Timber trains in Western Australia:

When the first white settlers arrived in Western Australia, the whole of the South West was full of seemingly endless timber. And because it had never been harvested, it was of huge size - what we today would call a King Jarrah tree were everywhere. Initially the closest timber to Perth was harvested first, but then as these forests were depleted, temporary tramways or formations (often abbreviated to "form") had to be built to reach the further out timber. Bullocks or horses collected the timber from where it was felled, and took them to bush landings for loading onto trains. Steam locos brought the logs to the mill for cutting, then after processing onto ports for export. When the timber had been harvested, the rail line and sleepers were taken up for use elsewhere and the forms were abandoned, although main lines often lasted far longer. A network of timber lines grew through out the South West. The infrastructure behind it was huge - the trains, the saw mills, the towns that supported the workers, the workshops at Midland and Yarloop, was phenomenal. W.A. may not have as many old buildings as other States, but you can ride your bike on a 100~150 year old rail trail.

Private timber companies had owned their own locomotives in W.A. since 1871. The G class locomotives were the first class of locomotive on the WA Government Railways to be purchased in large quantity. A Beyer Peacock design, the first locomotive was purchased second hand from C & E Millar timber company in 1889. Following testing of the first G class a further forty seven locomotives were purchased from various sources between 1894 and 1899.
The locomotives served well on the early railway as mainline units, however they had a tendency to derail when running at high speed. With the rapid expansion of the WAGR around the turn of the century the G class were displaced from mainline service by the arrival of heavier locomotives. Many were sold to contractors and private timber operators, where they were ideally suited to operate over lightly constructed "forms". The G class quickly became the standard timberline locomotive in Western Australia and many were purchased new. Those retained by the WAGR found use on light branch lines as well as shunting and jetty use. The final locomotives were withdrawn in the 1950's and 1960's apart from two which were retained by the WAGR for vintage trains.

Trains from the Munda Biddi at Bassendean Railway Museum:

Locomotive number C 1 'Katie' is the oldest locomotive in the collection. It was ordered in 1880 from Robert Stephenson & Company of Newcastle on Tyne for the opening of the Fremantle to Guildford railway in 1887. C 1 was badly damaged in a crash near Boya in 1885, and was extensively rebuilt in 1887. As traffic increased, C1 was soon found to be too small and so she was sold in 1899 to the Westralian Jarrah Forests Ltd, Greenbushes where she was named 'Katie'. It did work at other timber mills, before being last used by Bunning Brothers at Nyamup, near Quinninup. In 1956 the engine was taken to the Midland Workshops and restored by the WAGR for static display. It was first displayed at Perth station during Royal Show week in 1956 and then placed in the Railway Exhibition Hall at the Claremont Showgrounds till 1959. In 1970 'Katie' was transferred to its permanent home at the Railway Museum at Bassendean.

'Kia Ora' is an example of one of the smaller locos originally used on the timber lines in WA. The locomotive was built in 1884 and placed in service with the Melbourne Harbour Trust as number 2. The locomotive was sold around 1885, and eventually was bought by C & E Millar and arrived in Albany in 1887 for use at the Torbay mills. The locomotive was transferred to Yarloop in 1895 and it was there that it received its first name, 'Beetle'. The locomotive was later renamed 'Kia Ora' by Reynolds Driver the Yarloop manager who came from New Zealand. 'Kia Ora' was transferred to Jarrahdale in 1905 before being sold by Millar's to the Public Works Department in 1909, initially to Carnarvon to work the jetty tramway. 'Kia Ora' was transferred in 1949 to Roelands quarry and later to Bunbury in 1954 to work the jetty. 'Kia Ora' was donated to the museum for preservation in 1962. It has the "M K& J Co Ltd" painted on it , meaning Millars Karri and Jarrah Company Limited, which was used after 1902.

Y86 was built in the UK and started work in South Australia in 1888, but in 1928 it was sold to a contractor who was building the Oodnadatta to Alice Springs railway in the Northern Territory. In 1944, it was sold to Bunnings Brothers for use at Donnelly Mill. In 1958 when a larger boiler was added, the name was changed to Yx86. It retired in 1969 and was donated by Bunnings to the museum in 1971.

A11 was delivered in 1885, initially for use on the York to Chidlow line. the train served mainly as a shunting loco, but did do a short stint for Buckingham Brothers as a logging train near Collie. It retired in 1955, but was plighted at Perth Zoo till 1969. It was the first train to enter the railway museum.

