but they were provided 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,[97] but it was not enough.

A light lines 0-6-0 ordered by the Deniliquin & Moama Railway photographed at the Beyer Peacock works in Manchester, 1876. James Mudd. History of Photography Archive.

But for the overconfident protectionists the light lines would have been a success from the start. The two pattern engines ordered from Beyer Peacock were placed in service before the first of the new light lines were opened, [98] and a copy of the 0-6-0 design was ordered by the Deniliquin & Moama Railway (D&MR) the following year.[99] Both the Beyer Peacock 0-6-0 (later the T class) and the 2-4-0 (F class) were eventually built locally in some numbers, having proved to be perfectly adequate for the task.[100] Instead, Phoenix had to later undergo re-tooling for six designs where two would have sufficed. It would have been cheaper to locally copy large numbers of the two Beyer Peacock designs, and would have also been more profitable for Phoenix.

Building the First Light Lines Engines

While Phoenix was finishing the Q class engines for the North Eastern main line, Williamstown Workshops had commenced work building two prototype light lines 0-6-0s. Forced to flesh out his design[101] quickly, Meikle was cast back on the existing locomotives and chose the most suitable features to adapt. But Williamstown was hampered by the absence of a foundry, so Phoenix was contracted to make the prototype engine’s cylinders.[102]

The boiler chosen for the prototypes bears a striking resemblance to that on the J class, which was domeless. But the trickiest part was the machinery, as Meikle’s new engines had to have wheels, cylinders and valve motion quite unlike any of the Victorian Railways’ existing engines. A solution was worked out on the shop floor as the engines were assembled, but initial tests showed further modification to the valve gear was necessary.[103] The results were then passed to Phoenix for incorporation on all fifteen light lines engines.

Williamstown engine builders with Meikle’s prototype light lines 0-6-0 in 1873. PROV H2344.

As a gesture to his artisans at Williamstown, Meikle had one of the new prototype engines 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 another design flaw in the machinery manifested. One of the piston rods sheared and damaged the cylinder head, disabling the locomotive. An embarrassed Meikle 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.[104]

Faults had already been found in the locomotives Phoenix had built for the North Eastern line. An article critical of the Ballarat company appeared in The Age, but Phoenix defended itself through the pages of The Ballarat Star.[105] Tensions between Williamstown Workshops and Phoenix simmered away and eventually boiled over. Meikle, his Chief Draughtsman Solomon Mirls[106] 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 Victorian Railways received an inferior product for an inflated price and would do better building its own locomotives.[107] 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.’ [108] Not that English locomotives were perfect, especially the ‘Yorkies’.

Phoenix was 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.[109] 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 contract for fifteen light lines engines on 17th January 1873[110] they took in 60 to 70 boys to be trained as apprentices. Three years later they were employing 150 men and boys.[111] The light lines locomotives were delivered between July 1874 and May 1875[112] at an average cost of £3,300 each.[113] They were expensive little engines: Elsdon had purchased one of similar size for £2,400 for the M&HBUR.[114]

Phoenix Foundry U class 0-6-0 ‘Buzzwinker’ No. 111 at Echuca circa 1885. PROV H4759 (detail).

In public, Meikle was proud of his creations,[115] 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 track. They were not only driven fast, but were put in service before the newly laid track had properly bedded down. An adverse report was submitted to the Commissioner of Railways, Duncan Gillies, in June 1874. It was written by W.H. (William) Greene, the Resident Engineer at Kyneton.[116] He was supervising construction of the Castlemaine to Dunolly line, the first to be laid with 50 lb iron rails. About this line he had nothing good to say. Higinbotham was then 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,[117] and he was right. The finished engines from Phoenix were later found to weigh 27 tons,[118] but in the absence of accurate weighing equipment in Victoria no one was sure at the time. But about one thing Greene was sure. The swaying and pitching motion of the engines would rapidly cause problems on the 50 lb iron rails.[119] 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’,[120] the nickname of Ellen Grimes, a notorious pickpocket of the Ballarat goldfields![121]

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 .[122]

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’ which ‘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.’ [123]

Phoenix Foundry General Manager William Shaw. Ballarat Historical Society Collection

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,[124] and again in his official report on his return.[125] But his criticism of Phoenix was rebuffed; even the conservative Argus leapt to their defence.[126] 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[127] 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.[128]

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. He explained the 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.[129]

The Queensland Railways locomotives were small 2-6-0s, 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 then almost unknown in British practice.[130] 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.[131]

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. Also that month the first of the 15 Buzzwinkers was completed by Phoenix. Both the imported engines had inside cylinders, and while approximately the same power as the Buzzwinkers, were far more neatly arranged.[132] Over the next nine months all the Buzzwinkers were delivered, but the English imports proved to be superior in traffic. Therefore tenders were called locally for 10 copies of the Beyer Peacock 2-4-0, which later became the F class.

The contract was awarded to the Phoenix Foundry in May 1875, [133] along with a loan of the Beyer Peacock’s pattern engine, No. 98. Phoenix 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.[134] Meikle’s small staff would have had to follow the same process, and in any case the complaint was probably sour grapes from Williamstown interests.[135] The Phoenix workshop was ‘far less commodious’ than Williamstown’s, on which £11,000 had been expended since 1871 on improvements.[136]

A Phoenix Foundry 2-4-0 copied from the Beyer Peacock pattern on the turntable at Daylesford, circa 1890. Museums Victoria MM1961.

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[137] and the average mileage per locomotive also rose by 20 per cent.[138] 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 Victorian Railway’s locomotive resources is given by the return to service of twenty year old G&MR Singles, Nos. 40 and 42. They had been struck off the register in 1866 and left to rust in a shed.[139] 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. Railwaymen dubbed them ‘shivering bandboxes’, due to an inclination to quiver and shake. Red Light also criticised Meikle for trialling Le Châtelier’s counter pressure brake, among other things.[140]

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 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.

Woods was made Commissioner of Railways and during his brief incumbency David Syme published seven more of Red Light’s highly critical letters from September 1875. Red Light’s letters to The Age exhibit a knowledge of procedures at Williamstown Workshops and are quite intemperate in tone. [141] 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.[142] 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.

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 railway department. It was further explained by 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’.[143]

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. 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 colonial private industry and overseas.[144]

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 Langridge MLA, who said he had been approached by three or four men from Williamstown complaining against the management. Referring to the letter published by Syme, he claimed the number of men had grown to ‘30 or 40’.[145] 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.[146] Sadly all this goodwill was soon to be undone, but not by Meikle.

The Phoenix Foundry in Doverton Street South, Ballarat, circa 1885. Gold Museum, Soverign Hill.

