Ida Bay Railway Hunslet

Sheffield Steam & Heritage Centre


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This image is the only photo I have of the Ida Bay Hunslet – alas I need some better images for this page!

The loco is seen under overhaul (sans boiler) at the Van Diemen Railway Society workshops at Don, on 8 May 2003.

An interesting feature is the oil tray extending under the cylinders and motion, part of the steam tram configuration.


Hunslet Engine Company Ltd,
Leeds, England

Builder’s Number & Year

1844 of 1936

Wheel Arrangement



This dinky locomotive was built for Australian Commonwealth Carbide Company for their Ida Bay Railway, an interesting operation in the south of Tasmania linking a limestone quarry near the Hasting Caves to a wharf on Deephole Bay. High quality limestone was shipped from Ida Bay to Electrona, south of Hobart, where it was reduced to lime in a kiln before being roasted with coke in an electric furnace to produce high-grade calcium carbide for acetylene gas production. Located in the far south of Tasmania, the Ida Bay Railway’s 7km route is said to be the most southerly railway in Australia.

This locomotive was built to Hunslet’s standard ‘Darwin’ design. For some reason it sported steam tram features, in particular an overall roof, and oil trays under the cylinders and motion. I’m not sure why these steam tram features were provided, as the Ida Bay Railway doesn’t feature any road running. The Hunslet replaced an earlier Krauss loco ‘Puppy’ (0-4-0WT b/n 2640 of 1892) at the Ida Bay Railway and continued in service until 1952, having been replaced by Malcolm Moore petrol locomotives. It was stored serviceable at Ida Bay until 1971, when it was purchased by the Van Diemen Light Railway Society (VDLRS) for preservation at their Don River Railway. The Hunslet loco subsequently transferred to their growing heritage railway and workshops at Don, where it was overhauled in 1992 and prepared for further service.

In the meantime, the Ida Bay Railway’s limestone cartage ceased in 1975 but the line was purchased for heritage purposes by the State Government in 1977. An operating model was implemented whereby the Ida Bay Railway and remaining rail assets were leased to a suitable operator for tourist services. The section from the quarry to Lune River village fell into disuse and was later ripped up, whilst the section from Lune River to Deephole Bay was retained for tourist services.

The Hunslet returned to Ida Bay in the early 1990’s under lease from the VDLRS to the railway’s operator at that time. It received lined red livery, was given the identity No.6 ‘Old Thomas’ and began operations in 1993, albeit with the overall canopy removed – considerably changing the loco’s appearance. I understand the loco didn’t get much use at Ida Bay (with most services handled by internal combustion machines) and eventually the Hunslet returned to the VDLRS, Don. As per the photo above, my visit to Don on 8 May 2003 found the Hunslet under overhaul with the boiler removed.

The Hunslet loco has since been relocated to the Sheffield Steam & Heritage Centre, where boiler and other repairs are underway in preparation for steaming on the Redwater Creek Railway. Recent posts (October 2020) on the Sheffield Steam & Heritage Centre social media page show that boiler repairs are well advanced, with a new firebox having been fitted and retubing completed. I understand the mechanical work is also complete and only reassembly is outstanding, so hopefully this interesting locomotive will soon be riding the rails again.

Alas there were no trains running at Lune River at the time of my visit there in May 2003, but I recall being intrigued by the various ancient railway artefacts lying around the rail yard – a locomotive cylinder disappearing into the grass, driving wheels stored by the running shed, and two locomotive frames slowly rusting away in the sidings. Highlights of our trip to this far southern tip of Tasmania included a guided tour of the nearby Hastings Caves, and a magnificent bushwalk starting from Cockle Creek on the east coast – after walking for an hour or so, we emerged on the west coast!

This page would be improved with photos showing the Ida Bay Hunslet in operation and / or in original ‘tramway’ configuration. Photographic contributions would be much appreciated!

Light Railways magazine of February 2001 provides a good account of the Ida Bay Railway and is available online.

classes of Hunslet locos

The Sheffield Steam website includes this wonderful table of Hunslet loco types; the Ida Bay machine is of ‘Darwin’ type.

(It seems this page is an excerpt from a marketing brochure from Hudson of Leeds, makers of light railway equipment.)



Milbourne, K, ‘Steam Locomotives of Tasmania’,

published by Ken Milbourne OAM, 2021. ISBN 1876261870


Wikipedia page for Hunslet Engine Company,

Leeds, England, retrieved 21 October 2021


Website for Sheffield Steam & Heritage Centre,

rolling stock page, retrieved 21 October 2021.


Wikipedia page for the Ida Bay Railway,

retrieved 21 October 2021

'Light Railways - Australia's Magazine of Industrial & Narrow-Gauge Railways',

Number 157, February 2001.

Article ‘The Ida Bay Railway and its locomotives’.

Published by Light Railway Research Society of Australia Inc.

(This article is also available online.)

Page updated: 22 October 2021

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