Towns with rail history:

East Perth Train station :
The S-class was the first locomotive class to be designed and built in WA, and comprised 10 members. S542 'Bakewell' was plinthed at East Perth Railway Terminal in 1976, but transferred to ARHS ownership in 1995.

Claremont Train Station:
Claremont Train station was built in 1906 and is still a functioning train stop. The 1906 built signal box is the only surviving, operating, traditional all-lever signal box still in its original location in the Perth metropolitan area. This classic WAGR signal box is only accessible via the footbridge and is above the island platform at the station.The signals box is open on the first Saturday of each month from 10 am - 2pm and is worth a look. See more at www.sigwa.info/index.html

G118 -This locomotive was built by Dubs & Co. of Glasgow, Scotland (builder's number 3502 of 1897) for the WAGR, receiving the road number G 118. After nearly 70 years of government work it was placed in store by the WAGR in 1966 and formally withdrawn in 1968. It was sold for preservation to Kalamunda Shire and subsequently placed on displayed at the old Kalamunda railway station, which is now incorporated within the Kalamunda Historic Village museum.

One of the trains at the Hotham Valley Railway is G123. Built in 1894, it was the one time 'Koombana Queen' tourist train in the 1970's and was later used on the Dwellingup Etmylin line in the mid to late 1980's. It is currently undergoing overhaul, however there are ideas to recommission G123 for locomotive driver training.

The township was gazetted 'Dwellingupp' in 1910 following the decision to make it the terminus for the Pinjarra-Marrinup railway. After the railway opened, Dwellingup quickly became a major centre for the area and the small outlying timber settlements such as Holyoake, Nanga Brook, Marrinup, Chadoora and Banksiadale. The Hotham Valley Railway offers a Forrest Rail train ride from Dwellingup.The historic train will take you 8 kilometres eastward from Dwellingup to Etmilyn, along the state's last surviving lightly built developmental railway. There is a 20-25 minute stop to walk "The Etmilyn Forest Heritage Trail". Commencing at the water tank foundations, the 1km loop trail through the Etmilyn Forest features excellent examples of Jarrah, Blackbutt, Red Gum, Blackboy, Banksia and a variety of palms and ferns. The Dwellingup Forest Train departs Dwellingup Station twice (10-30am and 2-00pm) on Saturdays, Sundays & Public Holidays. Fares are currently $24 for adults (Aug '14).

Here is a very short video of a steam train going along side the Munda Biddi:

From the 1920's Collie had the biggest marshalling yards outside of Fremantle. There used to be 12 lines. The remnants can be seen in the Railway Precinct. Just out of Collie, the Roundhouse has space for 14 trains and a turntable in the centre for turning the trains around. The Steam Locomotive display, located next to the Collie Visitor Centre on Throssell Street, should not be missed by rail enthusiasts or historians. The collection includes an F class, V class and W class, all withdrawn from service in 1971. A popular display is Polly, a traction engine made in 1879 in the UK. In 1875 Alexander Buckingham built a timber mill near Kelmscott and in 1880 he purchased a traction engine that later became known as Polly. He used it for several years to haul logs before reselling it to Sawyers Valley. Two of Alexander's sons became millers in the Wellington area near Collie, and they repurchased the engine in the 1900's and drove it there - the journey took two weeks! This was known as Buckingham's Mill, and was connected to the Collie to Narrogin train line by a 1 km long siding (this is now the Collie Darken Rail Trail - see the ride here). In 1912 she was fitted with loco wheels and winch from WAGR F 20 (made in 1885 and decommissioned in 1905, which worked at Lion Mill and Worsley) and converted for use on the railways around Collie. She worked till 1954, when the tracks were removed. After that she retired and was placed in front of the Collie Visitor Centre.

Yx 176 was located at the excellent Yarloop Steam Workshop (in the former timber mill) and was displayed together with an good collection of steam machinery in the railway maintenance workshops.
However, the entire museum was destroyed in the January 2016 fire, and it's current fate is unknown.
Y176, was built by James Martin & Co, Gawler SA in 1898 and received the South Australian Railways. It was withdrawn by South Australian Railways in 1929 and condemned in 1936. Y 176 which was sold to Bunning Bros. for use at the Donnelly River Mill. Bunnings rebuilt Y 176 to Yx specification in 1956 by replacing the round-top boiler with a larger, higher pitched Belpaire boiler.

