Part 2: Last Days in Service
In this article we conclude the history of the 70 class locomotives of the NSW Railways, including an accident with 7006.
Locomotive 7006 was being shunted by a driver working alone at Port Kembla Locomotive Depot. The driver left 7006 under power while he jumped off to change a set of points, but the locomotive got away from him and ran into the steelworks rail network on their Jetty Main Line.
At the time, Steelworks Locomotive D14, driven by Pat Michelle with shunter Derek Bailey, was pushing a rake of flatcars into No.1 scrapyard. It was the afternoon shift, so it was very dark in this part of the works. The shunter was riding the lead flat wagon, which was loaded with steel scrap and ingots.
Fortunately, 7006 had its marker lights on and the shunter saw it coming as it crested the grade. Thinking the crew of 7006 had lost their way, he set his shunter’s lamp to red and proceeded to wave it frantically. He then thought maybe there was no one on the locomotive so he leapt from his moving train and ran as far as he could go.
Within seconds, 7006 collided with the lead wagon just beneath the road overbridge at Port North. The impact was so severe that the wagon split open and 7006 was extensively damaged. The shock was so great that it tripped the engine overspeed sensor on locomotive D14, which resulted in the locomotive shutting down. The driver was thrown out of his seat, his head hitting the large end window and knocking him out.
The locomotive was extricated from the mess and returned to Port Kembla Locomotive Depot for assessment. It was eventually sent to Eveleigh Workshops for repairs and rebuilding before it could be returned to service. The unfortunate flat wagon in the Steelworks was cut up for scrap on the spot.
It has not been possible to identify the date of this incident. Whilst it is only conjecture, the accident could have been the reason the locomotive was sent to Eveleigh Workshops for rebuilding and repainting in the reverse colour scheme. Photographs confirm that the locomotive was still in service in the original colours towards the end of 1978, where later photographs show the repainted locomotive at Port Kembla towards the end of 1981. The accident repairs would have dictated that the locomotive required a repaint in the colour scheme of the day. As no other locomotives (apart from 7007 in candy following the last 70 class overhaul) were repainted after the mid-1970s, it would be safe to assume that the accident occurred during the time frame suggested.
70 class last days in service
By early 1984, the use of 70 class on the Port Kembla industrial network was at an all-time low, with only one or two units needed for the day shift. Three units were otherwise normally occupied on shunting duties within Port Kembla North Yard, with perhaps another pair on transfer workings.
On 10 February 1984, locomotive 7009 was taken out of traffic at the Port with wheel problems. The unit was subsequently forwarded to Eveleigh Workshops for attention, but was instead left outside the shops. Four months later, on 21 June, 7008 was stopped at Port Kembla with gear-box problems. It too was sent to Eveleigh Workshops. In early August, locomotive 7002 was taken into Eveleigh Workshops with signs of water in the oil. The decision was taken that none of the three locomotives would be repaired, so they were officially withdrawn from service and set aside pending formal condemnation.
On 12 September 1984, candy coloured 7007 failed with drive shaft problems. It was not towed to workshops, but officially set aside at Port Kembla on 28 September, where it was joined in June the following year by 7010. Locomotive 7003 was also withdrawn, as it suffered a wheel defect.
With many 48 class duties on the Illawarra Line being taken over by main line units, some of the branch liners gradually found their way onto the shunting roster in Port Kembla North Yard. The crews preferred the 48s to multiple-unit 70s and began to pressure for their replacement on these duties.
There were suggestions of 73 class locomotives being allocated for shunting operations and commercial duties at Port Kembla. After all, they were designed for this type of work and a number were more or less surplus following the closure of Darling Harbour and Alexandria Goods Yards.
Officially, the 48 class took over all shunting and transfer duties at Port Kembla from 12 November 1984. Three 70 class were to be kept operational for commercial network duties and the remainder kept spare. Locomotives 7003 and 7006 in multiple were the last of the class to be regularly used on the transfer shunter on 2 November, although 7006 and 7010 made a brief return for one day on 6 December. The 48 class locomotives became common on this duty. However, any class of motive power was in fact utilised while awaiting its next rostered main line job.
On 30 August 1986, two 73 class units, 7315 and 7316, were transferred from Delec (Enfield) to Port Kembla as the final stage in the displacement of the veteran 70 class from the port’s commercial and industrial shunting operations.
By early September 1986, only two of the original ten 70 class were available for local working: 7006 and 7010. Locomotive 7010 last operated on 10 September 1986 on the day shift to shunt the commercial network, while 7006’s last regular day in service was 11 September 1986 on jetty shunting. 7006 was used unofficially on occasional, small jobs during 1987, as illustrated by the photo shunting the single deck interurban set. The depot manager kept 7006 operational for use in short term emergencies such as the aforementioned. It also resulted in the locomotive being isolated from vandal attacks and souvenir hunters.
As early as 1987, the Dorrigo Steam Railway and Museum (DSR&M) had been seeking one or more 70 class units for its collection, at the time advising its members that it had been allocated unit 7010, which was out of service and stored. As it had not been condemned, its release date to the museum was uncertain. It had been proposed to dispose of the remaining units as scrap, but with increased interest, including an inquiry from the Emu Bay Railway (EBR) of Tasmania, it was instead decided to invite public tenders for their purchase. During mid-1989, tenders were called for the purchase and removal of seven 70 class units from Port Kembla. The units listed were 7001, 7003, 7004, 7005, 7006, 7007 and 7010. Locomotive 7007 was the last unit overhauled and the only member of the class to be repainted in ‘candy’ livery. It had lasted only a month following its return from the workshops before failing and was not to be repaired.
State Rail records indicated that 7001, 7004, 7005, 7006 and 7010 were sold as a result of the tenders from Simsmetal Ltd, while 7006 and 7010 were each sold for $5,641. The other three brought $4,231 each. Locomotives 7003 and 7007 were sold to the EBR for $7,000 each. Initially, it appears DSR&M obtained an option on candy locomotive 7007, but continued negotiations to obtain a better unit. It seems that a considerable amount of ‘horse-trading’ went on behind the scenes.
In early 1990, DSR&M advised that it had acquired unit 7010 for $3,550 and that 7003 (along with 7007) had been sold to the EBR. However, the EBR was only interested in the transmissions from the locomotives, which were reusable in their 10 and 11 class units. The EBR did not particularly wish to send staff up from Burnie to dismantle the two 70 class for parts, so an arrangement was worked out with DSR&M whereby the museum would supply a reconditioned transmission already on hand at Dorrigo and have it flown to Tasmania in exchange for 7007 ‘as is’, which was complete except for an air compressor.
Locomotive 7003 would be cut up by the museum, which could keep any parts required after supplying the transmission to the EBR. The main item retained was the Caterpillar engine. Locomotives 7007, 7004 and 7005 had been sold to Simsmetal for scrap, so the museum was able to purchase a replacement air compressor from the scrap metal merchant. DSR&M now owned three complete (or near complete) 70 class units: 7008, already at Dorrigo, 7007 and 7010. The museum was unable to move the latter pair at the time, as it was in the midst of transferring the rest of its collection from Rhonnda Colliery site south of Newcastle to the Glenreagh–Dorrigo branch.
Locomotives 7007 and 7010 languished together on an industrial siding at Port Kembla, their condition gradually deteriorating owing to the fall-out from the nearby steelworks and the salt air. Locomotive 7010 finally left Port Kembla for the last time on 21 November 1994, followed by 7007 on 29 November 1994. Both cabs were full of spare parts acquired with the cutting up of 7003. The remaining unit was put up for disposal. Locomotive 7006 was resold by Simsmetal to David Hinde and Michael Holden of United Hydraulics Wollongong. It was removed to a private siding owned by the Electricity Commission of NSW near Yallah, midway between Wollongong and Kiama.
Builder’s numbers were not allocated to these units by the manufacturer, Commonwealth Engineering Pty Ltd of Granville.
7006 sold to Simsmetal Ltd, who resold the unit to RTM Illawarra Group members David Hinde and Michael Holden through their company, United Hydraulics. It was transferred to Electricity Commission Siding, Yallah, on 31 March 1990 for restoration to working order. 7006 transferred from Yallah to the NSW Rail Museum at Thirlmere under its own power on 14 August 1993. It was on loan to the Powerhouse Museum between April 2008 and December 2010.
7007 failed on its delivery run. It was ultimately returned to the manufacturer and re-trialled following repairs on 22 October 1962. 7007 sold to the Emu Bay Railway Co. and was subsequently acquired by DSR&M. The unit was reported on its delivery to the museum after storage at Port Kembla (and later Lysaght’s) on 29 November 1994.
7008 was purchased by DSR&M, with a delivery departure date of 18 April 1985.
70l0 sold to Simsmetal Ltd, but was subsequently acquired by DSR&M. The unit departed on its delivery to the museum after storage at Port Kembla (and later Lysaght’s) on 21 November 1994.
The history notes used in sections of this essay were compiled by Peter Neve and were part of an article about the history of the 70 class printed in the Australian Railway History in July and August 2008. Used with permission.
Locomotive 7006 accident history details provided by Bill Parkinson, who was employed by Australian Iron and Steel as a locomotive maintenance fitter at the time of the accident.
This article was originally published in the summer 2019 edition of Roundhouse magazine. Written by Allan Leaver, Life Member, and Peter Neve.