The first class of locomotive to be introduced to the Western Australian Government Railway in any quantity was the 2-6-0 and 4-6-0 variations of the G Class. In fact they almost became an Australian Standard, being used in large numbers in South Australia, Tasmania, Queensland and the Northern Territory on both Government and Private lines.
The first engine of this class was a 2-6-0, purchased second hand in 1889 from C&E Millar, contractor for construction of the Great Southern Railway. Subsequently a further forty seven 2-6-0 engines were purchased between 1894 and 1899. Although designed by Beyer Peacock of Manchester, only seven of the WAGR 2-6-0 engines were purchased from this company. James Martin & Co of Gawler, South Australia, supplied the majority (29 out of 48) while Neilson & Co of Glasgow supplied twelve.
The G class seems to have satisfied the early need for a mainline general purpose locomotive, although they had a tendency to leave the track when running at high speed. Consequently 22 of a 4-6-0 version, with a four wheel inside framed leading bogie, were purchased from Dubbs & Co of Glasgow, Scotland and placed in service during 1897. It is very fortunate that two of this batch (currently numbered 71 and 123) are in the possession of Hotham Valley Railway today. Two more of the 4-6-0 type were acquired from Beyer Peacock. The 2-6-0 G class were then withdrawn from passenger work and used on other traffic.
With the rapid expansion of the WAGR system around the turn of the century, the G class were soon displaced from mainline use by the more powerful locomotives being introduced. Many (such as G71) were sold to contractors and private timber operators, where they were ideally suited to operate over lightly constructed "Bush Lines". The G class quickly became the standard timberline locomotive in Western Australia and many were purchased new.
Those G class that the WAGR retained saw extensive use as branch line power and later for shunting and jetty use. It was from the latter role that G 123 was being phased out, when the then Bunbury Tourist Bureau Manager, George Baxter, persuaded Westrail to retain and overhaul it to assist G 233 working the "Leschenault Lady" vintage trains. When used on these services the locomotive was known as "Koombana Queen".
In 1987, Hotham Valley - with the cooperation of the Leschenault Railway Preservation Society - negotiated a renewable 10 year lease of G 123 from Westrail.
During 2002 & 2003, G123 was out of service having major boiler repairs carried out to enable this popular little locomotive to return to the Dwellingup forest Railway.
Here below, the frames and inside valve gear can be seen whilst the boiler is off for repairs
After necessary repairs at "Willis Light Engineering" of Rivervale, G123's Boiler returned to HVTR's Pinjarra depot in July 2003 and the task of putting everything back together commenced. By early September 2003, G 123 was looking much like its old self and returned to Dwellingup on Wednesday 17th of September 2003 double headed with one of HVTR's W class 4-8-2, on a Steam Ranger service.
G 123 is now based at Dwellingup and works weekend Etmilyn Forest Tramway services from May to the end of October.
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