The radical government were not in power long enough to reinforce their light railway policy, but during his incumbency Woods had 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 K class 2-4-0 passenger Buzzwinkers, No. 114; and also No. 100, Meikle’s 2-4-0 built at Williamstown. The M&HBUR engine later became the C class, and was a British version of the American type locomotives that had so impressed Elsdon on his overseas visit in 1870. Woods was already out of office before the comparative trials were completed in November 1875. Oddly the tests were not carried out on the Castlemaine-Maryborough line, where the value of the bogie engine would be most apparent. The tests were made on the main line.[147]

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 Arthur Wells and Resident Engineer William Greene, Assistant Traffic Manager John 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,[148] an ardent convert to the American type locomotive with its leading bogie which he called a ‘track feeler’. 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…’ [149]

William Meikle’s prototype 4-4-0 No. 38 built at Williamstown Workshops in 1877. PROV H2394.

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 the contract awarded to Phoenix.[150] Meanwhile work proceeded at Williamston on the two prototypes. It is probable that the last of the ex-G&MR Singles were used as a source of parts for these engines. The two 4-4-0s were outshopped in early 1877, one being fitted with a domeless boiler (probably from No. 40, the old ‘Sirocco’), the other with a domed boiler (likely from No. 42, ‘Hurricane’). The boilers also had distinctly different safety valve covers and were clearly second hand, as they were replaced five years later. [151] In the reclassification of engines they became the G class.

Experimenting with American Rolling Stock

The bogie was fundamental to American railway engineering, not just for locomotives, but for carriages and wagons too. 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 or six would do. The dead weight of the extra 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 passenger and freight cars 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. Passengers entered by a door at each end, accessed from an open platform. They 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. Passengers had to be provided with raised station platforms to enter and exit the carriages. The danger of side doors swinging open while moving meant trackside structures had to be set well back from the track. Movement from compartment to compartment and carriage to carriage was not possible.

With only two doors and no internal partitions, American cars were simpler and cheaper to build. Stair wells recessed into the access platforms at each end of a car eliminated the need for high level platforms at stations, and with no side doors structures could be placed nearer the tracks, which was another cost saving.[152] The central passageway enabled conductors to sell and collect tickets while the train was in motion, gangways between the end platforms enabling him to move throughout the train. Therefore fewer station porters as were required, compared to the English system. But most of 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.

Apart from his locomotive work, Meikle designed a bogie wagon and had a prototype built at Williamstown Workshops. Although wood was normally used for rolling stock, he chose to make it of all iron construction. He had used iron for a four-wheeled coal hopper built at Williamstown the previous year.[153] His iron bogie wagon was a success, and in March 1872 a contract was given John Thomas to build eleven similar vehicles.[154] By that time Mais had already introduced bogie carriages on the South Australian Railways,[155] and the Adelaide, Glenelg, and Suburban Railway Company had some on order.[156] When New Zealand opened their first line to 3’6” gauge in January 1873, from Port Chalmers to Dunedin, the Melbourne Herald noted the use of Fairlie locomotives and bogie carriages.[157]

Meikle’s light weight four-wheeled ‘shivering bandboxes’ were introduced in June 1874 but these carriages were clearly not a success.[158] 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.’ [159]

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 1875. The government sponsored a celebration to mark the completion of the initial group of light lines, and the car created a mild sensation.

The Age wondered if it was ‘more after the style of a royal state carriage than a railway carriage for the ordinary purposes of traffic.[160] 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.’ [161]

The first imported American saloon car, 70A in 1874. PROV H1938.

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. They and other American car builders 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 then permitted. The typical Victorian Railways carriage was eight feet wide and 25-30 feet long.[162] 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 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.[163] The week before its completion Mirls submitted a design for a new bogie carriage in a competition initiated by Woods during his brief first term as Commissioner of Railways. [164] 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 very handsome £200 prize! The Mirls design was closely based on the American saloons, and the following July Phoenix was given a contract to build it.[165] Nevertheless, it would take a few more years for bogie carriages to be generally accepted by management.

Higinbotham Creates a Furore

American locomotives gained easier acceptance, with Higinbotham now a strong advocate. 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 tried again to introduce narrow gauge. Although broad 5’3” gauge had been initially adopted in South Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand, all three colonies had switched to 3’6”gauge for new construction in the early 1870’s. So during the first half of 1876 Higinbotham prepared a report on his overseas visit which strongly countered the claims of narrow gauge propagandists. By emphasising failures of narrow gauge railways in North America, Europe and India it is clear 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 50 lb iron rails were a costly mistake he had no doubt, but he was determined to make the best of these light lines and now knew the American 4-4-0 Eight Wheeler 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.[166] It was not difficult for the Engineer-in-Chief to persuade Jones to authorise the purchase of a few American engines for evaluation, and three days later Higinbotham was authorised to instruct his contacts to purchase two American type 4-4-0s. [167] The Age made the wry comment that ‘with regard to engines, the well-known conservatism of the Engineer-in-Chief has altogether failed him’.[168]

Tucked away in his report 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 obliged the Victorian Railways to purchase inferior engines at an inflated price.[169] But intentionally or otherwise, Jones sat on the report for five months 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 another 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.[170] After an exhausting debate over many days, the Assembly failed to agree on either the M&HBUR purchase or the Railway Construction Bill.[171] In the middle of this wrangling Jones tabled Higinbotham’s report on his overseas visit.[172]

The Engineer-in-Chief’s remarks about locomotives escaped notice for 26 days before their discovery 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 one member supported the Engineer-in-Chief, claiming Phoenix had tendered for locomotives in free-trade New South Wales but their price was £1,000 per engine above English tenders. He said ‘not a shilling of dividend had been paid to the proprietors of the company yet’ and he expected it would close in five to ten years.[173] 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…’ [174]

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. In the Assembly Major Smith quoted letters from Meikle approving Phoenix engines, and even nominated him as one of the mechanical engineers who should form the inquiry board, but 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?’ [175]

The Age only supported The Herald to a degree. It heaped praise on Meikle’s No. 100, ‘the crack engine of the colony’, built at Williamstown. But its praise for the Ballarat engines was not so fulsome.[176] Phoenix General Manager Shaw was furious, and The Ballarat Courier described the attack on Phoenix as ‘mean, cowardly, and contemptible in the extreme.’[177] 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. Local support for Phoenix ran so high that the city was decked in flags when its first engines were delivered.[178] Despite having won the contract for the eight new 4-4-0s Meikle had designed, when the fracas began Phoenix was 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 F class No. 98, the 2-4-0 pattern engine imported in 1874.

