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The 3801’s return to former glory


One of the most beloved locomotives in Australia won’t be roaring into Maitland this weekend for the first time in more than a decade.

However, the 3801, which first attended the Hunter Valley Steamfest in 1987, has been restored to its former glory ahead of next year’s event.

Built in 1943, the locomotive has been in preservation since its retirement from the NSW Railways in 1962.

It was withdrawn from heritage service in 2007 as it required major boiler repairs.

The 3801 project:

A German manufacturer won the contract to build the new boiler through an open, international tender process.

The new boiler was shipped to Australia in 2010.

A number of technical issues were identified with the new boiler, which meant it did not comply with Australian standards. It was returned to Germany in 2011.

​A decision was made in late 2014 by a Steering Committee, with representatives from Transport for NSW and then newly established Transport Heritage NSW (THNSW), to bring the new boiler to Australia so that further works on the new boiler could be closely managed and overseen.

​The new boiler arrived back in Australia in January 2015.

At that time, THNSW specialists conducted thorough inspections on both the new boiler and the original boiler, which was removed from locomotive 3801 following its withdrawal from heritage service.

After weighing up the options, detailed work plans were developed to repair the original boiler to ensure it met safety and operational requirements, and were used to return locomotive 3801 back to service in the shortest possible time frame.

Repairs to the original boiler have since been completed in Goulburn, with the boiler returning to Chullora, 15 kilometres west of Sydney CBD, on 1 July 2019. The boiler has since been reunited with the locomotive and certified on 21 October 2019.

THNSW hoped to officially relaunch the engine at Sydney’s Central Station in late March, but the ceremony was postponed due to restrictions surrounding public gatherings associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

A new relaunch date will be announced once the government restrictions are lifted.

The Hunter Valley Steamfest was set to take place this Saturday 18 and Sunday 19 April.

Maitland City Council and the Steamfest Working Group have since turned their attention to developing an extraordinary program of activities for the 35th anniversary of Steamfest on 17 and 18 April 2021.

Visit Steamfest‘s website to stay updated.

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