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Rack Railways Of Australia (BOOK)

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Rack Railways Of Australia (BOOK)

The world has relatively few rack railways and most of them are to be found in Europe. It is therefore understandable that the bulk of rolling stock and locomotives to be used on such railways are designed and built in that part of the world, in particular, Switzerland.

It was with some surprise that in 1991 I found myself in the unusual position of working for a company which was designing and building two combined rack and adhesion drive locomotives for a colliery in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales. Although not involved in the detailed design, I watched the two machines go through the various stages from design to a locomotive running up and down the test track in the factory. I already had an interest in rack railway technology, but this experience greatly increased it.

My decision to start researching this book was made after a thorough search of all that had been previously written on the subject. I found, to my amazement, that after much reading I still had many questions about the rack railways of Australia unanswered. As a mechanical engineer, my questions were somewhat more detailed than those posed by the general public, but I knew I was not alone in my hunger for `more information'.

The usage of this type of railway in this country has by no means been wide spread. In fact, if every section of rack was laid end to end the total distance (ignoring differences in rail gauge or rack type) would only be approximately 20 kms!

The reason for this is mainly one of geography. Australia is largely a flat country where railways can be built with relatively ease grades and thin conventional adhesion systems have been found to be perfectly adequate.

However, it is fortunate that the examples of this type of railway that have been built in Australia are quite different from each other in many ways. The motive power used has ranged from steam to diesel to electric and the ruling grades have varied from 1 in 20 (5%) to 1 in 6 (16.7%).

The research for this book has been carried out during an interesting period in history. I was able to meet various people who were pivotal in the creation of the Skitube railway (Chapter 5), as well as two small industrial lines (Chapter 6). However, I consider myself verb fortunate to have met some former employees who worked on the first two rack lines in Australia. Taking into account that the alt Lyell and Mt Morgan railways closed in 1963 and 1952 respectively, this has been a privilege.

This book is unusual in that it presents five rail systems that have been linked by their use of a common technology. It has been the objective of the author to focus on the operations of the rack and rack/adhesion railways of Australia, with a nuts 'n' bolts emphasis.

It is not the intention of the author to give a full history of each railway as this would require a much larger volume than that presented here.

This book is unusual in that it presents five rail systems that have been linked by their use of a common technology. Lines covered include Mt Lyell Mining, Queenstown to Regatta, Kabra to Mt Morgan, Skitube and various other Industrial  systems.

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