Phoenix now faced the costly business of starting all over again with the fifth new design in so many years. 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, Woods boasted that he was prepared to ‘back against the world’ the new locomotives.[179]

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.[180] Nevertheless, Higinbotham had cause to be cool towards the man whom Longmore had selected to diminish his accountability. Meikle had reported directly to Longmore and Woods, two men the Engineer-in-Chief disliked. Meikle 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.

Higinbotham 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.[181] Nearly a third of its traffic was from Victoria, and the 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.

For a man of 57 who had spent most of his career employed by private companies, Meikle’s years with the Victorian Railways had been very challenging. The constant interference by politicians and the press was wearing, and early in 1876 he advised the Commissioner 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.[182]

An encouragement for Meikle in the face of the coming storm was the trial of his first prototype 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,[183] in time for testing by the Board of Inquiry.

Meikle’s last design, a neat light lines 4-4-0. Eight were built by Phoenix Foundry, Ballarat, 1977-78. Charles Nettleton, PROV H1936.

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 a 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…and 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.’ [184]

The Board of Inquiry was chaired by William Scott, Overseer of Locomotives for the NSW 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.[185] 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?[186]

The three men arrived in Melbourne on Saturday 22nd February and began work the following Monday, Higinbotham being the first to give evidence.[187] 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.[188]

To ascertain if the locomotives were suitable for light lines, the Board spent two long days on a circuit of the light railways from Castlemaine to Maryborough, Avoca, Ballarat and Stawell.[189] 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 G class 4-4-0 built at Williamstown. It ran steadily, and took the sharp curves between Castlemaine and Maryborough with apparent ease. No. 125 was their engine from Newstead to Maryborough, and was remarkably steady even at 40 mph. It was the pattern T class 0-6-0 goods type with inside cylinders imported from Beyer Peacock in 1874, but it had yet to be adopted for colonial manufacture.

At Maryborough, they got their first look at a Buzzwinker. This was No. 114, a K class 2-4-0 which took them out to Avoca and back, and then down to Creswick. This they found much less steady and free on curves than No. 38. On the other hand, they could not find that its motion was extraordinary, as the permanent way staff would have had them believe. But 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 U class 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. This inflicted costly damage to the track, and now here was No. 115 doing just that, hurtling down the incline at about 35 mph. 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 J class 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 F class engines Phoenix had copied from the English pattern 2-4-0 No. 98.

William Meikle’s conversions of the five Gooch Singles to a 2-4-0s were pressed into service on light lines. No. 4 at Korong Vale, circa 1885. Charles Nettleton Neg.17 (detail).

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 U class 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.

The final test was with No. 121, also a U class Buzzwinker, which was coupled to a train of about 105 tons gross at Ballarat.[190] 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 Thow. This aspect did not strike them as worthy of comment.[191] But the axle load of the U class goods Buzzwinkers was nearly two tons more than its designed weight, and that of the K class 2½ tons overweight. These engines were therefore 24 to 30 per cent heavier than their design specifications. Even the axle load of the little four-wheeled tenders for these locomotives was nearly a ton heavier than Meikle’s specification.[192]

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 except the heavily graded Beechworth line.

The Board 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.[193]

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.[194] 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.[195] 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,[196] 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![197]

Two of Meikle’s 0-6-0 ‘Buzzwinkers’ on the opening train to Beechworth in 1876. The third engine has been cropped out, but the rear of its tender is just visible. Burke Museum, Beechworth

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 main line. Also ignored were his two G class 4-4-0s nearing completion at Williamstown, and the eight of similar design being built by Phoenix. Someone had to be blamed! Higinbotham had not only criticised Phoenix but held the Locomotive Branch responsible for the designs and also for the acceptance of finished rolling stock.[198] From the outset the conservatives tended to side with Higinbotham, and the protectionists with Phoenix.[199] Meikle was the scapegoat.

The Board had passed through Ballarat and inspected the Phoenix Foundry on their two day tour of the new light lines,[200] and subsequently took evidence from Meikle and Mirls all day on 6th March.[201] 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,[202] the Board realised it had not looked into the correspondence between the Locomotive Branch and Phoenix.[203] They had virtually finished their report, but decided to recall Meikle the following day, Friday 16th, to explain why he had not advised Phoenix of the defects found in their locomotives.[204] It was then revealed that the Locomotive Branch had been keeping a record of faults and that Phoenix could hardly be blamed for faulty work if they had been kept in ignorance. 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.

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 locomotive.[205] Shaw was also vocal in his defence of Phoenix, and both men had the ear of the protectionists in parliament and the press. Meikle no doubt saw his responsibility as making the engines work.

Meikle’s Farewell

The evening before being recalled by the Board, Mr and Mrs Meikle were given a farewell Valedictory Tea at the Williamstown Congregational Church. They were presented with a beautifully illuminated address, which declared that ‘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 Meikle, and his value to the church, and that they were to leave for England next day.[206]

That day was Friday 16th, and must have been a busy one! Meikle had to get their belongings aboard the S.S. Somersetshire, then appear before Board. In the evening he and his wife attended a farewell banquet which the Locomotive Branch had arranged. 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 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 an engraving of engine No. 100, accompanied by fern tree, native animals and an aborigine.

In addition to this generous gift, Meikle received a handsome illuminated address and Jane received 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. 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…’ [207]

SS Somersetshire 2,260 gross tons, a regular on the Plymouth – Melbourne run 1867 – 1881. State Library of Victoria.

The S.S. Somersetshire steamed away from Williamstown Pier at 1.30 pm the following afternoon, with the Meikles as saloon passengers.[208] 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’.[209] He was accused of laying traps for Phoenix,[210] 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.’ [211]

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’. [212] 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.[213] 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,[214] becoming among the first passengers to use the co-ordinated train-stagecoach-train service established by the Victorian Railways, Cobb & Co. and the NSW Railways between Melbourne and Sydney.[215] Joseph Jones lost office the following May, being replaced as Commissioner by Woods. Conveniently forgetting that he had urged Meikle to prepare designs using outside cylinders for the light lines,[216] Woods 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: the 4-4-0 H class. He did not have the grace to credit Meikle with its design! [217] But the Inquiry Board had found Meikle’s design for these eight 4-4-0s a ‘very fair’ one.[218]

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.

Meikle’s 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.[219]

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 Victorian Railways 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 Meikle was on leave.[220]

Solomon Mirls, Victorian Railways Locomotive Superintendent 1878-1889. PROV H1827.

