Push Gathers Steam to Restore a Historic Loco
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An iconic and widely adored steam locomotive from the 1940s has returned to the tracks today to the delight of rail lovers across NSW.
For the first time in almost 14 years Locomotive 3801 will run again, offering passengers a chance to return to a bygone era of rail travel.
The 3801 is the last streamlined steam locomotive in the state and arguably the country's most famous as it's the only engine to have visited all mainland states and territories.
A class 38 train, most likely the 3801, passing Sydney's Central Station in 1980.(Supplied: City Of Sydney
)To mark its long-awaited return, the 3801 is taking 1,500 passengers on sold-out trips between Sydney and Hurstville today and tomorrow.
In the next few months 3801 will also make trips to the Southern Highlands, Albury, Wagga Wagga, Junee, the Blue Mountains and towns in western and northern NSW.
Passengers can choose to travel in the open saloon or a private compartment car.
3801 crosses the Bargo River Bridge.(Supplied: Steve Burrows
)The 3801 has always attracted major public enthusiasm, says Transport Heritage NSW CEO Andrew Moritz, and is the most asked about engine in their historical fleet.
"This engine has a following all of its own," he said.
"Being the 'glamour express' it has always been a crowd favourite and attracts crowds wherever it goes."
In 2013, when Transport Heritage NSW was established, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the organisation should prioritise returning the 3801 to service.
The 3801 is an important piece of Australian rail history.(Supplied: Transport Heritage NSW Via SJB Photography
)When Locomotive 3801 first launched in 1943, it immediately changed the image of NSW railways and epitomised the romance of the steam era.
The 38 class was fast, powerful and streamlined, and only the best crews were rostered to work the trains.
"It is that iconic epitome of steam, it represents the best technology of the day," Mr Moritz said.
"The streamlining makes it so representative of that Art Deco era, and the modernity that the railways were trying to project."
In 1964 the 3801 made the fastest journey at the time between Sydney and Newcastle in just over two hours and in 1970 it became the first steam locomotive to cross the continent to Western Australia.
However, the 3801 was marred by tragedy in 1990 when an inter-city train hit the locomotive while traveling to Cowan, NSW, killing six people on board.
The impact completely destroyed the last car of the 3801 and a nine-month ban was introduced on steam trains in NSW.
The 3801 was originally painted grey and nicknamed the Grey Nurse.(Supplied: Transport Heritage NSW
)By 2007 the 3801 was withdrawn from heritage service due to major damage to its boiler.
A new boiler was ordered in 2010 from Germany but it had technical issues and eventually it was decided to repair the original boiler using the old-fashioned riveting technique.
The NSW government-funded $3.5 million overhaul of the 3801 was completed last year by a team of staff and volunteers, including some who worked on the train in its heyday.
"It's certainly become a much bigger job than was envisioned … it's been a labour of love," Mr Moritz said.
The restoration was carried out at the Chullora workshop in Sydney and has seen a new generation of steam specialists become qualified.
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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