Robertson, Martin & Smith

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Robertson, Martin & Smith
Successor William Robertson & co
Founded 1853
Defunct 1855
Headquarters Melbourne, Australia
Key people
William B Robertson, John Martin and William Smith

Robertson, Martin and Smith was an engineering firm in Melbourne in the second half of the nineteenth century. The company manufactured the first steam locomotive to be built in Australia.

Robertson, Martin and Smith comprised a partnership of William B Robertson,[1] an English born engineer, John Martin and William Smith. The company was operating from at least mid 1853 with office at Lambeth-place, Flinders-lane west, Melbourne, when they advertised for labourers.,[2] through proclamation in the Government Gazette. In June they tendered for the construction of a steam gondola for the Cremorne Gardens a pleasure ground on the Yarra River in Richmond.[3]

When the Melbourne and Hobson's Bay Railway Company began construction of the first steam-hauled railway line to operate in Australia, they ordered locomotives from the renowned British engineering firm of Robert Stephenson and Company. However, the ship was delayed, and so the railway looked to the firm that had previously constructed a small donkey engine for hauling supplies along the line during construction. The boiler was made by Langlands foundry and Robertson Martin & Smith assembled it at a rented premises on the Maribyrnong River.[4][5]

The locomotive was completed in just ten weeks and cost £2,700. Forming the first steam train to travel in Australia, a 2-2-2WT locomotive which first ran in trials on 9 September 1854, and then commenced regular trips on 12 September 1854.[6][7]

The firm used the then vacant bluestone buildings of Joseph Raleigh's boiling down works on the Saltwater River near Footscray, to erect the locomotive. Raleigh had died in 1852, so it appears the buildings were not in use at the time.[8]

The partnership was dissolved on 10 July 1855.[9]


  1. ^ "Family Notices.". The Argus. Melbourne: National Library of Australia. 28 May 1877. p. 1. Retrieved 22 July 2013. 
  2. ^ "Advertising.". The Argus. Melbourne: National Library of Australia. 6 June 1853. p. 12. Retrieved 22 July 2013. 
  3. ^ "DOMESTIC INTELLIGENCE.". The Argus. Melbourne: National Library of Australia. 3 October 1853. p. 5. Retrieved 22 July 2013. 
  4. ^ Leon Oberg Locomotives of Australia: 1854 to 2007 (Google eBook) Rosenberg Publishing, 2007 p.14
  5. ^ Gary B. Magee, Andrew S. Thompson, Empire and Globalisation: Networks of People, Goods and Capital in the British World, C.1850-1914, Cambridge University Press, 11/02/2010, p.139
  6. ^ "VICTORIA.". Colonial Times. Hobart, Tas.: National Library of Australia. 16 September 1854. p. 2. Retrieved 16 June 2013. 
  7. ^ Although horse-drawn "trains" debuted on a railway between Goolwa and Port Elliot in South Australia on 18 May of that year, Melbourne hosted the first mechanical railway.
  8. ^ Maribyrnong Heritage Citation Victorian Heritage Database place details – 16/6/2013 Raleigh Castle at 14 Belvedere Close
  9. ^ "DOMESTIC INTELLIGENCE.". The Argus. Melbourne: National Library of Australia. 3 October 1853. p. 5. Retrieved 22 July 2013.