As part of the ceremonies to mark the centenary of the opening of the Moe — Walhalla Railway the Puffing Billy Railway made NA class locomotive No.7A available to run six trips between Walhalla and Thomson on the weekend of 29 — 30 May.

The locomotive was transported by low-loader from Menzies Creek to Walhalla on Wednesday 26 May, and a number of test trips were made on 27 — 28 May.

On Thursday 27 May to Saturday 29 May locomotive 7A wore the numberplates of 9A. It reverted to its own identity on Sunday 30 May.

The original 9A spent much more of its life on the Walhalla Railway than did 7A. The last time 7A visited Walhalla was probably in 1936 when it briefly repaced G42 while that loco was serviced at Newport Workshops.

9A also ran the first train to carry passengers into Walhalla, on 15 March 1910. This train was run by the Railway Construction Branch of the Public Works Department, as the railway was not yet completed, and there was no station at Wahalla.

9A also ran the first official (Victorian Railways) train to Walhalla, on 3 May 1910, a train which carried the State Premier, many Members of Parliament and other dignitaries.

However 7A ran the last train on the Moe — Walhalla line in 1954, but by that time the line was already closed beyond Erica. The railway between Platina and Walhalla was closed in 1944 and between Erica and Platina in 1951.

The Walhalla Goldfields Railway restored the railway between Thomson and Walhalla between 1994 and 2004 , and hopes to restore the line between Thomson and Erica.

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Walhalla station, photographed around 1933 when my father visited the town. I first saw this picture in 1953, the year of the Great Puffing Billy Landslide Disaster. It intrigued me and gave me the strong desire to visit Walhalla. Not an easy task for an eight year old. The opportunity came in January 1958, when I took the next photograph:

Walhalla station site, January 1958. There are rails in there, but lifting of them has just started. The picture was taken on an Ansco 120 size folding camera, dating from 1912, using Agfacolor negative film.

How different things were on 29 May 2010!

Locomotive 7A at Walhalla station, decorated with Australian flags and fern fronds.

First train of the day heading for Thomson.

First train of the day heading for Thomson.

First train of the day heading for Thomson.

The section of the railway which has been restored, from Thomson to Walhalla, is about 3.5 km long, and is the most spectacular part of the railway. In this section I count 53 curves in the Victorian Railways curves and gradients book (shown above), including 12 of two chains (40 metres) radius, and many others between 2-1/2 and 4 chains radius. The grade at its steepest is 1 in 32, and 1 in 40 at its easiest, but is mostly between 1 in 32 and 1 in 36. The elevation of Thomson is 717ft (218m) and the elevation of Walhalla is 1021ft (310m).

The first train of the day commencing its journey back to Walhalla. This trip was sensational. By "sensational" I mean it assaulted all the senses in a very positive way. The sound of the loco working hard in the narrow valley and echoing off the rock cutting was extraordinary.

On the way beck to Walhalla. Travelling behind 7A up that grade, on wet rails, around those unceasing sharp curves with the narrow rocky creek bed below, and the rock cutting close by on the right-hand side, it became clear to me just how difficult and challenging this railway must have been to operate and maintain. Though I have travelled before on it behind a diesel, you need to hear and see an NA working on it to understand what that railway must have been like in its VR days.

First train of the day heading back to Walhalla.

View along Stringers Creek gorge from the train.

First train of the day heading back to Walhalla.

Two of the Stringers Creek gorge bridges.

Close-up of the bridges in the previous picture.

Second train of day crossing Thomson River bridge, bound for Thomson.

Second train of the day crossing Thomson River bridge heading back to Walhalla.

Third, and last train of the day crossing Thomson River bridge bound for Thomson.

Third train of the day crossing Thomson River bridge, bound for Walhalla.

Links:

7A on the Walhalla line 29/5/10

This is an excellent 7 minute 51 second YouTube video by Martin Bennett, giving a selection of lineside and on train views of trains going in both directions.

7A Thomson to Walhalla from the train 29/5/10

Another excellent You Tube video from Martin Bennett. This one goes for 9 minutes 39 seconds and shows the view from directly behind the locomotive for the whole difficult uphill jorney from Thomson to Walhalla. Gives a hint of what the sound was like on the train, more so if you have a very good sound system!

Walhalla Goldfields Railway

The official website of the railway.

Walhalla, Victoria

Wikipedia entry giving an overall history of the town and district, with links to other sources of information.


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All photographs Copyright Frank Stamford who may be contacted by email at: frank.stamford@bigpond.com

Last updated: 14 July 2014