Shay locomotives on the Wolgan Valley railway

Photos: ASHET News October 2014 

The railway is approximately 50 km long, linking with the western line of the NSW Railways at Clarence Junction in the Blue Mountains. It mainly follows the course of the valley hemmed in by precipitous cliffs.
The choice of locomotives was an important issue. No locomotives in Australia at the time would be suitable for regular use on the line. Engineer-in-Chief for railway construction in NSW, Deane found that there were several designs of locomotive in service in Europe and North America that could meet the requirements. His preference was for the American Shay locomotive which had several desirable features: it had great hauling power, because the whole of its weight, both engine and tender, were available for adhesion; unlike conventional locomotives it was geared, so a very even turning force was applied of the wheels and it was able to start easily on the ruling grade; it had a very short rigid wheel base which enabled it to traverse very sharp curves; the length of the boiler tubes was very short, a little over 3 m, so the difference of the water in the boiler level in the boiler on steep grade was not serious. Its only disadvantage was that to avoid excessive vibration, speed must be limited to around 25km per hour. The Shay locomotive was a unique design with three cylinders vertically mounted beside the boiler, which was offset from the centre line of the locomotive. An articulated shaft and gears transmitted the power to all the wheels on the locomotive and tender.
Ref: ASHET News October 2014

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