You can see one of the trains used to haul timber in Northcliffe at the Manjimup Heritage Park. Y class 109 was built in the UK in 1907, and was originality used to haul passenger carriages between Perth and Fremantle. It was then used by Bunnings from 1958 to 1962.

There are only two State Saw Mills locomotives existing today, both in Pemberton.
SSM 7 was built by James Martin of Gawler, South Australia in 1895 for the WAGR, receiving the road number G 53. G 53 went to the Commonwealth Railways in 1942 for war-time duty on the North Australia Railway at Darwin, becoming NFC 53 and renumbered to NFC 69 in 1943. After the war NFC 69 was sold to the WA State Saw Mills where it was numbered SSM No.7. It was sold to Hawker Siddeley Building Supplies in 1961 and was last used at Pemberton in about 1970. Following retirement, SSM No.7 was plinthed on Brockman St, Pemberton, where it remains to this day. The MB will ride right passed it.

SSM No.2 is currently with the Pemberton Tramway Company. In 1910 the South West Timber Hewer's Co- Operative Society (the only producers of hewn railway sleepers in WA at the time - all other sleepers were being sawn) of Collie and Holyoake, placed an order for a "G" class loco from the UK. A kit of parts arrived in Fremantle in 1911 and was assembled at Midland Junction Workshops. The locomotive was named "The Hewer" and sent to work at the Lucknow Mill near Collie. In 1912 "The Hewer" was moved to Holyoake, just east of Dwellingup where the SWTH had 3 concessions operating. When the Lucknow Mill was destroyed by fire in 1912, all operations were then concentrated on Holyoake.
The State Saw Mills eventually took over the SWTH operation at Holyoake in 1920 and the "The Hewer" was taken in to SSM stock. Whilst in for repairs at Midland Junction Workshops in 1942, "The Hewer" was numbered SSM No.2. No.2 was transferred to Deanmill in 1943 where it worked up until 1952 when it was transferred to Pemberton. After a short stint in Pemberton, No.2 returned to Holyoake, then back to Pemberton until being transferred back to Deanmill in 1960. No.2 remained at Deanmill where it worked until 1967 when it retired from service to Manjimup. It stood on an unused siding there until it was put on display at what is now known as the Manjimup Forest Products Centre. In the late 1980's the Pemberton Tramway Company registered an interest in SSM No.2 with the then current owners Bunnings Ltd. In 2004 Sotico (Bunnings timber division) donated SSM No.2 to the Pemberton Tram Company, where it is waiting for restoration.

"Ballaarat" is arguably Australia's most important train - it was the first locomotive built in Ballarat for Australian use, the first locomotive in WA, the first of 3ft 6in gauge to be manufactured in Australia and is the oldest surviving Australian-built locomotive. It was used on a timber tramway near Yoganup, and is named after the original spelling of its city of manufacture. The train entered service in 1871 at Lockeville, just North of Busselton for the Western Australian Timber Company. The WATC mills closed in 1887 and by 1888 all the WATC assets were auctioned. The loco was withdrawn about 1900 but survived into preservation. It has been housed in Victoria Square since 1937, and was recently refurbished and relocated to the Visitors Centre in the old train station at the end of the Jetty.

Margaret River:
We will ride through the old Marrinup town site. In 1902 a horse drawn tramway was constructed from Pinjarra by Smith & Timms to serve their sawmill located at Marrinup. Later six locomotives worked in and around Marrinup hauling jarrah but these all have been broken up for scrap with the exception of a small engine known as "Kate" which is preserved in a park at Margaret River. Kate was originally purchased for use in Karridale (near Margaret River) in 1889, before being transferred in 1912 to Marrinup and Jarrahdale. She later saw service as a jetty loco in Wyndham. In 1963 the Rotary club brought her back to Margaret River and mounted her it's present position. Marrinup Mill was temporarily closed several times, then finally shut down in 1936.

(I was not an anorak wearing train spotter before riding the Munda Biddi, but I am now! My secret love is finding old railway bridges in the bush, such as the Warren River Bridge in map 6, or the bridge near Clackline on the Kep Track)

This page is the property of Follow My Ride, a website detailing off road cycle tracks near Perth and in Western Australia.