Aus Steam '88

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Aus Steam '88 was an Australian Bicentenary activity in Melbourne, Victoria featuring many steam locomotives from NSW, Victoria and also the United Kingdom. The event took place at Spencer Street station from 15 October to 29 October, and also included tours on Victorian rail lines involving the participating locomotives.


In early 1986, it was suggested at a Steamrail board meeting that something should be done to celebrate Australia's Bicentenary. Inspiration came from the railways 150th celebrations in England in 1975. Many ideas were canvassed, such as a visit by New South Wales locomotive 3801 and locomotives from other states.

In 1987, Mallard was supposed to visit to Australia. But due to the impending 50th anniversary of the locomotive’s 126 miles per hour speed record in 1938, the National Railway Museum declined to allow the locomotive to leave the UK. Flying Scotsman was suggested as an alternative. But funding had to be arranged.

The owner of the Flying Scotsman, William McAlpine had his bank to do a credit search on Wal Stuchbery (the creator of Aus Steam '88) and his wife, to assess the soundness of the project. After satisfying himself that a repeat of Flying Scotsman’s stranding in the USA in 1972 was not likely occur, McAlpine asked George Hinchcliffe, a former manager of the Flying Scotsman and a former director of Steamtown Railway Museum in Carnforth Lancashire, where the locomotive was based, to help prepared it for the trip. Final agreement was reached when McAlpine met representatives of the Victorian Department of Transport, and the P&O shipping agent, in Transport House in Yarraville, Victoria.

Although the Flying Scotsman was set to come to Australia, some problems were emerging. The New South Wales Bicentennial programme was taking its toll, with many locomotives failing and others not restored in time for the celebrations. Nevertheless, the stage was still being set for a spectacular event. Many steam locomotives from New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory and Victoria were available. South Australia was to be part of the celebration but a number of steam locomotives were not able to be restored in time. However many of that state’s vintage diesels were able to take part, as well as the NSW Rail Transport Museum's New South Wales 42 class locomotive 4201.The two unions involved in the project, the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen (AFULE) and the Australian Railway Union (ARU), were both very supportive of the committee.

Delivery Runs[edit]

On Friday 14 October, the RTM's 4201 and the ARHS' 1210 left Goulburn with the first southbound tour train. It was to have included the Lachlan Valley Railway's 5367 but that engine failed with eccentric problems and was not able to make the journey. 3112 also failed on that day, but was able to meet up with 1210 later the next day. 4201 was substituting the LVR's 4204 which failed motor traction problems. The train was split at Yass. In the gathering dusk and rain, 1210 set off alone on the main line for Cootamundra, with a water gin and four platform end carriages, followed by the 42 class locomotive with the rest of the cars. The locomotives were hauling a UK tour party train for the event.

On Saturday 15 October, 3112 met up with 1210 overnight set off from Albury station to Melbourne. A planned parallel run had been planned with the Victorian Railways J class locomotive J515 south of Seymour, but it had to be abandoned due the standard gauge locomotive's late running. R761 left Melbourne that day to meet up with 3801, the Railways of Australia Bicentennial Train, for a parallel run to Melbourne. 3801 departed Central railway station, Sydney with the Bicentennial Train, assisted by New South Wales D59 class locomotive 5910 from Campbelltown to Goulburn.

The next day, Sunday 16 October, 3801 paralleled with R761 from Wodonga, Victoria all the way to Melbourne. On the same day, the Flying Scotsman was unloaded at Sydney Harbour from the deck of the New Zealand Pacific and hauled by the State Rail Authority's own diesel locomotive 4472 to the Eveleigh Railway Workshops. The next week, Monday 17 October, 4201 hauled the various carriages that had been left in Albury by 1210 and 3112.

Program of Activities[edit]

Tuesday, 18 October, saw many broad gauge trips between Melbourne and Geelong, including a visit to the Bellarine Peninsula Railway at Queenscliff. On 19 October, Flying Scotsman left Sydney and, after making an overnight stop at Junee, it departed for Albury. While the locomotive was in Sydney, it made a trial run from Sydney to Port Kembla, New South Wales. During its run to Melbourne, it was welcomed by local residents at towns along the way. Many school children cheered the locomotive on. 3801 worked a return run from Melbourne to Seymour and R707 made an evening return run from Melbourne to Woodend.

