Australia’s Most Famous Loco – NSWGR C 3801 – Guest Blog Post from Thomas Barnes

Tonight we have a very special blog post, pictures and text are brought to you from of Thomas Barnes.  Thomas has kindly written a piece about Australia’s Most Famous Locomotive – NSWGR C 3801.  Thomas can be found on Facebook (click here) and the locomotive has a Group page (click here) so after reading this piece, please check these links out!

NSWGR C 3801 - copyright Thomas Barnes

3801 (pronounced Thirty-eight o-one) is Australia’s best known and most widely traveled steam locomotive.

NSWGR C 3801 (3801 streamline and 3830 non streamline) - copyright Thomas Barnes

3801 was built during the 1940’s and entered service on the 26th of January 1943 as 1 of the 5 Streamline steam locomotives to build in its class by Clyde Engineering, Sydney. The rest of the 25 members of the class were non streamline built at the NSWGR (New South Wales Government Railway) Workshops at Eveleigh – Sydney and Cardiff – Newcastle. In total 30 were built (see picture above to compare streamlined and non-streamlined versions).

NSWGR C 3801 (463 loco to be built by Clyde Engineering Plate) - copyright Thomas Barnes

In operation with the NSWGR from 1943 to 1962 and 1963 to 1965, 3801 along with the rest of the class were used on Express trains and running the Mail trains. But what the 38’s were most famous for was haul the cracked flyers which included the most famous one of them, The Newcastle Flyer and on the 28 June 1964, 3801 hauled a special non-stop Newcastle Flyer to break the record held by a NSWGR C36 class. The aim of this trip was to get From Sydney to Newcastle under 2 hours. 3801 aged 21 did the run in 2hours 1mintue and 51seconds beating the old record but not getting under the 2 hours. But the return journey it fell just short of the two hour mark and the time she made to Newcastle due to a small delay within the Sydney area.

NSWGR C 3801 - copyright Thomas Barnes

In October 1965 3801 was found to have serious boiler problems and was withdrawn and placed in the care of the NSWRTM (New South Wales Rail Transport Museum) but still owned by the NSWGR. Members of the NSWRTM contributed $18,000 to return 3801 to service. In October 1966, 3801 returned to service, however the following year boiler problems re-emerged and the loco was withdrawn. Another boiler exam gave the loco a reprieve and allowed it to return to service. She stayed in Service doing only Special runs organized the NSWRTM. During that time 3801 was used for to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Newcastle Flyer on 31 May 1969, as well as the Western Endeavour special across the continent to Perth between 22 August and 12 September 1970 with the assistance of 3813 from Sydney to Port Augusts, South Australia. When she wasn’t in operation she along with the rest of the persevered Steam locomotives of NSW were stored at Enfield till 1974 when the museum was forced to move to from Enfield to Thirlmere. 3801 hauled “dead” (not in steam) the engine was then used on tours until December 1976, when boiler problems forced it to become a static exhibit.

NSWGR C 3801 - copyright Thomas Barnes

During 1983 – 86, 3801 was once again restored to operation condition by the Hunter Valley Training Company and members from the RTM and State Rail Authority (now RailCorp) the work included a new firebox but it turned out to be different shape and this reduced the boiler pressure to 215 psi, a new all welded tender and Repairs and reconditioning of many other components were also carried out. On 8 November 1986 a fire was lit for the first time and no problems occurred. By 10 November, 3801 was running around nearby sidings. More short trials followed and on 15 November, 3801 was handed over to new group called 3801 Limited with had a 20 year lease on 3801 and hauled a train to Maitland. More trial runs followed and on 19 November 1986, 3801 headed from Newcastle to a grand ball on the concourse of Sydney’s Central Station.

NSWGR C 3801 (historical engineering marker plate) - copyright Thomas Barnes

During 1986 right through to 2007, 3801 was in great demand. 3801 crossed the continent for the second time and travel to every mainland state. 1988-89 worked on many tours with LNER 4472 Flying Scotsman as both of them brought big crowds of people wherever they steamed to. 3801 was a regular attendance and the icon at the Hunter Valley Steamfest in Maitland, NSW, doing shuttles across the Hunter Valley. On the 26th of November 2006, 3801 Limited’s lease on 3801 expired and the company tried to gain another lease but failed so 3801 was handed back to the NSWRTM and ran for 1 year before be pulled out of service due to the boiler problems.

3801 has been receiving a Major overhaul from 2008 to when this info was typed receiving a new all welded boiler and firebox which was ordered from Dampflokwerk Meiningen in Germany tender overhaul and Repairs and reconditioning of many other components. The New boiler arrived in Australia during 2010 but was sent back because the shape of the boiler was not circular. 3801 is hope to return to service ever in 2013 or 2014.

NSWGR C 3801 - 3801 arrives in Newcastle - copyright Thomas Barnes

Many thanks to Thomas for taking such time and effort to write this truly fascinating piece with such brilliant photographs.  If you wish to publish a blog post of your own, please contact locoyard here.