Locomotive Engineer's Branch

State Records Authority of New South Wales
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The Locomotive Engineer's Branch was established on 1 September 1878 when Robert H. Burnett was appointed Locomotive Engineer. The Branch was responsible for construction, maintenance and repair of Railway rolling stock including the manning of locomotives, water supply work and other trackside facilities such as turntables. The Locomotive Engineer’s Branch initially consisted of an office staff of seven members including draughtsmen and clerks and a staff of engine drivers and firemen, tradesmen, labourers and apprentices totalling 1075. (1) It seems that a Locomotive and Carriage Division emerged in 1878 and continued to operate with this name until 1887. It is not entirely clear but appears that this may have referred to the railway workshops. (2)

In his first report the Engineer pointed to the urgent need for new and larger railway workshops that the Engineer-in-Chief had first proposed three years previously. (3) The Locomotive Engineer drew attention to the following:
Inadequate workshop accommodation and plant for maintaining the engines, carriages and other rolling stock;
Absence of adequate running sheds, water supply and other appliances at the various depots;
Much of the rolling stock was defective owing to inadequate workshop facilities;
Insufficient engine stock led to defective engines remaining in service; and
The variety of engine types added to the cost of their maintenance. (4)

The following year a portion of land known as the Chisholm Estate, comprising 62¼ acres, was purchased as a site for the principal workshops to service the Southern and Western Railways, and Parliament voted £250,000 for the erection of workshops and the acquisition of machinery. (5) In the same year the Newcastle Workshops at Honeysuckle Creek were extended and work commenced on repair shops at Penrith, Bathurst and Goulburn. (6)

It seems that in addition to the workshops at Redfern and Honeysuckle Creek and the repair facilities at Penrith, Bathurst and Goulburn, there were also workshops on a smaller scale at Harden and Bomen, Singleton, Murrurundi and Gunnedah. (7)

Work commenced on the site at Eveleigh in 1881. The complex was to include:
Boiler, steam-hammer and smith's shop;
Iron and Brass foundry, tin and coppersmith's shop;
engine and tender repairing and paint shops, wheel, machine and fitting shops, joiners' shops and stores;
Engine running sheds
Shunting yard
Locomotive Engineeers' offices; and
Carriage and wagon repair shops including a woodworking machine shop, fitting and turning shop; smith's shop, paint shop, trimming shop and stores. (8)

The workshops moved into the new Running Shed at Eveleigh in 1885 (9) and the remainder of the building was gradually occupied as it became available.

The Locomotive Engineers Branch was abolished by 1 July 1890 when it was succeeded by the Chief Mechanical Engineer's Branch. (10)

(1) Annual report of the Railway Commissioners for the year ending 30 June 1883, Appendix No. 49, pp.131, 134-136.
(2) Ibid., p.11.
(3) Report of the Commissioner for Railways for the year 1878, Appendix No. 2, pp.22-23.
(4) Ibid., p.16.
(5) Report of the Commissioner for Railways for the year 1879, p.13.
(6) Ibid., Appendix No. 2, p.25.
(7) Report of the Commissioner for Railways for the year 1881, pp.47-48, 58-59.
(8) Ibid., Appendix, pp.29-30.
(9) Report of the Commissioner for Railways for the year 1885, p.34.
(10) Inferred from Return showing the appointments of Railway Employees from 1st July 1890 - 30 June 1891 (Appendix XXIV) in Report of the Commissioner for Railways for the year ended 30 June 1891, pp.55-56.

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