Emu Bay Railway Co. No.8 ‘Heemskirk’

Don River Railway


A picture containing indoor

Description automatically generated

Emu Bay Railway No.8 ‘Heemskirk’ within the Don River Railway’s large and well-equipped workshop and running shed at Don.

This photo was kindly provided by Anthony Winstone and dated 7 November 2004, showing Emu Bay Railway No.8 awaiting its next steaming.


Dübs and Company, Glasgow

Builder’s Number & Year

3855 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 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 was 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Withdrawn 1960 & scrapped 9/1961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Withdrawn ~ 1960 & scrapped 11/1963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.

No.8 was initially preserved in foreshore parkland at the Emu Bay Railway’s hometown of Burnie. In November 1978 it was relocated to the Don River Railway, being towed along the government railway by vintage diesel X25. No.8 has since been completely rebuilt, including heavy boiler repairs and complete renewal of the tender tank, and returned to its original coal-burning configuration. No.8 is now maintained in operable condition for use on Don River Railway tourist services, presented in original configuration with plain black livery, thus making a good counterpoint to sister No.6 ‘Murchison’ displayed at Zeehan in blue livery and smoke deflectors in ‘West Coaster’ oil burning configuration.

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.

A picture containing indoor, floor, ceiling, train

Description automatically generated

Emu Bay Railway No.8 at the Don River Railway on 26 November 2015.

Photo courtesy of Chris Thompson.

A train in a station

Description automatically generated with low confidence

A closed view of Emu Bay Railway No.8 at the Don River Railway on 26 November 2015.

Photo courtesy of Chris Thompson.

A picture containing indoor

Description automatically generated

No.8 had some rods removed for maintenance at the time of this view.

Photo courtesy of Chris Thompson and dated 26 November 2015.

A picture containing indoor, engine

Description automatically generated

Cab detail. Photo courtesy of Chris Thompson and dated 26 November 2015.

A picture containing text, sign

Description automatically generated

Dubs & Co builder’s plate attached to the smokebox – clearly showing that this loco was builder’s number 3855, rather than b/n 3856 as sometimes reported!

Photo courtesy of Chris Thompson and dated 26 November 2015.

A picture containing graphical user interface

Description automatically generated

Nameplate, rebuilding plate and plaque attached to the cabside:

“Rebuilt Don River Railway 1986 – 1996”

“Recommissioned by Robert P. Evetts, Manager Emu Bay Railway, 21st December 1996”

Photo courtesy of Chris Thompson and dated 26 November 2015.



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

Government Railways:











Private & Industrial Railways: