Locals remember 1970s effort to bring a Beyer Garratt steam engine to Forbes

The distinctive whistle of the Beyer Garratt steam train that blew through Forbes on Tuesday brought back memories for local volunteers involved in a project to bring one of the engines to Forbes in the 1970s.

Peter Moore was one of the Apex Club members involved in the effort and brought a framed photograph of the 6042 on its way to Forbes in to the office this week.

The photograph was a gift from Ted Tindall, who was the chair of “Operation Locomotion” when they undertook a mammoth effort to build a train track in sections down Bathurst Street and bring the big loco to the then Lachlan Vintage Village.

The group had been established by Ron Tindall, then managing editor of The Forbes Advocate.

An enthusiastic group of volunteers formed a small army to make the dream reality.

“We made pre-fabricated rail sections, my memory tells me they were about 20 foot long,” Mr Moore said.

“There were lots of fettlers (railway workers) in town in those days and from the viaduct they broke the line - no trains were able to come through that day - and then built the line to take the train very slowly down Bathurst Street.”

The 6024 and an engine nicknamed “Rosie” were moved to the front of the line, the track behind them was unbolted, put on an axle and taken to the front of the train to be bolted on so the train could go forward. 

With about 200 feet of train and 400 feet of railway line, the train moved slowly indeed so organisers made an event of it.

“When the train stopped people could get on and there was entertainment in the carriages,” Mr Moore said.

“There was musical entertainment, included Rob Willis’s folk band, and ladies sewing and selling handmade souvenirs.”

The train inched along Bathurst Street from sun-up to sun-down on a Saturday and was stopped on the corner of Bathurst and Flint streets overnight.

“I can still hear it,” Mr Moore said.

“We had to keep steam up all night because the Garratt had an automatic braking system and if it lost steam the brakes would come on and we wouldn’t be able to move it.”

In the morning the train crossed Flint Street and headed for the village site.

Mr Moore flew a film crew, who had come from South Australia, over the work after lunch on Sunday.

He has a copy of the resulting film, shot on 16mm reel, but it has also been uploaded to youtube.

The train arrived, to a waiting crowd, on Sunday afternoon.

“It was a mammoth effort,” Mr Moore said. “There were TV crews there from Sydney and the film was flown back to Sydney so it could run on the evening news that night.”

Once the engines were on site, the track was laid around the village so that, on special occasions, the steam trains could be fired up for a run. 

There were also hopes of connecting to the main lines to do tourist runs. 

The Lachlan Vintage Village is no longer operational.

Read more about the restored Beyer Garratt.

View the footage from the 1970s here.

The Beyer Garratt steam engine being brought in to Forbes in the 1970s.