Midland Railway of Western Australia

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MRWA locomotive no B6 with a mixed train at Watheroo, ca 1910.

The Midland Railway of Western Australia (MRWA) was a privately built and operated railway in Western Australia, operated by the British-owned Midland Railway Company of Western Australia.

The company's railway ran between Midland Junction railway station, east of Perth, and Walkaway, southeast of Geraldton, and was built on a land-grant principle. It was one of the longest-lived privately owned railways in Australia, operating independently of the Western Australian Government Railways (WAGR) network for more than seventy years, from 1892 until its WAGR takeover in 1964.

The 446 km (277 mi) long route served 39 stations and operated according to a distinctly British practice.

Land development[edit]

Plan of the MRWA, 1894.

Construction of the Midland Railway commenced in 1886 through a privately funded project[1] during a period when funds were being raised to establish agricultural and mining railways.[2] The Western Australian Government granted a land concession of 3,319,464 acres (13,433.39 km2) to the Midland Railway Company following its registration in 1890. The concession of 12,000 acres (49 km2) of land for every mile of railway completed entitled the company to select land between Midland Junction and Walkaway, near Geraldton, within 40 miles (64 km) of the new railway.[3]

Between 1905 and 1918, the company actively pursued a scheme of land classification and settlement led by land agent and politician James Gardiner. The first subdivision was auctioned at Moora on 22 June 1906.[4] By 1911, 16 subdivisions between Midland Junction and Dongara had been classified and auctioned. In 1910, Gardiner instigated and managed the Ready Made Farms Scheme, which provided cleared and fenced farms with houses to prospective settlers.[5] The townsites of Coorow, Winchester and Carnamah formed the backbone of the scheme. The scheme was advertised widely to British citizens and was moderately successful, with 35 of the 58 farms sold by the end of 1915.[6]

Railway[edit]

The Western Australian Government Railways later built a parallel line about 50 km further east.

Between 1914 and 1917, business declined rapidly and the company operated at a loss. This was brought on by decreased revenue owing to the construction of the Western Australian Government Railways Northern Railway (which captured railway traffic from the Midland Railway), crop losses due to drought, the loss of men from districts owing to the First World War, and the imposition of new federal taxes. In 1918, the scheme was wound up.[7]

The line was acquired by the Western Australian Government Railways in 1964.

New company, old name[edit]

In 2002 as the earlier original Midland Railway Company business was no longer existent, the South Spur Railway resurrected the name for the Restaurant train business that ran the Spirit of the West for a number of years.

Workshops[edit]

The Midland Railway established its workshops and headquarters at Midland Junction. Later on, in 1906, the Government Railways relocated their workshops from its overcrowded site at Fremantle to Midland also.

The site of the Midland Railway Company Workshops (a different and separate workshops north west and the other side of the main rail corridor from the Midland Railway Workshops and marshalling yard (which actually worked across the Great Eastern Highway next to the town Post Office) is now the location of the Centrepoint shopping centre and its car-park.

Rolling stock[edit]

The Midland Railway Company operated a number of locomotives, thirty-three passenger carriages, fourteen brake-vans and some 600 goods vehicles.

Steam locomotives[edit]

MRWA locomotive no B6 and crew at Watheroo, ca 1910.

The railway operated four C class and four D class 4-6-2 'Pacific' locomotives, originally numbered C 12-15 and D 20-24 2-8-2 'Mikado' type, later the C class were renumbered C 14-18. Eight A Class and three B class 4-4-0 locomotives, numbered A 1-8 and B 12-15.

They were built by Kitson and Company A and B, North British Locomotive Company C and D. All were withdrawn from service in 1950s.

B6 was placed on a plinth in a park in Geraldton as a display, but in 2000, was removed due to poor condition and road transported to Midland Workshops for possible restoration by members of Rail Heritage Group WA.

However, the group could not proceed with the work required, and were required to remove all their assets within the workshops site (due to the site being refurbished and redeveloped) and moved these to their Rail Transport Museum at Bassendean WA.

Work to restore B 6 has not proceeded as of year ending 2010.

Diesel locomotives[edit]

G51, in Westrail livery, at Manjimup, 1986.

In 1957, MRWA took delivery of its first diesel powered locomotive in the form of diesel mechanical shunting unit E 30, being a 0-6-0 type and powered by a six cylinder Rolls Royce model 6CFL engine rated at 350BHP. A year later the first of six F class A1A-A1A Mainline diesel electric units entered service, built by English Electric Australia at their Rocklea plant in Queensland, these units were powered by EE 6SRKT in line engines and produced 790HP for traction. Numbered 40-46 these units worked the entire MRWA line due to their axle loading of 12 tons.

In 1963, two G class Vee 8 powered units entered service, but due to their 16 ton axle loading were restricted to working between Midland and Watheroo only. These units, numbered 50 and 51, had EE 8SVT engines (the only such engines in Australian built locomotives), and were built to the British Rail Class 20 specifications excepting rail gauge and some body detail. They produced 1100HP, of which 1000HP was available for traction. These units proved to be the last investment by MRWA as by January 1964, WAGR had taken over the trackage and all assets of MRWA.

All diesel locomotives, and other worthwhile rolling stock was absorbed into the WAGR fleet, reclassified where necessary and those not deemed worthy of inclusion, scrapped. The MRWA passenger carriages were retained and reclassified, and some brake vans also retained and reclassified. The diesel fleet retained their classification and numbers.

Survivors[edit]

  • B 6 stored at Walkaway, awaiting restoration. (Only remaining steam locomotive of former MRWA).
  • E 30 preserved at Rail Transport Museum at Bassendean, WA.
  • F 40 Operational with Hotham Valley Railway at Pinjarra, WA.
  • F 41 Static Display within the Moora, WA. Railway Reserve near station.
  • F 43 Preserved at Rail Transport Museum at Bassendean, WA.
  • G 50 Operational (requires Generator replacement) with Hotham Valley Railway at Pinjarra, WA (This unit is owned by Rail Heritage WA, and is on loan).

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ‘Midland Railway Company’, in J.S. Battye, Cyclopedia of Western Australia, p. 474.
  2. Appleyard R.T. 1981, ‘Western Australia: Economic and demographic growth 1850-1914’, in C.T. Stannage (ed.), A New History of Western Australia, Nedlands: UWA Press, p. 216.
  3. The Midland Railway Company of Western Australia Ltd, London, 1914, MN239/2, PR4983/23: Battye Library.
  4. Midland Railway Co., 1914.
  5. Dornan G. n.d., ‘The Early History of the Midland Railway Company’, unpub. thesis; Battye Library.
  6. Dornan G. n.d., ‘The Early History of the Midland Railway Company’, unpub. thesis; Battye Library.
  7. Midland Railway Co., London, Minute Book No. 8, p. 201, MN239/1, 1558A/3-8: Battye Library.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Affleck, Fred (1978). "Chapter Four: The Midland Railway". On Track: The making of Westrail, 1950–1976. Perth: Westrail. pp. 73–86. ISBN 0724475605. 
  • Gardiner, David (2001) "James Gardiner: Politics, Cricket and Land Sales", Early Days, 12 (1), pp. 47–59
  • Gunzburg, Adrian (1989). The Midland Railway Company Locomotives of Western Australia. Melbourne: Light Railway Research Society of Australia. ISBN 0909340277.  (Includes a condensed history of the Company from 1886 to 1964)
  • Searle, M.J. (1984) "A Short History of the Midland Railway Co." : Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin, Jan. 1984

External links[edit]