This little green steam locomotive, which looks remarkably like Percy from Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends, is in the Museum’s collection. Percy is the Small Engine and Thomas’ best friend. He’s quite happy puffing around the yard with no particular desire “for adventure in the world outside”. Percy is just like the small industrial and mine steam locomotives that once operated all over NSW. These engines were not used for main-line working but on industrial sites, for shunting coal in collieries, at quarries and on various construction projects including building breakwaters, reservoirs and dams.
The Museum’s engine is a standard gauge, tank locomotive and features the 0-4-0 wheel arrangement (no leading wheels, four driving wheels, no trailing wheels). It’s small and compact in size and carried both water and coal on the engine itself rather than hauling a separate tender behind. Water was stored in a saddle tank, which sits over the boiler, and coal in a bunker on the footplate. Built by Manning Wardle and Co. Ltd of Leeds, England, in 1911, the locomotive was one of two consecutive engines ordered by the Public Works Department of NSW. It is thought to have initially been put to work on construction of the North Coast railway between Gloucester and Taree. In 1914 the locomotive then joined its sister engine at Coffs Harbour to work on harbour improvements.
In 1916 both locomotives were purchased by the Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage Board (now Sydney Water) and sent to Sydney for construction of the Potts Hill reservoir. The engines hauled dump trucks loaded with excavated spoil and brought sand and gravel to the concrete mixers for the reservoir lining. After completion of the reservoir in 1923 the Museum’s locomotive, by then numbered No. 4, was transferred to the new Ryde water pumping station at West Ryde in Sydney. The locomotive hauled 40 and 60-tonne coal wagons from the main railway line via a siding to the coal bunkers over the boilers in the pumping station.
Following cracks to the boiler found in 1954 and 1958, the locomotive was considered unreliable. In September 1958 it was replaced by a Hibbard ‘Planet’ diesel locomotive that had previously been used on the construction of Warragamba Dam, which now stores most of Sydney’s water supply. The Manning Wardle locomotive was placed on standby for twelve months but was retired in 1960 and presented to the Museum in 1966. It was restored to steaming condition in 1986 and is thought to be only one of five of its type in operating condition left in the world. So, if you’d like to see our Percy lookalike he’s on display at the Powerhouse Discovery Centre at Castle Hill in NW Sydney.
Builder: Manning Wardle and Co. Ltd, Leeds, England
Wheel arrangement: 0-4-0ST
Locomotive No. while working for Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage Board: 4
Wheelbase: 5 feet 4 inches
Steam pressure: 150 p.s.i.
Cylinders: 2 outside
Bore: 12 3/32 inches
Stroke: 18 inches
Weight: 17.7 tons
Written by Margaret Simpson, Curator, May 2014