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 it 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.[221] 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.[222] The Buzzwinkers had cost £3,604 each.[223] 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 4-4-0 Eight Wheelers were landed and assembled in mid-1877. They were built by the firm of Rogers, in Paterson, New Jersey, which had perfected the same design 25 years earlier.[224] The engines later became the D class, but were called ‘The Giants’ by enginemen. They were equivalent in power to Sturrock’s B class main line passenger 2-4-0’ s, but nearly 25 per cent longer: the longest locomotives on the roster.[225] Although purchased for running mixed trains on 60 lb iron railed track, they exerted enough tractive power to equal Sturrock’s O class 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’.[226]

Rogers D class ‘Giant’ 4-4-0 No. 162, first American built locomotive imported by an Australasian colony. Charles Nettleton, PROV H1934.

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,[227] despite their gross weight of 31½ tons, which was just one ton less than the main line B class 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, had ordered two 3’6” gauge 2-4-2s, also from Rogers,[228] and John Rae, Commissioner of the NSW Railways, had ordered a couple of American type 4-4-0s from the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia.[229] All these engines were placed in service within months of one another.

Three months after the Rogers ‘Giants’ entered service, Phoenix delivered the first of Meikle’s H class light lines 4-4-0. Although they were a neat design, they turned out no lighter on the track than the small Beyer Peacock F class 2-4-0 that Phoenix had copied earlier, and not quite as powerful.[230] So with more engines urgently needed for the new lines constantly being opened, Phoenix was asked to build another ten F class 2-4-0s. So after seven years the colony was no nearer an ideal locomotive for light lines. Then in December 1877 Dr. Williams arrived for a sales tour of the colony.

Williams 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 NSW Railways, and later visited other colonies. [231] 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.

The new Ten Wheelers became the W class. Their axle load was a low 8¾ tons, but their boiler was roughly equivalent to that of the Giants. With driving 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 Eight Wheeler in popularity.[232]

High resolution versions of some of the photographs in this chapter may be found on Smugmug


