Info Blue Mountains Railway Pages
Trial of American Locomotive
3 Sisters, Blue Mountains, Australia.
A Baldwin crosses the Blue Mountains


The Sydney Morning Herald,
Wednesday, December 12, 1877.
Sub-headings added.

On Saturday last, the Honourable the Minister for Works (Mr Combes), having given instructions that the locomotive lately imported from America should be tried on the Great Western Railroad, invited a few gentlemen to accompany him. The party consisted of himself; Mr Alexander Stuart (by whose advice, when Treasurer, the engine was ordered); Mr Whitton, the Engineer- in- Chief of Railways; Mr John Rae, the Commissioner for Railways; Mr W. Mason, Engineer of Existing Lines; Mr T. Carlisle, the acting Traffic Manager Dr B. H. Williams, one of the partners of the Baldwin Locomotive Company which supplied the engine; Mr Augustus Morris, Mr P. A. Jennings, Mr P. Higgins, Mr A. E. De Pavia, Mr D. Dixon, and some other gentlemen.


The Baldwin arrived in Sydney, chained to the deck of the sailing ship Star of the West, in October 1877.

Sydney to Glenbrook

The start was punctually effected at 6 o'clock in the morning, with a train of passenger carriages, the total weight, including engine and tender, being 106 tons, such as ordinarily runs over the Western mountains, the railway authorities evidently desiring to give the engine fair play on its first trial over such steep grades and sharp curves. The engine had, however, been previously tested on the Southern line with heavy freight trains. The run to Parramatta was made without stopping at any of the intermediate stations, as was the next stage to Penrith. Crossing the noble bridge over the Nepean, the engine had to face the first zig zag with its incline of one foot in thirty, and although Dr Williams did not look anxious as to the result, the rest of the party was pleased when the pinch was overcome, the valves beating gently with perfectly regular stroke.

BaldwinU105_FSAMp59_300.jpg (11152 bytes) U105 was the first American locomotive imported to the colony of NSW, & came with a set of typical American carriages.

Over the Mountains

Mount Victoria was reached by five minutes before the time, and Lithgow, the end of the day's down run, was punctually reached at 11am, the whole distance of ninety-six miles having been accomplished in five hours, including stoppages. At every station and crossing the inhabitants were warned that a strange engine was approaching by the loud scream of the steam whistle, which sounds more like the roar of a fog-horn than the shriek of an ordinary locomotive.


Interestingly, 40 of the 45 minutes was saved between Mt Victoria & Lithgow - at the top of the mountains.

A Tour and Luncheon

This far the engine behaved as well as one of its power could, taking all the grades and curves with perfect ease, whether ascending or descending. The Westinghouse brake fitted to the tender and carriages placed the train under perfect control, and there was no necessity to use the engine brake. The train having been run on the siding, the party, under the guidance of Mr Higgins, visited the coal mine of the Lithgow Valley Company. The party next visited the company's brick, tile and drain-pipe works. The iron smelting works and rolling mill in this locality were also inspected, but operations have not yet been commenced. It is to be hoped that so desirable an industry may flourish, and render the importation of pig iron and steel rails unnecessary. After this the company dined with Mr Higgins, at the Hermitage, and returned at 3 pm to the train. Shortly afterwards the Baldwin locomotive started off for the journey to Sydney. As there is not a turn-table at Lithgow, the engine had to run backwards to Mount Victoria, where it was turned. The up journey was performed with complete success, twenty minutes lost time having been easily made up between Penrith and Sydney. The engine took all the curves on the steep descending grades "like a bird", and after a most enjoyable trip, Sydney was reached at 7.30 pm.


Lithgow was home to Australia's first iron smelter.

A turntable & rounhouse were later installed at Lithgow.

The Baldwin Company

The American engine is made by the Baldwin Locomotive Company of Philadelphia, which is said to be the largest establishment of the kind in the world. Some idea of the magnitude of the Baldwin works may be formed from the fact that they occupy six blocks of the city, and pay, in rates, about 16,000 a year. Fully 480 locomotives are turned out annually.

It was admitted by all the party competent to give an opinion, that if the American type of locomotive is equal to the English in endurance, it has some features of superiority, and is very much less expensive. The experience of 100,000 miles of railroads in North and South America has, it may be thought, sufficiently demonstrated the greater economy and endurance of the American type of engine.

There is a letter in Engineering, of the 12th October last written by the eminent English engineer (Mr Howard Fry), which gives his experience of English and American locomotives, and will be found useful in assisting our authorities with information on their comparative merits.

Mr Mason, and Mr Kinser, an American engineer, who accompanies Dr Williams, were, during nearly the whole journey, in the driver's house carefully attending to the action of the engine.


Baldwin were able to offer rapid delivery and low price.

From 1879 to 1893, 1,320 miles of railway were added in NSW, whilst passenger traffic increased by 200% & freight by 76%.



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