Emu Bay Railway Co. No.6 ‘Murchison’

West Coast Heritage Centre, Zeehan


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Emu Bay Railway No.6 ‘Murchison’ displayed at the West Coast Heritage Centre, Zeehan on 5 August 2021.

No.6 has been partially restored to its 1960 incarnation for the ‘West Coaster’ train, with smoke deflectors and blue livery, but sans valance along the running board.

(The actual West Coaster livery was two-tone blue, with a lighter sky blue on the valance – perhaps yet to be added.)

This photograph was kindly contributed by Chris Stratton and is dated 5 August 2021


Dübs and Company, Glasgow

Builder’s Number & Year

3854 of 1900

Wheel Arrangement



The Emu Bay Railway was built to serve the rich mining ventures of Tasmania’s rugged west coast, requiring steep grades and sinuous reverse curves for the climb from Emu Bay (now Burnie) and through difficult terrain to Zeehan. For heavy freight duties, Dübs & Co supplied three sturdy 4-8-0 locomotives which became Emu Bay Railway Nos.6 - 8. A fourth unit, which became No.11, was built by the North British Locomotive Company in 1911. (The North British Locomotive Company formed in 1903 by merger of three Glasgow locomotive manufacturers; Sharp, Stewart and Co, Neilson, Reid and Co, and Dübs & Co.)

In summary, the four Emu Bay Railway 4-8-0 locomotives of this type were:




No.6 ‘Murchison’

Dübs b/n 3854 of 1900

Preserved at WCHC, Zeehan


Dübs b/n 3856 of 1900

Withdrawn 1960 & scrapped 9/1961

No.8 ‘Heemskirk’

Dübs b/n 3855 of 1900

Preserved at the Don River Railway


North British b/n 19576 of 1911

Withdrawn ~ 1960 & scrapped 11/1963

(It seems odd that Nos.7 & 8 did not receive running numbers in the same sequence as builder’s numbers. Some sources list No.8 as b/n 3856 rather than b/n 3855, but preserved No.8 at Don carries Dübs builder’s plate no.3855, which also concurs with two authorative sources - Ken Milbourne’s ‘Steam Locomotives of Tasmania’ and Lou Rae’s ‘The Emu Bay Railway’.)

One aspect of these locomotives that intrigues the webmaster is the resemblance to earlier 8-coupled heavy freight locomotives built by Dübs & Co for South Africa. In particular, the Emu Bay Railway’s 4-8-0 locos have a similar appearance to the Cape Government Railways 7th class supplied from 1892. The 7th class locomotives had evolved from earlier 4-6-0 designs to provide increased traction in wet and humid conditions, not unlike those encountered on Tasmania’s west coast where stiff, moisture laden winds blow off the Antarctic, and so perhaps the Dübs engineers turned to their drawings for the proven 7th class locomotives when tasked with specifying a sure-footed and powerful freight machine for the Emu Bay Railway?

CGR 7th Class (1892)

Emu Bay Railway (1900)


17 by 23 inches

17 by 22 inches

Wheel Diameter

3 foot 6 & 3⁄4 inches

3 foot 9 inches


Round-top, 160 psi

Belpaire, 175 psi


Drumhead extended



8-wheel bogie tender

8-wheel bogie tender

Tasmania’s west coast is one of the more remote corners of the world, featuring weather-beaten mountain terrain, wild rivers and lush forest. Following the pioneer mining interests came a growing tourist trade, drawn to the pristine environment of the west coast and south-west including Macquarie Harbour and its convict heritage. Other jewels included Lake Pedder and its glacial sand beach, which surely would today be a World Heritage site had it not been lost under a hydroelectric impoundment. Many west coast mining towns remained isolated from the road network into the post-war years, leading to demand for a tourist service over the Emu Bay Railway. In response, an innovative passenger train was introduced between Burnie and Rosebery in October 1960 – the ‘West Coaster’ – for which 4-8-0 locos No.6 & No.8 were removed from store, converted to oil burning and returned to service, complete with valances along the running plate and large smoke deflectors. The West Coaster also conveyed cars and a tourist bus on flatcars, with the locomotives and passenger consist receiving an attractive two-tone blue livery. For this service No.6 was named ‘Murchison’ while No.8 was named ‘Heemskirk’, the names referencing mountains and rivers in the region. (The two-tone blue livery was also carried by diesel-hydraulic locomotives purchased by the Emu Bay Railway Co. to replace their steam fleet. Perhaps the livery was inspired by the well-known AT&SF ‘Blue Goose’ No.3460!)

In December 1963 the Murchison Highway opened, providing for the first time a road linking many of Tasmania's isolated west coast communities. The opening of the Murchison Highway also facilitated development of hydroelectricity along Tasmania’s west coast, including dams on the Pieman River which required part of the Emu Bay Railway to be diverted. Hydroelectricity is a now major employer on the west coast and supplies clean, renewable electricity to mainland Australia via an underwater cable across Bass Strait. Alas the opening of the Murchison Highway was the death knell for some local railway operations including the West Coaster passenger train, which last ran in January 1964.

The Emu Bay Railway operated a fascinating variety of steam locomotives over the years, from pioneering 4-4-0 types through to three magnificent 4-8-2+ 2-8-4 Beyer Garratts and later a fleet of Australian Standard Garratts. Lou Rae provides a complete and well-illustrated description of the Emu Bay Railway and its wonderful locomotives in his book ‘The Emu Bay Railway – VDL Company to Pasminco’. It is a pity that none of the Garratts or pioneer engines survived, all having been scrapped by 1966, but Emu Bay Railway No.6 ‘Murchison’ and No.8 ‘Heemskirk’ were saved for posterity.

No.6 has been statically displayed since 1966 at the West Coast Heritage Centre (formerly known as the West Coast Pioneers Memorial Museum) at Zeehan - an excellent museum and well worth a visit, with fine displays & well-presented exhibits. The locomotive collection is protected from the wet west coast climate under a substantial weather roof facing onto the main street. Zeehan and the local mining industry certainly have a rich railway history, and indeed a 2’ gauge tramway once ran down the main street in front of the museum!

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The West Coast Heritage Centre sits on a street corner, presenting this view from side street.

Alas the picket fence makes photography difficult, but Emu Bay Railway No6’s blue livery is striking.

No doubt this view catches the eye of tourists passing on the main west coast route past the museum – and would be popular with the youngsters!

This photo was kindly contributed by Chris Stratton following his visit to the West Coast Heritage Centre on 5 August 2021.

The fuel oil tank is prominent in this view, sitting high in the tender coal space.

A train on the railway tracks

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Emu Bay Railway No.6 as I found her on my visit to the West Coast Pioneers Memorial Museum on 8 May 2003.

The loco is presented in black livery and posed in a classic rods-down position. The flared smokebox is apparent in this view.

At this stage the loco largely resembled its earlier freight configuration, prior to smoke deflectors and valance, but the oil tank dates from West Coaster days.



Rae, L. ‘The Emu Bay Railway – VDL Company to Pasminco’,

Published in 1991 by Lou Rae, Sandy Bay, Tasmania.


Milbourne, K, ‘Steam Locomotives of Tasmania’,

published by Ken Milbourne OAM, 2021. ISBN 1876261870


Wikipedia page for Dubs & Co,

retrieved 19 October 2021.


Oberg, L. ‘Locomotives of Australia 1854 to 2010’ (Fifth Edition, 2010),

published by Rosenberg Publishing Pty Ltd.

Page updated: 19 October 2021

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