May 232013

Knowing people’s passion for trains, especially steam trains, we were especially keen to uncover the story behind the locomotive portrayed on this medallion in The Perth Mint’s historic collection.


The quest for information led us to the State Library of Western Australia where we retrieved a typed document written in 1974 by Dr Bernard Rumens entitled History of the Leschenault Lady.

It revealed the story of a hardworking steam locomotive that at the end of its long career was saved from scrap and lovingly restored by enthusiasts for the enjoyment of thousands of tourists in the State’s south-west.

Originally known as G233 “G” Class 2 – 6 – 0, the engine was one of six built by James Martin & Co of Gawler, South Australia in 1898 on behalf of West Australian Government Railways. Initially used as mainline locos on passenger, mixed and goods trains, the “G” class also served as shunting and wharf engines.


G233 Leschenault Lady (Credit: Weston Langford)

With WAGR’s acquisition of larger locomotives, many of these adaptable engines found employment on private lines hauling logs in Western Australia’s southern forests. It is recorded that G233 worked on the isolated railway from Hopetoun to Ravensthorpe, a mining district, for a lengthy period commencing in 1909.

With extraordinary durability, G233 was still working as a shunter at Bunbury in the run up to dieselisation in the early 1970s.

Impending modernisation prompted enthusiasts to launch a determined effort to save “The Vintage Train”. With support from local politicians, they acquired the engine and three dilapidated carriages, commencing a restoration project that caught the imagination of the people of Bunbury.

A competition to determine a name for the overhauled loco attracted 487 entries. The winning suggestion came from Bunbury Senior High School student Mark Hutchinson, 15, whose prize included £20. Leschenault Lady, a tribute to the French botanist whose name has been associated with the area since 1803, was formally conferred upon the engine on 9 October 1969 by Railways Minister Ray O’Connor at a ceremony attended by around 100 people.

So began a second life for the engine running highly successful tours through the picturesque Darling Ranges to Collie and further afield throughout the 1970s.

Sadly, regulatory and insurance complexities associated with running a steam train on the mainline made operations increasingly difficult as the decades ensued. She was seen in Geraldton in 1994 during celebrations marking the centenary of the Midland Railway and spent time on the Boulder Loopline at Kalgoorlie. Subsequently confined to the Boyanup Museum as a static exhibit, the proud Lady’s days as a working heritage icon appeared over.

Fantastic news for railway buffs

However, Geoffrey Higham, Vice President of Rail Heritage WA, informed us only today that volunteers will shortly commence a boiler repair project that aims to see Leschenault Lady steam up once again. The long-term hope, he revealed, is to have her steaming regularly between Boyanup and Donnybrook – very exciting news and a magnificent prospect for all those interested in railways.

Leschenault_Lady_steamtrain2G233 Leschenault Lady (Credit: Phil Melling)



  3 Responses to “Historic WA loco set to steam again”

  1. We’ve received a fascinating e-mail follow-up to this article from Norm Chapple, the South West Representative for RHWA with responsibility for the South West Rail and Heritage Centre in Boyanup where Leschenault Lady now resides. Containing some valuable additional information, here’s what Norm had to say:

    G233 was a Beyer Peacock designed main line general purpose locomotive built by J. Martin and Co. in Gawler South Australia, entering service on December 13th, 1898. She was originally used on the rail network radiating from Perth to different parts of the state. Unfortunately the single axle wheelset at the front of LL and her sisters had the tendency to derail when “at speed” hence later G class locos were built with a 4 wheel bogie which solved this issue.

    Around the turn of the 20th century, the G class locos were displaced from main line service by more powerful locos, with many (but not G233) being sold to timber lines.

    G233 was sent as one of 5 locos to the “stand alone” Hopetoun to Ravensthorpe Railway and started work there on September 8th 1909, though the line was opened in April 1909. Each end of the line had 2 locos allocated to it with 1 kept as a spare. It wasn’t long before this was reduced to 1 loco at each end as traffic was not substantial. LL continued to work on the line until it was closed in 1935 but remained there as the only loco until February 25th 1943. She was then dismantled and sent in crates to Newdegate.

    After the end of WW2 the crates were taken to Midland where she was reassembled in the workshops. By the 1960s she had made her way to Bunbury where she was used as a jetty shunter and on other duties such as taking coal wagons to and from the powerhouse, often struggling with the load.

    Towards the end of the 1960s and until 1985, she made her name as the loco that hauled the Vintage Train from Bunbury to many South West destinations. She was christened Leschenault Lady after a competition was held to name her, the winner being a 15 year old Burekup boy who received 20 pounds (can’t find the pounds sign on my computer!!!) as his prize. With the closure of the rail yards in central Bunbury, she found a new home at the newly established Boyanup Museum under the auspices of the Leschenault Railway Preservation Society and later RHWA and continued her life with the Vintage Train until the mid 1990s. By then, running the tourist train became too expensive and difficult so she went back to Perth where she ran a few tourist trips.

    In 1999 she was overhauled at Midland and this included retubing of the boiler. She then spent a couple of years running on the Boulder Loopline Tourist Railway before returning to Perth and then back to Boyanup, arriving on the back of a semi trailer on April 21st, 2007. RHWA has recently contracted an engineer/boiler inspector to supervise some repairs to her boiler and a new ash pan will be fabricated and installed. Should she pass the necessary tests, she will then once again be in steam to welcome visitors to the South West Rail and Heritage Centre and, with luck, once again take passengers for tours around the Boyanup area.

    Hope this is of some use.


  2. Wow! I live in Donnybrook! And I am obsessed with trains, I LOVE TRAINS!! So exciting! I hope they set on the railway soon!

    • Hi BlackLeopardPaws

      Good to hear from you. Please let us know when Rail Heritage WA are successful in their aim of getting Leschenault Lady steaming again in your area. It will be a very exciting achievement!

      Kind regards

      Blog Team


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