Champions of Heritage Transport: Douglas Patterson

Following the recognition given by the creation of this new award at the 2018 Annual General Meeting, the following essay acknowledges the contribution made by Doug Patterson towards the expansion of the NSW Rail Transport Museum (now NSW Rail Museum). This is the second award made in this category.


From the early 1970s, Doug became one of the senior managers at the Chullora Railway Workshops. Doug was always very enthusiastic about his work and the history of the NSW Railways. He followed with great interest the setting up of the NSW Rail Transport Museum (NSWRTM). He felt, however, that joining the NSWRTM could be seen as a conflict of interest with his management role, so he decided to give whatever support he could from behind the scenes.


It was the donation of diesel electric locomotive 4102 to the museum in 1976 that gave Doug the opportunity to contribute something towards the organisation. He was in the position of electrical workshop manager at Chullora at the time, so he arranged for all the remaining 41 class locomotive spares to be transported from the various depots and stores to Chullora, where they would be gathered and then transported to Thirlmere. This included a spare engine and generator.


Doug’s group at Chullora provided the Thirlmere volunteers with much help and information as the museum members sought to return 4102 to operating condition. As Doug shared his interest and passion for history and preservation, the diesel group volunteers quickly developed a friendship that would last until his untimely death in mid- 1991.


Following the delivery of locomotive 4306 to Thirlmere, it was explained to Doug that the original reason for acquiring this locomotive was for it to be used as a source of parts to return pioneer diesel-electric locomotive 4001 back to service. After 4306 had been at Thirlmere for a few years, it was realised that the engine had sufficient history in its own right, so it would be retained as an important part of the diesel collection at Thirlmere. With the help of NSWRTM Maintenance Manager Keith Robinson, who was a workshop foreman at Chullora, Doug then arranged to collect all the remaining 40 and 43 class locomotive spare parts still in the railway stores system and outlying depots. These parts were gathered at Chullora and, when assembled, loaded into a surplus TRC goods van and dispatched to Thirlmere. It was this supply of available parts that enabled both locomotives 4306 and, later, 4001 to be rebuilt and returned to service.


During a visit to Chullora in 1979 to finalise the 40/43 class parts acquisition, Doug revealed the plans by the workshops to present a locomotive in a special colour scheme for the Railways 125th Anniversary in 1980. This story was told in the April 2017 issue of Roundhouse.


When 4201 was withdrawn from service in 1983, Doug was by then the manager of the Diesel Engine Workshops and Deputy Works Manager. A story was circulated about 4201 that a faulty oil pump on the locomotive had caused damage to the engine’s crankshaft. Doug had the workshop staff perform checks on the locomotive and found that everything was normal.


Knowing the interest that the museum had in preserving the locomotive, Doug arranged for it to be stored away for safekeeping from all of the locomotives due to be scrapped. It was during this time that a few NSWRTM diesel group volunteers arranged with Doug to recover parts required for 4201 from 4202 and 4205 on the scrap line. These parts assisted the return to service of 4201 by the NSWRTM in 1986.


On many occasions, Doug arranged for members of his team of planners and technical officers to answer locomotive-related questions, as well as provide numerous handbooks, technical manuals and drawings for the NSWRTM’s technical library.


Doug replaced Rod Wales as workshops manager in 1985 and continued to provide assistance towards the museum when he could, up to his retirement in February 1991. The NSWRTM volunteers were looking forward to bringing Doug into the museum as a member following his retirement, but, unfortunately, he passed away suddenly on 20 June 1991.


Doug will be remembered as a strong supporter of the NSWRTM, willing to do whatever he could to provide assistance with his resources. The contribution he made towards those early years of operating diesel locomotives at Thirlmere is considerable. Without the help he provided, the task faced by museum members would have been far more difficult. The ongoing legacy of Doug’s support is the operation of locomotives 4001, 4201 and 4306 today.


As Doug was not a member of the museum, it is fitting that his contribution towards the diesel locomotive fleet at Thirlmere be recognised by nominating him as one of the first Champions of Heritage Transport in New South Wales.


This article was originally published in the autumn 2019 edition of Roundhouse magazine. Written by life member Allan Leaver.

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