Friday saw no steam action on the Main Line but Elecrail's Tait set worked to Belgrave to connect with a Puffing Billy Railway, Melbourne special to Lakeside, hauled by the newly restored Climax locomotive 1694, double heading with an NA class 2-6-2T as far as Menzies Creek. It was the Climax's first run since its restoration. Sunday 23 October, saw an extensive railway display at Spencer Street station

On the standard gauge was 3801, 1210, 3112, 4201, 8168 and 42218 (which had worked on the Daylight Express on Saturday). Flying Scotsman was also there too, inside a wired cage, with a charge for admission. On the broad gauge was a line up of diesel power including an F class shunter, a first-series T class T320, with V/Line's Bicentennial locomotive A66, a DERM from the Seymour Museum, as well as a preserved L class electric loco. Steam was represented, with D3 639, J515, K153, R707 and R761.

R761 and K153 ran shuttle trips between Spencer and Flinders Street throughout the day, while the Elecrail Tait set ran a Mystery Tour. Many Australian National locomotives were represented, with BL, 700 and 930 classes. Beside the locomotives at Spencer Street, a good variety of road-based steam power, such as vintage trucks and buses, were on display. There were tram shuttles up Flinders Street.

On 25 October, Victoria had a chance to watch the first revenue run of the Flying Scotsman in Australia, as it worked a very successful return Melbourne/Albury service. Also, South Australian Railways diesel locomotive no. 900 returned home behind a G, BL and 700 class combination on an Adelaide bound interstate freight.

The Return Home[edit]

On Thursday 27 October, the New South Wales locomotives began the return to their home state. 1210 and 3112 worked a special tour to Albury with K153 running parallel as far as Seymour. 4201 headed for Albury, with C505 in the lead on an interstate goods train. By Friday Morning, 4201, 1210 and 3112 reached Cootamundra. 1210 worked alone with four platform end carriages. North from Harden, 1210 and 3112 then double headed to Yass, with 4201 doing the clearing up on its own.

1210 and 3112 ran shuttle trips on the Yass Town line. Meanwhile 3801 the Bicentennial Train left Melbourne heading to Albury, running parallel with R707 as far as Seymour. On 30 October, 3801, with 5910, it set off on the home run to Sydney. However, Flying Scotsman stayed in Melbourne from 31 October to 17 December. On 18 December, it had an official welcome at Moss Vale with 3801 and 5910. Before the Scotsman arrived at Moss Vale, a ceremony took place to end 3801's Railways of Australia Bicentennial Train duties. When Flying Scotsman arrived, thousands of people greeted locomotive. There was no triple parallel run, but Flying Scotsman and 3801 ran parallel from Strathfield to Sydney.

Triple Parallel Run[edit]

One of the biggest highlights of Aus Steam '88 was the triple parallel run with 3801, D3 639, K153 and R761. D3 639 and K153 were double heading on Saturday, 22 October. To many people this would have been a world's first. 3801 with historical NSWGR's carriages, D3 639, K153 and R761 with a line of historical Victorian Railway's carriages. 3801 on the standard and D3 639 and K153 on the broad gauge line were both parallel running from Melbourne to Somerton (were they meet up with R761) with full cry of steam, whistle and steel, it was a memorable day for all steam enthusiast from all parts of Australia and the world.

At Seymour, R761 have been derailed on the standard gauge diamond loop. Diesel locomotives were quickly organised to haul the standard gauge train and R761's train back to Melbourne, while D3 639 and K153 were able to return the third load. 3801 returned to Melbourne as a light engine and R761 headed home next morning.


  • Book: "A Vintage Year For Steam: Aus Steam '88 and Flying Scotsman in Australia", Steve Malpass John Dare and Ian Jenkin
  • Magazine: "Railway Digest", December 1988, January 1989 and February 1989, Australian Railway Historical Society, NSW Division