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3801 steam train

For anyone who reminisces about chugging engines, timber-lined carriages or spiralling plumes of steam, Craig Mackey has an enviable role. As Project Manager with Transport Heritage, Craig oversees the Locomotive 3801 project (pronounced ‘thirty-eight-o-one’), which is bringing back to life an historic engine.

With Edcon’s help, one of Australia’s classic trains will soon be riding the rails once more.

A steaming history

The Locomotive 3801 is a passenger steam train that was built in 1943 by the Clyde Engineering Company. And it’s had an eventful life.

It was in general passenger service until 1962, then hauled heritage trains for the tourism industry until 2007; it was the first steam train to cross Australia from east to west; it led the Bicentennial Train that journeyed to each Australian capital in 1988; and, the following year it double-headed with the famous ‘Flying Scotsman’ during its visit here.

It’s also something of a chameleon – previously painted a striking black with red trim, then a demure grey and now a deep glossy green with vibrant yellow detailing.

Starting out with Edcon

“We were conscious when we started the restoration that strict regulations had to be adhered to. Being a government project, you have to get the obligatory three quotes and have decisions approved by a panel,” explains Craig.

“I found Edcon Steel in the phone book. We were starting from scratch, so my very first job was to outfit our workshop in Chullora. I bought supplies to make the steel benches we needed. And it continued on from there.”

An instant connection

From the very first phone call, Craig found a kindred spirit in Edcon: “I remember the first time I called. We started chatting and I realised the person I was speaking to was already aware of the 3801 project, so I knew I was speaking to a train enthusiast.”

His name was Terry Owens and his enthusiasm was a bonus for the 3801 project, too. “Terry’s been a volunteer with us for many years now, and his wife is involved too – and she brings in wonderful cakes for the volunteer team.”

Terry was just one of the knowledgeable and friendly staff that helped win Craig over to Edcon.

Everything for the job

“I initially decided to use Edcon for a number of reasons. They were convenient, always helpful and a good price. But they also surprised me with their range,” Craig notes.

“I’d sometimes need a very particular piece of metal or bar and I’d call up not really expecting to find it. But Edcon would always say, ‘We can do that.’ They could also fabricate these hard-to-find materials to very specific sizes or grades.”

And the flexibility was a winning point. “Sometimes I would need a very small quantity, maybe even a single piece of something. But whether it was a small order, or a major one, nothing was ever a problem.”

Exacting standards

“The 3801 train is listed on the State Heritage Register, so its restoration needs to be to exacting aesthetic standards,” Craig tells us.

“But it’s also going to be in use. It won’t be static. So, we need quality workmanship, and we need to consider safety.”

And every step needs approval from several bodies. “It’s a three-pronged approach,” Craig reveals.

“We’re accredited by the Office of the National Safety Regulator (ONSR), we need to meet the standards of the Assets Standards Authority (ASA) and we also need to abide by the heritage guidelines of the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.

I regularly need ‘material certificates’, for instance. Edcon provides us with the material certificates whenever we require them.”

Preparing for launch

Just a few weeks ago, Craig and his team took receipt of the train’s new boiler, which marks a major milestone in the restoration project. It’s been a painstaking process, but the completion date is now in sight. “I’ve enjoyed the relationship with Edcon Steel very much,” says Craig.

“They recognise the importance of the project and are keen to be involved.”

It’s just one more destination for Edcon Steel – steaming across the nation as part of a beautiful, heritage steam train.

Since this article was first published, the 3801 was officially relaunched at Sydney’s Central Station on Friday 12 March 2021 by Her Excellency, the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC QC, Governor of NSW.

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