End Notes

  1. Robin Gollan, Radical and Working Class Politics, Melbourne, 1960, p. 59.
  2. Leo Harrigan, Victorian Railways to ’62, Victorian Railways, 1962, pp. 283-284. The lines then operational were Spencer Street to Sunbury, 24miles; Footscray to Williamstown Pier, 5¾ miles; and Greenwich (Newport) to Geelong, 38½ miles.
  3. M.H.W. Clark and J.C.M. Rolland, ‘History of the Locomotives of the Victorian Railways, 1860-1904’. Privately reproduced MS, (Melbourne, 1934), Sheets 1 and 2. Copy held in the J.C.M. Rolland Collection, Latrobe Library. The document contains 25 385x455mm blueprint sheets. Authorship is not attributed on the document, but is attested to by a friend and contemporary, see:- J.L. Buckland, Obituary–Mortimer Henry Clark 1892–1980, ARHS Bulletin, No. 522, April 1981, p. 92. These were the first VR order of five built by George England & Co., (one 2-2-2 and four 0-6-0s) delivered in 1859, and the second order of ten from Beyer, Peacock & Co. (five 2-2-2s and five 0-6-0s). In addition, the G&MR locomotives taken over included six 2-2-2s of two designs, and two 0-6-0s. The ten on order were 2-4-0 saddle tanks from George England & Co., and Slaughter Gruning & Co., Bristol.
  4. Correspondence in Relation to the Recent Construction and Working of Railways in England and Elsewhere, Victorian Parliamentary Papers (VPP) 1869, No. 41.
    Report on the Observations on Railways made during a tour in 1874 and 1875, undertaken by direction of the Government of Victoria, by Thomas Higinbotham, VPP 1876, No. 15, p. 35. I.K. Brunel, Engineer-in-Chief of the Great Western Railway, was consulting engineer to the VR until his death in 1859. Daniel Gooch was his locomotive Superintendent, and seems to have advised on mechanical engineering matters. The G&MR locomotives have a strong Gooch ‘look’ including safety valve covers that were a type of signature. Gooch and Archibald Sturrock are credited as having designed the government locomotives introduced in the 1850’s and 1860’s.
    Norman Cave, John Buckland and David Beardsell, Steam Locomotives of the Victorian Railways Volume 1: The First Fifty Years, Melbourne, 2002, pp. 18-36.
    H. Holcroft, An Outline of Great Western Locomotive Practice 1837-1943, London, 1971, 2nd ed. pp. 21-22. It is likely that Gooch (and Sturrock) referred the actual design work to their staff – the five J class Singles of the VR, Nos. 2-10 (even numbers) bear a strong resemblance to Great Western Railway No. 110, designed by Gooch’s assistant, Joseph Armstrong.
  5. E.L. Ahrons, The British Steam Locomotive 1925 – 1925, London, 1975, pp. 113-116.
  6. Cave et al, pp. 9-11, 15, 18-36.
  7. ibid, pp. 9-10, 15. ‘Hercules’ and ‘Tubal Cain’ were sold by the G&MR in 1856, to the M&SR and contractors Cornish & Bruce respectively.
  8. Ahrons, pp. 123-125.
    Holcroft, pp. 16-17.
  9. Cave et al, pp. 23-32, 36.
    Railway Locomotives, VPP 1871, C 3. The load for the P class Nos. 1-9 (odds) in this return is given as 53 tons net on a 1 in 50 gradient.
  10. Cave et al, pp. 33-36.
    Matthew J. Murray. Memories: Notes of a lecture to the Historical Society of Victoria 25th June 1917. Melbourne, 1973. p. 29.
  11. See Graces Guide:- Archibald Sturrock
    Sturrock was appointed GNR Locomotive Superintendent of the GNR in 1850, having previously been the Great Western Railway’s Works Manager at Swindon under I.K. Brunel.
  12. Ahrons, p. 116.
  13. Herald, 28 February 1872, p. 2. Notes that a ‘powerful goods engine’ was hauling the excursion train which was involved in the Sunbury accident.
  14. Railway Locomotives, VPP 1871, C 3. The net load for these engines on a 1 in 50 grade is given as 83 tons.
    Cave et al, pp. 36, 50.
  15. Cave et al, p. 44.
  16. Report of the Overseer of Workshops and Locomotives to the Hon. The Commissioner of Railways VPP 1871, C 1. 18 April 1871.
  17. Argus, 20 December 1877, p. 5; 2 May 1878, p. 6. Reports fitting of Woods brake to a 34 ton (B class) locomotive, and a top speed of 66 mph in a subsequent brake trial, giving a piston speed of 310 rpm. The small wheeled U class were thrashed up to 40 mph, or 320 rpm. See Argus, 22 March 1877 p. 5, reporting a run by engine No. 115.
  18. Argus, 21 December 1867, p. 5.
    Bendigo Advertiser, 23 December 1867, p. 3.
    Geelong Advertiser, 9 March 1869, p. 2.
    Victorian Railways, Diagram of Gradients and Curves, Melbourne, 1927. pp. 40, 119, 127. The line from North Geelong to Warrenheip, 49 miles, rises 1,667 feet.
  19. Clark and Rolland, Sheets 1 and 2.
    Victorian Railways photograph H2685, showing locomotives O 129 and B 188 at the Melbourne Exhibition.
  20. Victorian Parliamentary Debates (VPD), 1870, Vol. 11, p. 337. Davies.
  21. Locomotive Engine No. 51. Report of the Board of Inquiry, VPP 1871, A 16. This report dated 6 December 1871 concerns the boiler explosion of No. 51.
    Victorian Railways: Report of the Board of Land and Works for the Year Ended 31 December 1865. Also for years ended 1866 to1870. See VPP. Appendix 13 in each report details the Locomotive Charges Per train Mile. Total train miles over this six year period averaged 1,140,144 per annum. The maximum was 1,182,295 (1866) minimum 1,109,654 (1867). Therefore if 50 Sturrock engines averaged 22,300 miles annually, 50 x 22,300 = 1,115,000 or 97.8 per cent of the average total annual train mileage.
  22. Harrigan, pp. 67, 283-285. Not including the suburban line to Essendon, upon which services were suspended, the system in 1870 totalled 255¾ miles. Essendon Junction to Wodonga as 185½ miles.
  23. Australasian, 30 April 1904, p. 34.
    Cornwall Chronicle (Launceston), 15 October 1862, p.3. The 20 ton locomotive was taken down Little Collins Street from the foundry to Spencer Street Station on 13th October 1862. The article states it ‘is really the first made in the colony. A little patched-up thing was once placed on the Hobson’s Bay line, but it soon came to an ignominious end.’
  24. ‘Report of the English Engineers, VPD 1870, Vol. 10.
    Age, 30 November 1870, p. 2.
    Argus, 11 February 1870, p. 5; 3 April 1873 p. 5.
    Cave et al, pp. 38-39, 51. Beyer Peacock supplied six 2-4-0s and two 0-6-0s. The Yorkshire Engine Company supplied the other six 0-6-0s.
  25. South Australian Register, 24 August 1872, p. 4. Approximate distance from Melbourne.
  26. Argus, 30 November 1870, p. 6.
  27. VPD, 1870, Vol. 11, pp. 222, 339-40.
  28. Argus, 30 November 1870, p. 6.
  29. Argus, 19 January 1871, p. 3.
  30. Argus, 20 January 1877, p. 5. This makes it clear that both No. 100 and the 0-6-0 (later classed Q) were Meikle’s designs.
  31. Age, 5 August 1870, p. 4.
    Cave et al, p. 53. No. 100 had a boiler, driving wheels and motion almost identical to Beyer Peacock 0-6-0s Nos. 1-9 (odds), and the trailing and tender wheels appear to be from the converted Singles 2-10 (evens).
  32. Select Committee on Railways, VPP 1871, D 5, Questions 965-966. Singles Nos. 2 and 10 already converted and running, suggesting work must have commenced in 1870. The other three were to be altered and all five to be used on the Geelong line to replace 34 ton engines.
    Age, 1 August 1870, p. 3. Notes No. 2 being rebuilt at Williamstown.
    Argus, 22 March 1877, p. 6, notes No. 6 converted in 1872 and ran up to 50 mph with an easy motion on the rails.
  33. Railway Locomotives, VPP 1871, C 3. Meikle interviewed on 31 May 1871 noted Nos. 2 and 10 were rebuilt by May 1871.
    Victorian Railways: Report…30 June 1873. VPP 1873, No. 90, Appendix 2, p. 12. This shows a total of four locomotives rebuilt for light lines. These would definitely have included the ‘Singles’ No. 12, 34 and 36, plus the last of the J class ‘Singles’.
  34. Clark and Rolland, Sheets 3.
  35. Illustrated Australian News for Home Readers, Saturday 12 August 1871, p. 151.
    Victorian Railways – Branches and Officers, VPP 1882-82, C 7. 18 May 1882. This return shows only five staff under the Locomotive Superintendent ten years later.
  36. Argus, 20 January 1877, p. 5.
    Cave et al, pp. 50, 59. Tractive effort Sturrock 0-6-0 11,560 lb, Meikle’s main line 0-6-0 11,378 lb
  37. Victorian Railways: Report…30 June 1872. VPP 1872, No. 77, Appendix 2, p. 10.
  38. Cave et al, p. 51.
  39. Murray, p. 32.
  40. Argus, 9 August 1871, p. 3.
  41. Age, 3 August 1871, p. 2.
  42. Argus, 14 July 1871, p. 4.
  43. Argus, 15 July 1871, p. 7.
  44. Ovens and Murray Advertiser, 3 August 1871, p. 2.
  45. Age, 3 August 1871, p. 2.
    Argus, 9 August 1871, p. 3.
  46. Age, 12 August 1871, p. 2.
  47. Murray, p. 27.
  48. Ovens and Murray Advertiser, 5 October 1869, p. 2.
  49. Argus, 20 January 1877, p. 5. This report makes it clear the first locomotive order given to Phoenix was to Meikle’s design.
    Robert Butrims and David Macartney, The Phoenix Foundry: Locomotive Builders of Ballarat. (ARHS, Williamstown, Victoria). 2013, pp. 26, 57. The authors express some doubt regarding Meikle’s involvement, and claim that all his designs were unusual and ‘generally considered ugly machines’. The absence of embellishment was an effort to make local manufacture easier and keep costs down. The authors note that Meikle’s last design built by Phoenix was ‘reasonably good looking’.
  50. Argus, 15 March 1871, p. 7.
    Butrims and Macartney, pp. 12-13.
  51. Argus, 19 June 1871, p. 7.
    Butrims and Macartney, p. 20.
  52. ibid, pp. 8-10.
    See The Lothians:- Southland’s Wooden Railway
  53. Argus, 15 March 1871, p. 7.
  54. Argus, 15 July 1871, p. 7; 19 August 1871, p. 4.
    Butrims and Macartney, pp. 20-22.
  55. Herald, 15 September 1871, p. 2.
  56. Railway Locomotives, VPP 1871, C 3. This is a return of locomotives and rolling stock on the Victorian Railways, signed by William Meikle, Overseer of Locomotives and Workshops, and dated 17 May 1871.
  57. Arthur Mellen Wellington, The Economic Theory of Location of Railways, New York, 1899, p. 561.
  58. William M. Sellew, Steel Rails: Their History, Properties, Strength and Manufacture, London, 1913, pp. 213, 236.
  59. VPD, 1884, Vol. 47, p. 1659 and 1779 imply this.
    Argus, 22 March 1877, p. 6. The references to speed do not comment on excessive speed, although some of the engines were being driven beyond the designed speed for both locomotive and track.
  60. Cave et al, p. 208. The first experiments with speed indicators were made in 1897, but general adoption of speed recorders did not commence until 1907-8.
  61. John H. White, Jnr., American Locomotives: An Engineering History 1830-1880, John Hopkins University Press, 1997, p. 53.
  62. Select Committee on Railways, VPP 1871, Vol. 1., D 5, Q. 1054. Meikle’s evidence.
    Argus, 3 April 1873, p. 5. Notes that the 15 locomotives awarded Phoenix in their second contract were to have imported wheels and axles. These were Meikle’s outside cylinder 0-6-0 and 2-4-0 ‘Buzzwinkers’.
  63. White, p. 57.
    Alfred W. Bruce, The Steam Locomotive in America, New York, 1952, p. 283.
  64. Report on the Observations on Railways made during a tour in 1874 and 1875, undertaken by direction of the Government of Victoria, by Thomas Higinbotham, VPP 1876, No. 15, p. 22. ‘I did not go to the States at all prepossessed in favour of American engines; but what I observed there has satisfied me that, in all events for the light lines of railway in this country, they are better adapted than any others’.
  65. VPD, 1871, Vol. 13, p. 1830. Longmore, 14 November 1871. He quoted the ratio as being 12 lb per ½ ton. This gives the ratio to axle load, not wheel load; axle load being twice the wheel load. His error may have been due to an ambiguous heading on a column in Meikle’s return of May 1871, which was headed ‘Weight on Driving Wheels’, and gave the axle load.
  66. J. Armstrong. The ‘C’, ‘D’ and ‘E’ class Locomotives. ARHS Bulletin, No. 486, April, 1978, pp. 68-69.
  67. Murray, p. 31.
    Victorian Railways, Classification of Locomotive Diagrams, May, 1886. Reproduced plan 770 x 1330mm, Authors collection. Diagram of the heaviest O class 0-6-0 locomotive, with weights per axle.
  68. Argus, 3 April 1873, p. 5.
  69. VPD, 1872, Vol. 15, p. 726. J.G. Francis, 14 August.
  70. Weston Bate, ‘William Collard Smith’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, MUP, 1976.
    Butrims and Macartney, pp. 25-26.
  71. VPD, 1872, Vol. 15, p. 983.
  72. VPD, 1872, Vol. 15, p. 984.
  73. VPD, 1872, Vol. 15, p. 982.
  74. VPD, 1872, Vol. 15, p. 984.
  75. VPD, 1872, Vol. 15, p. 988.
  76. VPD, 1872, Vol. 15, p. 990.
  77. Argus, 25 June 1872, p. 5; 10 October 1872, p. 1; 5 December 1872, p. 1.
  78. Argus, 15 August 1872, p. 5
  79. Argus, 11 February 1870, p. 5.
  80. Select Committee on Railways, VPP 1871, D 5, Questions 946, 1012-1018.
  81. ibid, Questions 946, 1012-1018.
  82. ibid.
  83. These were the H class, the first three arriving in May 1871. See Comrails:- Broad gauge H class
  84. Argus, 14 July 1871, p. 4,
  85. Age, 13 November 1875, p. 5.
  86. Clark and Rolland. Based on the test train observed by the Board, and comparing the tractive effort of the two classes mentioned.
  87. Branches and Officers, VPP 1882-82, C 7, 18 May 1882. This return shows that five salaried officers were under the control of the Locomotive Superintendent. The return does not show wages employees.
  88. Argus, 29 August 1872, p. 4.
  89. Bruce, pp. 39-41.
