The new South Australian
Light Railway Centre
Light Railways were small, special purpose tramways which were built at minimal cost in many locations around South Australia. They were found in mines, quarries, salt pans, munitions factories, amusement rides, construction sites, agriculture, industries, forests, wineries, jetties, etc. In the past there were about seven hundred Light Railways around the State but now only eight remain, all of them amusement railways except for the 5 Km electric underground line at Olympic Dam.
Two years ago, the Milang Railway Museum decided to celebrate the history of the State’s Light Railways by constructing a permanent display. It received the support of the Light Railway Research Society of Australia and of History SA with the result that the new Centre is now complete. We hope that it will draw visitors from both Adelaide and interstate. Opening hours are the same as the Museum; noon to 4pm on Saturdays and Sundays.
What is a Light Railway?
Currently we have three historic locomotives on display.
The jetty tractor has a Fordson prime mover manufactured at Dagenham, Essex, UK in 1940. It was then exported to Australia and was converted to a rail tractor by the Malcolm Moore Company, Melbourne in 1942 using a chassis dated around 1923. It was sold to the Adelaide Cement Company who used it at their Klein Point quarry on the lower Yorke Peninsula.In March 1954. Then it was sold to the South Australian Harbours Board for use at the Port Price jetty on the upper Yorke Peninsula and was donated to the Port Dock Railway Museum on 18th Dec 1971.
The National Railway Museum loaned the jetty tractor to the Port Milang Railway Museum, with the jetty wagon, on 19th August 2014. Both have been restored and the jetty tractor can now be started and run on its short length of 3' 6" track.
Our Locomotives and Rolling Stock
Within the building we have erected 12 storyboards which tell the history of the main types of lower light railway which operated in South Australia. In front of each there is a model wagon to illustrate the kind of rolling stock which ran on those railways.
In the centre of these is a large map of South Australia with pins showing the location and type of the hundreds of light railways which used to operate around the state. Now only seven remain.
There is also a model light railway which which visitors can drive.
The BEV battery locomotive was manufactured for the then new munitions plant which was being built north of Adelaide. The loco and wagons operated at Smithfield until it was purchased by the Milang Railway Museum in 2000 together with a large quantity of track. The BEVs and its wagons have also been restored and run on the 2' gauge track which is now being laid south-westwards from the Museum.
The BEV battery locomotive was ordered by the Commonwealth Dept. of Supply in 1941 from the British Electric Vehicles (BEV) division of Wingrove & Rogers Ltd. Liverpool, UK. It was one of four and they were specially fitted with bronze wheels to reduce the risk of sparks. All four were shipped to Adelaide in April 1942. The loco is powered by 24 x 2 volt batteries and has a towing capacity of 10 tons at 5 mph. The coupling rods were removed soon after delivery; it is not known why. Recently the Museum volunteers made an attempt to re-fit the coupling rods but found that one wheel was different to the other three. This made the manufacture of self-centring bearings very expensive and the attempt was abandoned.
All of these locomotives are not available to the public to ride on due to high insurance costs and the rail safety regulations which would be required. However members of the museum are able to drive the locomotives for the purposes of positioning displays and carrying out maintenance tasks.
The museum is actively seeking additional historic locomotives and rolling stock to restore and display.Double-click here to edit the text.
Our third and latest locomotive is a Ruston & Hornsby diesel, seen here being shunted into its new home.
“The Ruston” was built in the first half of 1938 by Ruston & Hornsby Ltd of Lincoln In England. It was a member of that company’s Class 44/48 and its builders number is 187078. The engine is a 48 HP 4VRO number 392572 with a mechanical transmission. The track gauge is two feet.
It was shipped to Ruston & Hornsby (Australia) in Melbourne on 5th July 1938 and a locomotive of the same class is operating at the Leighton Buzzard Railway in the UK.
“The Ruston” was owned by the Waratah Gypsum Company and was employed at their salt and gypsum harvesting operation at Stenhouse Bay at the bottom of the Yorke Peninsula. By 1969, the Company had applied numbers to their fleet of loco-motives and “The Ruston” became number 304.
By 1971, operations had ceased and “The Ruston” was donated the Mile End Railway Museum, the predeces-sor of today’s National Railway Muse-um (NRM).
In April 2017, the NRM loaned the locomotive to the Port Milang Historic Railway Museum for restoration. When that is complete, “The Ruston” will be maintained in running condition on the Museum’s two foot gauge tramway.