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Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 7

I The First 100 Years 1788-1888

II Railways
i Location of the Railway
ii Track
iii Bridging and Tunnelling
iv Dams for Engine Water
v Locomotives and Rolling Stock
vi Signalling and Telecommunications
vii 1900/1988-The New Century
viii The Garratt Locomotive
ix Steam Locomotive Practice
x Motor Railcars
xi Signalling
xii Electric Tramways
xiii Electric Railways - Direct Current
xiv Electric Railways - 25 kV ac
xv Diesel Traction
xvi Alignment and Track
xvii Operations

III Motorised Vehicles

IV Aviation

V Modern Shipping

VI Innovative Small Craft

VII Conclusion

VIII Acknowledgements

IX Contributors



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1900/1988-The New Century

Centuries are always convenient milestones -or on today's railways, kilometre posts. When we look back at them, we relate to and think about what has happened since then. To appreciate the achievements of a contemporary technologist it is probably more realistic to stand beside him at the kilometre post and look around. On his bookshelf is The Engineer, behind him is his predecessor's legacy -ahead is the unknown.

At the century's turn in Australia, the social and political influences of imperial Britain were still strong, heightened by participation in the Boer War and later the First World War.

The engineering ties to the mother country were also very strong indeed. The mails to the U.K. were faster and more reliable than surface mails are today and Australian engineers were well informed on overseas developments by an excellent technical press and an occasional overseas trip. The cable encouraged conciseness of thought and expression. Contracts were simpler, and mutual trust and confidence were elements of business even more important than today. In New South Wales and Victoria, the two most developed States, railway engineers already thought in terms of 16 ton axleloads, 100-110 km/h express speeds, and 500 ton goods trains for the level main lines. Electric trams were running in their own cities although their homes were probably lit by gas or oil. Workshop machines were steam powered via overhead line shafting and belts.

Electric suburban trains ran though and under the great cities overseas and even main line electrification was no longer a far fetched option: it was running under Baltimore, and planned elsewhere in Europe and the U.S.A.

The railways -their own Australian railways -stood unchallenged as the overland transport monopoly, with a glittering, expansive future. Yet much of what surrounded the people responsible for applying these new century technologies was old, light, slow and in the face of escalating traffic demands, inadequate. Lightly laid pioneer lines were still expanding, essentially as originally conceived; they received the oldest, lightest equipment. In the more thinly populated States, light railway standards remained the norm even for main lines. In a few places they still exist in 1986 where a secondary rail link remains.

The railway engineer with the power to influence new technology had been working, probably on his own system, for typically 30 years. 1870 practice was by no means antique -one had cut one's teeth on it; 1890 practice was relatively modern. The politicians were still peering over his shoulder and eager to question his every move.

A fundamental feature of the infrastructure and equipment surrounding the Australian railway engineer of 1900 was that in virtually every essential element, and even in the latest application, the technology was not new. The trains had become longer, the engines bigger. Six and eight coupled steam engines were the norm, but they were not yet superheated, mechanically stoked, or (except for a few Vauclain compounds) multi cylindered. Coach and wagon suspensions were the same as in 1870. Under-frames were usually steel but often wood; bodies were always wood. Dining cars and toilets were the exception, refreshment and 'potty stops' the norm. Lighting was still mostly oil or gas, occasionally J. Stone's electric. Automatic air or vacuum brakes were standard on passenger trains, but not yet on goods trains. Refrigeration, where it existed, was ice.

People in Bright Sparcs - Macfarlane, Ian B.

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 466 - 467, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher