While the annual "RailFest" is usually the last big event on the Rail Heritage WA calendar, December 2006 saw us dispatch steam loco S 549 "Greenmount" and 5 "Heritage Train" coaches to Dowerin or the centenary of the opening of the line to that location.
This resulted from an enquiry by Greg Ross, the CEO of the Dowerin Field Days Committee, as to the possibility of us being able to supply a steam loco for the event. Innumerable hurdles were jumped along the road to making this happen, not the least of which was gaining permission from FESA and other authorities to run steam through the Avon Valley and into the wheatbelt during the fire ban season. ARG came on board in a big way and were responsible for all the train movements, with the "Sammy" moving to Dowerin and return under steam but being towed by a DB class diesel.
S 549 Greenmount at Dowerin with the Heritage cars.
While the administrative arrangements (and battles) were mainly delft with by Greg Ross and ARG, Rail Heritage WA volunteers invested a massive effort preparing the locomotive and coaches for a return to mainline service with very short notice. Some of the coaches had been transferred by rail from Midland in October, so some of the work had been done. However all needed further work, repairs and inspections before the appropriate paperwork could be concluded.
Then there was the provisioning of tools, lubricants, spares and the like. The "Heritage Train" as such had not run for decades, so the whole "travelling kit" had to be rounded up and re-assembled. John Wearmouth and Mike Fry (with a bit of assistance from Philippa Rogers) are to be congratulated on their brake cylinder overhauls, while Tim Draper ensured the cars had batteries and operational electrics. Ian Studham attended to the timberwork repairs, including a new platform deck on AQZ 423, and also took care of axlebox preparation and oiling, supply of fire extinguishers for all the vehicles, hoses for watering the S class away from home and "Heritage Train" coachboards for the passenger cars.
S 549 Greenmount at Dowerin Station building.
The S class had a problem with a leaky tube which was successfully attended to by Rob Clark. Rob also had the expert assistance of Murray Wilmott in dealing with the troublesome drivers side bearing on the cartazzi axle, and the two of them laboured for many hours before they were satisfied that the loco could safely leave the museum. Jeff Austin did much of the unseen cleaning and preparation of the loco and ensured the cad was adequately provisioned with tool and equipment. Roy Daley took on the job of attending to some holes in the spark arrestors, especially important given the situation, and even our President Jim Oliver got into the act and screened what coal remained in the tender removing all the dust and small particles. In all, many hours and much hard dirty work went in to the preparation of the locomotive, and the fact that she operated problem free from Thursday afternoon until dawn the following Tuesday is a credit to those who put in the hard yards.>
Dowerin special with S 549 and P 2516 on the bend at the 24km post. Dowerin.
The entire weekend went extremely well, with passengers being taken on a run behind the steamer up and down a 2.5km stretch of Dowerin yard during the Sunday. Dowerin Shire generously provided accommodation and meals for the RHWA personnel who assisted at the event. ARG were terrific throughout the weekend, and we express our thanks to the many ARG staff who were involved in the event, from the planning stages through to the steam crews from Avon who couldn't wipe the smiles off their faces all weekend.
A more comprehensive report, with photos of the Centenary weekend will appear in a forthcoming edition of the "Westland".
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