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Title: "Sandfly" Oldest and longest serving locomotive (63 years) on the NAR line
Photo No: PH0501/0468
Citation address:
Photographer: Lockwood, Douglas, 1918-1980
Date taken: 1-Jan-1950
Collection: Douglas Lockwood Collection.
Description: People of the NT 1950-1968. The Sandfly is one of three remaining steam locomotives that operated on the NAR left in the NT. A single NF class locomotive (NF 5) built in 1877-78 by Beyer Peacock & Co in Manchester England is on display at the Pine Creek railway heritage precinct and has been restored to working condition. This locomotive was one of six within the NF class (NF 2-7) to operate on the NAR between 1888 and 1945. NF 5 operated on the NAR between 1915 and 1945. The only other known NF class locomotive (NF 6) still within the Territory was blown off the Stokes Hill Wharf during the first bombing raid on Darwin on 19 February 1942 and is on the bottom of Darwin Harbour. A single NFB class (NFB 88) built in 1895-1898 by J. Martin & Co Gawler, South Australia is on display within the Katherine railway heritage precinct. This locomotive is one of 18 within the NFB class and the only surviving engine of its class within the NT. These engines were purchased by the Commonwealth Railways during the Second World War for the mobilisation of armed forces in the north and were in operation along the NAR between 1941 and 1958. NFB 88 operated on the NAR between 1943 – 1955. The locomotives at Pine Creek and Katherine are both displayed within NAR precincts which are declared heritage places and listed on the NT Heritage Register and are therefore part of the historical fabric. Whilst all of these locomotives played a role in the economic development and defence of the Northern Territory through service on the NAR, and are the only remaining examples of their class within the Territory, there are several historical details that distinguish the Sandfly. Firstly, the Sandfly was the first locomotive and only one of its type to operate along the NAR. The Sandfly is also the oldest and longest serving locomotive (63 years) to operate along the NAR. The Sandfly is a symbol of the pioneering and frontier Territory spirit that help build the NAR. To Territorians the Sandfly is also a political reflection about a century of political manoeuvring required to complete the transcontinental railway from north to south and fulfill the 1911 contract between the Commonwealth, South Australia and the Northern Territory.
Notes: Date:195?
The Sandfly is historically significant to the Northern Territory as the first and longest serving locomotive to operate on the North Australia Railway (NAR). The Sandfly operated on the NAR between 1887 and 1950 and was instrumental in its construction. The NAR became a vital infrastructure link which facilitated the expansion of the mining and pastoral industry in the Northern Territory, and played a crucial role in the defence of northern Australia during the Second World War. The Sandfly was the only locomotive of its class to operate along the NAR and is one of three remaining steam locomotives associated with the NAR left in the Northern Territory. The Sandfly is evocative of the bygone and romanticised steam era of the NAR between 1887 and 1958. Following retirement of the Sandfly the locomotive was relocated to South Australia in 1959 for restoration and display. In 2005 the Sandfly was returned to the Northern Territory as a gift to commemorate the completion of the Alice Springs to Darwin Railway, finally completing the transcontinental railway from the north to the south agreed upon in 1911. The return of the "Sandfly" from the south to the north has imbued the locomotive with another layer of social significance to the Northern Territory community. It has been cosmetically restored but not to steam.