    M.H.W. Clark and J.L. Buckland. “The Introduction of American-Designed Locomotives of the Victorian Railway 1877-1898, ARHS Bulletin, No. 468, October 1976, p. 233.
    Argus, 20 January 1877, p. 5. Outlines precisely this process for the two light lines pattern engines ordered from Beyer Peacock.
  90. VPD, 1871, Vol. 12, p. 726. Bayles’ infers that the new bogie locomotive imported a month earlier by the M&HBUR was the result of this policy, and that it was also cheaper. However, it is likely that Elsdon specified the leading bogie after seeing them on his American visit in 1870.
  91. Clark and Rolland, Sheets 1 and 2. The conversion date for No. 34 is given as ‘about 1872’ and no date is given for No. 36, but it probably followed soon after.
  92. Argus, 10 October 1872, p. 4.
  93. Select Committee on Railways, VPP 1871, D 5, Q. 1057.
  94. Cave et al, pp. 59, 75.
  95. Company prospectus, p. 7.
  96. ‘Classification of Locomotive Diagrams’. Steam locomotives generally deliver their maximum power at engine speeds in the range 100-200 rpm. For a 42 inch driving wheel, as on the U class, this represents a range of 12-25 mph, or 14-28½ mph for the 48 inch wheel of the K class.
  97. Classification of Locomotive Diagrams. The ratios of firebox grate area to boiler heating surface for Meikle’s U class and Sturrock’s O class goods engines were 1:53 compared to 1:65 square feet. The lower the heating surface of the boiler, the smaller, and therefore the lighter it is.
  98. Harrigan, pp. 283-287.
    Clark and Rolland, Sheets 3 and 4. The pattern engine, No. 98, a 2-4-0 passenger type, later classified F class, and No. 125, a 0-6-0 goods type, later classified T class. Both were placed in service during June-July 1874. Ten copies of the 2-4-0 were delivered between August 1876 and March 1877 (Nos. 126-142 even numbers).
    Argus, 6 March 1875, p. 8. The decision to copy the 2-4-0 was taken in March 1875.
  99. Herald, 6 April 1876, p. 2. The first two were landed in early April 1876, and would have been ordered in the first half of 1875, less than a year after the pattern engine No. 125 arrived.
  100. Cave et al, pp. 70-71.
  101. Argus, 4 September 1874, p. 5, quoting a report to Parliament which noted the design of Nos. 103 and 105 was Meikles.
  102. Argus, 8 October 1872, p. 4.
  103. Herald, 5 January 1874, p. 4.
  104. Geelong Advertiser, 30 December 1873, p. 2.
    Ballarat Star, 1 January 1874, p. 2.
    Australasian, 3 January 1874, p. 14. This is the most comprehensive report, indicating that two trains ran, one from Melbourne, which arrived at Ballarat about midday, and No. 105’s train from Williamstown, which became disabled.
  105. Ballarat Star, 6 January 1874, p. 2.
  106. Illustrated Australian News for Home Readers, 12 August 1871, p. 151. This article notes that ‘Mr. Mires’ had executed ‘a complete set of drawings’ of the ten new 0-6-0 goods engines. ‘Mires’ is a misspelling of Mirls.
  107. Observations on Railways, VPP 1876, No. 15, p. 22.
  108. Argus, 22 March 1877, p. 6.
  109. VPD, 1874, Vol. 14, p. 983. Mr. W.C. Smith on 14 August. He was Chairman of Phoenix Foundry.
    Butrims and Macartney, pp. 20-21, 30, 34, 36.
  110. Victorian Railways: Report…30 June 1874, VPP 1874, No. 97, Appendix 3, p. 16.
  111. Butrims and Macartney, pp. 25, 36, 46.
  112. Clark and Rolland, Sheets 4.
  113. Victorian Railways: Report…30 June 1875, VPP 1875-76, No. 62, Appendix 3, p. 17. Contract No. 286 15 locomotives £49,516/17/10d.
  114. Argus, 14 July 1871, p. 4.
  115. Argus, 16 May 1874, p. 8.
  116. VPD, 1874, Vol. 18, p. 543-544. At the time of Green’s report, none of the Phoenix light lines engines had been delivered, but Greene would have been familiar with the Williamstown prototypes, Nos. 103 and 105.
  117. Argus, 8 October 1872, p. 4.
  118. Cave et al, p. 75.
  119. VPD , 1874, Vol. 18, pp. 543-544.
  120. Hamilton Spectator, 4 February 1882, p. 2.
  121. Cave et al, p. 61.
    See Female Convicts Research Centre:- Ellen Grimes She was well known to police and she went by several aliases.
    Ballarat Courier, 21 February 1871, p. 4; 14 June 1872, p. 3. Ellen Grimes, alias ‘The Buzzwinker’, was a Ballarat brothel madame.
    Ballarat Star, 15 April 1862, p. 1. Eliza Watkins was another of the aliases used by ‘The Buzzwinker’.
  122. Ballarat Star, 6 January 1874, p. 2. Quoting a report in ‘The Age’.
  123. Argus, 20 January 1877, p. 5.
  124. Argus, 2 March 1874, p. 6.
  125. Observations on Railways, VPP 1876, No. 15, p. 22.
  126. Argus, 20 January 1877, p. 5.
  127. Harrigan, p. 274.
  128. Victorian Railways: Report…31 December 1873, VPP 1873, No. 90, Appendix 3. Contracts 652.
    Victorian Railways: Report…31 December 1874, VPP 1874, No. 97, Appendix 3. Contracts 945, 965, 1326. These four contracts totalled £8,109.
  129. Locomotives Nos. 103 and 105, VPP 1874, C 11. 1 September 1874.
    Argus, 4 September 1874, p. 5.
  130. Armstrong, p. 67.
    Ahrons, pp. 183, 205.
  131. Ballarat Star, 17 April 1872, p. 4.
  132. Cave et al, p. 65.
  133. Argus, 6 March 1875, p. 8.
  134. Argus, 4 May 1875, p. 4.
  135. Argus, 29 May 1875, p. 8.
  136. Victorian Railways: Report…31 December 1871 to 1875’. See VPP, Statements showing Contracts in Progress.
  137. Victorian Railways: Report…30 June 1875, VPP 1875-76, No. 62, Appendix 23, p. 38.,Appendix 17, p. 32.
    Victorian Railways: Report…30 June 1896, VPP 1896, No. 38, Appendix 12, p. 25.
  138. Victorian Railways: Report…30 June 1875, VPP 1875-76, No. 62, Appendix 16 & 17, p. 32. Train miles year to 30 June 1875 – 2,051,710. Number locomotives 121. Average Train Miles per locomotive 16,956 Victorian Railways: Report…31 December 1876, VPP 1877-78, No. 21, Appendix 23 & 24, p. 37. Train miles year to 31 December (six months) – 1,262,782. Number locomotives 124. Average Train Miles per locomotive (annualised) 20,367.
  139. Argus, 26 November 1875, p. 6.
    Cave et al, p. 10.
    G.H. Eardley, The ‘Buzzwinkers’ of the Victorian Railways, ARHS Bulletin, No. 301, November 1962, p. 167.
  140. Herald, 13 July 1874, p. 3; 18 July 1874, p. 3.
  141. Age, 4 September 1875, p. 7; 11 September 1875, p. 7; 14 September 1875, p. 3; 18 September 1875, p. 5; 25 September 1875, p. 7; 2 October 1875, p. 7; 16 October 1875, p. 6; 27 November 1875, p. 7.
  142. Argus, 26 November 1875, p. 6.
  143. VPD, 1876, Vol. 22, p. 1343. 25 November 1875.
  144. Argus, 29 November 1872, p. 4; 20 December 1872, p. 4.
  145. VPD, 1876, Vol. 22, p. 1343. 25 November 1875.
  146. Ballarat Star, 8 January 1876, p. 4.
  147. Age, 13 November 1875, p. 5.
  148. Age, 12 January 1876, p. 2.
  149. Observations on Railways, VPP 1876, No. 15. pp. 11, 22. ‘Truck’ is American terminology for ‘bogie’. In many other cases, American railroad terminology differs from the British, a further instance of the quite separate development of the two schools of engineering.
