Locomotive Wheels

South Australian Railways

Broad Gauge


Class operators: South Australian Railways

Condition: Excellent

Entered service: 1856

Entered the museum: 1977

Ownership: National Railway Museum

Withdrawn: 1977


The first exhibit encountered by visitors entering the Museum consists of two pairs of steam locomotive driving wheels mounted on a length of track laid with Brunel´s patent bridge rail and placed in front of the main door to the pavilion. This is historically the most important exhibit in the Museum’s collection for it dates from the very beginning of steam railway operation in South Australia, in 1856.

The wheels belong to one of the first three locomotives built for the Adelaide and Port Railway by William Fairbairn & Co., Manchester, England. Ordered by the famous Isambard Kingdom Brunel, then Consulting Engineer for the railway, they were built to the 2-4-0T wheel arrangement and arrived at Port Adelaide in November 1855. Here they were erected and named Adelaide, Victoria and Albert. Later they were to be numbered 1, 2 and 3 respectively.

Adelaide was the first to be assembled and ran a trial between Port Adelaide and Alberton at the end of January 1856. On 8th February an additional trial was run, this time to Adelaide, but the locomotive derailed twice at Morphett Street before successfully entering the station. After further trials the line was opened with due pomp and ceremony on 19th April. Thereafter all three engines saw regular service, venturing further afield as a new line was pushed north from Adelaide to Gawler and Kapunda.

In 1869 they were rebuilt as tender engines but, by 1871, No. 1 had been taken out of service, and the other two followed in 1874. At this time the South Australian Railways had begun the construction of narrow (3’ 6’’) gauge lines throughout the colony. There subsequently arose the necessity of transporting narrow-gauge locomotives and rolling stock over the broad-gauge to and from the workshops in Adelaide. Plans were drawn up for an ‘Engine Carriage Bogie Truck’, and the vehicle, which was given the number 1272, was manufactured by the Adelaide Locomotive Works in 1884. Of traditional Well Wagon pattern it was unusual in that, instead of normal bogies, the driving wheels and portions of the frames from two of the locomotives were used. It is possible that they came from Nos. 2 and 3, however no records have been found to support or disprove this supposition.

When classification letters were allocated to rolling stock in 1888, No. 1272 was classified WL. At some time during its career it also acquired the nickname The Crocodile, which eventually gained official recognition. It found considerable employment, the conversion to broad-gauge of the old Western System during the 1920s notwithstanding. In 1931 Islington Works created a similar vehicle, this time equipped with conventional bogies, which became WL8200, and 1272 was renumbered 8202. However, with the conversion to broad-gauge of the South Eastern System in the 1950s and the standardisation of the Port Pirie to Broken Hill line in the late 1960s, both vehicles were used less and less. No. 8202 was condemned on 2nd May 1977 and broken up, one bogie going to the Mile End Railway Museum and the other to Steamranger.

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76 Lipson Street
Port Adelaide
South Australia  5015
Open Daily / 10am – 4:30pm





5-15 yrs & with an adult


2 adults & up to 3 children


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  • Closed Christmas Day

Phone: 8341 1690

The National Railway Museum acknowledges the Kaurna people as the traditional owners and custodians of the Adelaide Plains. We honour and respect their ongoing cultural and spiritual connections to this country. We aim to respect the cultural heritage, customs and beliefs of all Indigenous people.

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