The Sandfly is a small steam locomotive relative to other locomotive that operated on the North Australia Railway. From early photos it appears that very little about the engine’s physical appearance has changed. One notable change is the presence of the chimney funnel on the restored engine on display compared with the straight chimney shown in the majority of earlier photos. It appears the funnel was present in early photos of the Sandfly (prior to 1900) and later changed to a straight chimney. Harvey (1987: 246) also records major repairs: (1) March 1892: centreline of buffer/coupler lifted 3 1/2 inches; (2) October 1893: new saddle tank fabricated in Adelaide and fitted at Palmerston; (3) 1901: new boiler fitted; (4) 1917: completely rebuilt and fitted with new boiler made by Robison Bros & Co, Melbourne; (5) 1943: overhauled. New driver’s cabin built. Technical specifications for the Sandfly are provided below (after Harvey 1987:245, Kent 2005:4). Sandfly Technical Specifications Class: NA Builder: Baldwin Locomotive Works, Philadelphia, USA Introduced: 1886 Number in Class on NAR:1 Wheel Arrangement: 0-4-0 Driving Wheel Diameter:(70cm)2ft. 4in. Cylinders: Number: Position on frame: Diameter x stroke: 2 Outside 20cm x 30cm (8 in x 12 in)Valve Gear: Stephenson Boiler Pressure: 63kgs (140lbs)Tractive Effort: 1483kg (3,270lbs) Coal Capacity: 448kg (4 cwt) Water Capacity: 1250Litres (330gallons) Weight in Working Order: 9144kg (9tons 10cwt) Maximum Axle Load: 4064kg (4tons 10cwt) Overall Length: 5.63m (18ft 6in)
The ‘Sandfly’ was one of eight (Class 4-10½) industrial locomotives supplied by the Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia, USA to Newell & Co of Melbourne, Australia between 1884 and 1891. One of these Baldwin shunters was purchased by C & E Millar who had been contracted by the South Australia to build the Palmerston to Pine Creek Railway. The Baldwin shunter was delivered to Palmerston in various pieces on 4th December 1886 and assembled by May 1887 ready to begin its working life in the north. It was soon dubbed the “Sandfly” because, like it’s diminutive namesake, the engine flittered to and fro the port area near the mangroves shunting wagons of railway construction materials between the jetty and yards. The Sandfly’s shrill whistle could apparently be heard all over town, as it puffed and fussed around the yard shunting wagons to and fro. The primary role of the Sandfly was to provide motive power and haul track components from the Stokes Hill wharf to the railway yards and beyond as line construction progressed. The locomotive “Silverton” (SAR 106) arrived in Palmerston in September 1887 to also assist with the construction efforts. The Silverton was the first of many more powerful engines that would operate along the NAR. The arrival of more powerful locomotives also ensured that the Sandfly remained on shunting duties between the wharf, railway yards and the Parap workshops for most of its working life. Following completion of the railway in December 1889 the Sandfly, along with other locomotives, was sold to South Australian Railways who classified the Baldwin shunter #107. The Sandfly officially became the property of Commonwealth Railways on 1/1/1911 following the handover of Northern Territory lands from South Australia to the Commonwealth. The Sandfly, along with all other rolling stock was officially reclassified NA1 in 1917. It appears the Sandfly never actually physically wore the classification badge of NA1. The Sandfly remained on shunting duties between the Stokes Hill wharf, the railway yards and the Parap workshops until the Second World War and the bombing of Darwin in 1942. The damage sustained to Darwin railway infrastructure lead to the relocation of railway workshops and the Sandfly to Katherine. The Sandfly spent the rest of the war in Katherine, shunting supplies for the military build up that dominated the Top End between 1942 and 1945. The Sandfly was eventually decommissioned in 1950 after 63 years of faithful service on the NAR.In 1951 a young engineer with Commonwealth Railways, Keith A. Smith took a shine to the Sandfly and set about ensuring its preservation. In 1960 Keith Smith became Commissioner of Commonwealth Railways. The Sandfly was relocated to Port Augusta, South Australia in 1959 for restoration and displayed at the Port Augusta railway station from 1960 onwards. In 1983 the Sandfly was relocated to the new Keswick interstate railway station in Adelaide (Buckland 1979: 16, Harvey 1987:244-246, Kent 2005:2-4). Great Southern Railways formally gifted the Sandfly back to the Northern Territory in 2005 to commemorate the completion of the Alice Springs to Darwin railway. The Sandfly is currently displayed at the Qantas Hanger at Parap. The plaque commemorating the event reads: THE SANDFLY – NA1 This plaque was unveiled by the Hon. Clare Martin MLA Chief Minister of the Northern Territory on Wednesday 2 March 2005 on the occasion of the gifting of The Sandfly to the Northern Territory by Serco plc owners of Great Southern Railways and operators of The Ghan.
Copyright owner: Northern Territory Library.
Appears in Collections:PictureNT

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