  150. Argus, 27 June 1876, p. 7. Tenders called for eight ‘bogie engines’ (4-4-0s).
    Victorian Railways: Report…31 December 1877, VPP 1978, No. 6, Appendix 3, p. 30. Contract awarded to Phoenix for eight locomotives.
  151. Argus, 26 November 1875, p. 6. On 1 October 1875 Meikle reported to parliament that Nos. 40 and 42 ‘have been repaired where repairs were shown to be needed’.
    Cave et al, pp. 72-73. Shows photographs of the different boilers and safely valve covers, and mentions both were reboilered in 1882. If the boilers were from Nos. 40 and 42, the renumbering of the completed prototypes as Nos. 38 and 44 is a mystery.
    Clark and Rolland, Sheets 2. Mentions 40 and 42 were used as stationary engines at Williamstown Workshops. By the mid-1870’s they appear to have been back in traffic.
  152. Observations on Railways, VPP 1876, No. 15, p. 20.
  153. Age, 1 August 1870, p. 2.
  154. Victorian Railways: Report…30 June 1872, VPP 1872, No. 77, Appendix 2, p. 11. The contract was let on 28 March 1972.
    Argus, 17 July 1872, p. 5.
  155. Evening Journal, 27 July 1872, p. 1.
  156. Evening Journal, 26 November 1872, p. 2.
  157. Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, 7 January 1873, p. 3.
    Herald, 31 January 1873, p. 3.
  158. Herald, 13 July 1874, p. 3.
  159. Observations on Railways, VPP 1876, No. 15, p. 39.
  160. Age, 2 April 1875, p. 2.
  161. Argus, 1 April 1875, p. 6.
  162. Victorian Railways Rolling Stock Branch, Diagrams & Particulars of Locomotives, Cars, Vans & Trucks, 1914. (Reproduced as a facsimile in 2008).
  163. Age, 13 November 1875, p. 4.
    Norm Bray, Peter J. Vincent & Daryl M. Gregory. Fixed Wheel Coaching Stock of Victoria, Sunbury, 2008, p. 22. In the 1880’s the fixed axle at one end was replaced with a bogie, and diagrams show it in this configuration.
  164. Argus, 26 August 1875, p. 8.
  165. Victorian Railways: Report…31 December 1877, VPP 1878, No. 6, Appendix 3, p. 30.
  166. Ballarat Star, 23 September 1887, p. 2
  167. Cave et al, pp. 78-79.
  168. Age, 11 December 1876, p. 2.
  169. Observations on Railways, VPP 1876, No. 15, p. 22.
  170. VPD, 1876, Vol. 25, p. 1498-1500. 11 November 1876.
  171. Argus, 13 December 1876, p. 6.
  172. Age, 17 November 1876, p. 4.
  173. VPD, 1876, Vol. 25, p. 1709-1713. 12 December 1876. Simon Fraser, Member for Rodney.
  174. Herald, 13 December 1876, p. 2.
  175. Herald, 13 December 1876, p. 2.
  176. Age, 18 December 1876, p. 3.
  177. Ballarat Courier, 6 January 1877, p2.
  178. Argus, 3 April 1873, p. 5.
  179. Argus, 5 October 1877, p. 4.
  180. Age, 12 January 1876, p. 2.
  181. South Australian Advertiser, 17 January 1877, p. 5.
  182. Ballarat Star, 10 January 1877, p. 2.
    Argus, 11 January 1877, p. 4.
  183. Age, 18 December 1876, p. 3.
    Williamstown Chronicle, 27 January 1877, p. 2.
    Leader, 27 January 1877, p. 20.
  184. Argus, 22 March 1877, p. 6.
  185. Adelaide Observer, 21 October 1876, p. 5.
  186. Argus, 22 March 1877, p. 6.
  187. Age, 24 February 1877, p. 4.
    Herald, 27 February 1877, p. 3.
  188. Age, 24 February 1877, p. 4.
    Argus, 26 March 1877, p. 7.
  189. Argus, 22 March 1877, p. 6.
  190. Classification of Locomotive Diagrams. Gross weight of the train is given as 148 tons, including engine and tender. Railway practice does not include the locomotive (s) when referring to train loads, so as the engine and tender weighed 48½ tons, this has been deducted to provide the weight of train being hauled.
  191. The Board did not comment on the axle loads of any of the locomotives. The railway industry had not yet reached the stage of development where locomotives could be made that well and truly exceeded the capacity of track and bridges.
  192. Classification of Locomotive Diagrams. These are the weights of the Phoenix 0-6-0 U class ‘Buzzwinkers’. The two prototype 0-6-0s built at Williamstown, Nos. 103 and 105, were heavier.
  193. The Board did not comment on No. 34 or the Queensland locomotives, but their reasoning extended to these locomotives.
  194. Argus, 22 March 1877, p. 6.
  195. Ovens and Murray Advertiser, 20 September 1872, p. 3.
  196. Mount Alexander Mail, 2 October 1876, p. 2.
    Age, 2 October 1876, p. 3.
  197. Nick Anchen, Railways of the Ovens and King. Melbourne, 2015, p. 48.
  198. Age, 20 January 1877, p. 4.
  199. Herald, 13 December 1876, p. 2.
  200. Herald, 2 March 1877, p. 3.
    Argus, 5 March 1877, p. 10.
  201. Argus, 7 March 1877, p. 5.
  202. Argus, 26 March 1877, p. 7.
  203. Argus, 26 March 1877, p. 7.
    Ballarat Star, 16 March 1877, p. 3.
  204. Argus, 26 March 1877, p. 7.
  205. Ballarat Star, 7 March 1873, p. 2.
  206. Argus, 16 March 1877, p. 5.
    Williamstown Chronicle, 17 March 1877, p. 3.
  207. Williamstown Chronicle, 24 March 1877, p. 3.
    Age, 17 March 1877, p. 4.
  208. Herald, 17 March 1877, p. 3.
    Argus, 19 March 1877, p. 4.
  209. Argus, 24 March 1877, p. 6.
  210. Argus, 29 March 1877, p. 4.
  211. Weekly Times, 31 March 1877, p. 8.
  212. Weekly Times, 31 March 1877, p. 8
  213. Age, 22 March 1877, p. 2.
  214. Argus, 21 March 1877, p. 5.
  215. Argus, 13 July 1876, p. 4. The co-ordinated overland link was formed in July 1876 with the completion of the railway from Goulburn to Bowning. The through journey took 41 hours.
  216. Select Committee on Railways, VPP 1871, D 5, Questions 946, 1012-1018.
  217. Argus, 5 October 1877, p. 4.
    Clark and Rolland, Sheet 5.
  218. Argus, 22 March 1877, p. 6.
  219. Clark and Rolland, Sheets 3-4.
  220. Australasian, 28 December 1889, p. 27.
  221. Argus, 22 March 1877, p. 6.
  222. Clark and Rolland, American-designed Locomotives, p. 204. Statement by the Railway Accountant.
  223. Locomotives Nos. 103 and 105, VPP 1874, C 11. 1 September 1874.
    Argus, 4 September 1874, p. 5.
  224. White, p. 53
  225. Cave et al, pp. 50, 82. The boilers were of roughly equivalent size (and hence power).
  226. Clark and Rolland, American-designed Locomotives, pp. 198, 202.
    Clark and Rolland, Sheet 5, D class engines Nos. 162 and 164, cf Sheets 2-4 the B class engines.
    Argus, 1 November 1875, p. 6.
    See Wikisource:- Helen Dauvray
  227. Cave et al, p. 82.
    Classification of Locomotive Diagrams..
  228. Lyttelton Times. 20 February, 1878.
    See Wikipedia:- NZR K class (1877)
  229. Sydney Morning Herald, 12 December 1877, p. 5.
  230. Classification of Locomotive Diagrams.
    Clark and Rolland, Sheet 5, H class compared with F class.
  231. Australasian, 1 December 1877, p. 21.
    Sydney Morning Herald, 12 December 1877, p. 5.
  232. Bruce, pp. 284, 423.