On Sunday September 8 2013, the Puffing Billy Railway in Melbourne's Dandenong ranges, celebrated the return to service of Climax geared steam locomotive No. 1694. The locomotive had been undergoing a major restoration since last running in 2001.
1694 was built in 1928 by the Climax Manufacturing Company, Corry, Pennsylvania, USA, for the Forests Commission of Victoria and operated on the Tyers Valley Tramway in Gippsland until 1949. Interestingly it was the last Climax ever built and the only one on 2'6" gauge. 1694 is one of only four operational Climax locomotives in the world and the only operational Climax in the southern hemisphere. The other three are in the USA. 1694 is also a unique survivor of about fifty steam locomotives known to have operated on the lightly laid timber tramways throughout Victoria.
The distinctive feature of the Climax locomotive is that the cylinders do not directly connect to the driving wheels. Instead they drive a cross shaft near the centre of the locomotive. From there the drive is transmitted to the small driving wheels through rotating shafts, universal joints, and bevel gears. The driving wheels are mounted in two four-wheel bogies so that they can easily follow sharp curves in the track. None of these features are found in normal steam locomotives. The result is a locomotive that is extremely powerful for its size, and that will cope with sharp curves and steep grades with ease. But this is at the cost of speed, Climax locomotive No.1694 is just about flat-out at 13 km/h (8 mph).
Climax locomotive No.1694 is a miraculous survivor of a rare breed of steam locomotive.
Sources: James Brook and Puffing Billy Railway
Below are a selection of images from our library. Alternatively click here to see our extensive collection of timber tramline images.