Got a short report on the pleasure of enjoying a piece of steam history being brought back into service the other week. In the world of geared steam locos, the Climax is one of the classics. According to records, there are only 19 known still in existence, and now (with 1694's recommissioning), just 4 remaining preserved and able to go into steam. Luckily for me, I have a fine preservation society in "Puffing Billy" located a short drive from home, with a great little collection of narrow gauge steam loco's lovingly restored and regularly run.
Sunday 8th September saw the official recommissioning of Climax 1694 up at Puffing Billy, with a special run from Belgrave to Emerald, and a happy bunch of steam nuts on board (with plenty on the train chase during the day). The weather for the day was brilliant, and the smell of steam in the air as you enter the Belgrave valley is always a welcoming smell. I got up to the Belgrave yards early to check some of the morning activities. It was a narrow gauge steam enthusiasts treat, to see the Climax, the G42 Garratt, and a couple of the Baldwin nA's (aka "Puffing Billy) all in steam in the one yard. Given the rather slow top speed of around 8mph on the Climax, we headed out first, ahead of the normal daily running schedule, and would soon be passed by the first regular nA hauled train for the day up at Menzies Creek. Plenty of fans out along the line, with the casual pace of the Climax making it easy to play the train chase and drive ahead to the next photo opportunity.
A brief stop at Menzies Creek to be passed by the first regular train was just another opportunity for everyone to jump out and check out this fine piece of restoration as she simmered away patiently while her stable mate waddled by. All aboard again for the next leg of the journey up the grade to Emerald. This section has a steep rise into the station yard, so I reckon we slowed to about 3-4mph for this twisting portion of the run. Could have quite easily stepped out, walked past the train, taken another photo, and boarded again! We previously took a brief halt just before "Landslide" so we could all off load and run ahead for a photo run through.
We eventually reached the mid point of the journey, and pulled into Emerald station. More steam lovers feasts, with the "Ali Shan" Shay #14 sitting in the yard, as well as the Peckett. NRT1 rail tractor took care of shunting duties while the Climax eased up to the nose of the Shay for some more photos. It makes a very rare sight these days to see a Climax and a Shay buffer to buffer these days! Hopefully the Shay is eventually able to received the same restoration process that the Climax has just experienced. I feel truly luck to have to have such a fine collection of narrow gauge history preserved this close to home. Its certainly an incredible collection of history all running from the one shed. We took some morning tea at Emerald, before making the journey back to Menzies Creek for a tour around the newly constructed museum shed. This venue will be superb once completed (rails due to be laid inside the shed in the next few weeks), with more valuable rail history going into a better storage setting. We heard some thank you speeches in the museum and enjoyed some light lunch. We waited at Menzies Creek for the passing of the afternoon trains (G42 heading back to Belgrave, while 6A was on its way up to Emerald), as the Climax sat in waiting on the museum access track.
As we ran back down the grade to Belgrave again, listening to squeaks, groans and rattles of the well aged carriages, the sun beamed through the Mountain Ash forest surrounding the little train. A run across the much photographed Monbulk trestle bridge meant we were close to home again, and eventually we drifted into the Belgrave yards again. Day done, with aching smiles all round. I hate to think how many photographs were taken collectively on this day (I blazed off 400!). A huge thank you to the Puffing Billy Preservation Society for the 12 years of hard work and fund raising that has gone into seeing 1694 steam back to life. What a treat of a day to be a part of, and feel very rewarded seeing, feeling, and hearing a creature like this Climax blast her whistle in the lush surrounds.
I also captured a bit of video footage of the day, which can be viewed on YouTube at the link below.