History and heritage: “Burra” – the 100 year veteran mining locomotive
In the late 1800s, collieries in the Illawarra relied on isolated jetties and ships to export their coal to markets.
Railways owned by the mines were linked to these sea jetties. One of these mines, Brokers Nose Colliery at Corrimal, commenced mining coal from the Bulli Seam in 1884.
While successfully mining this seam, the workings struck a 30-metre geological fault in 1906. The decision was made to relocate and start a new mine, named Corrimal-Balgownie Colliery, approximately 2 km to the south. This required the construction of a 60cm gauge railway line to haul coal to the Brokers Nose site where an endless rope haulage transferred the coal to sizing screens.
This coal haulage was worked by horses until 1908, when steam locomotives were introduced to haul the one-ton skips of coal along the railway line. The fourth locomotive purchased by the colliery was built by R & W Hawthorn Leslie in England and commenced operations at the mine in 1923.
Figure 1. “Burra” taking water.
Originally to be named “Kookaburra”, it was decided to abbreviate the name to “Burra”.
This little workhorse ceased hauling coal in 1955 and was then used for general shunting duties at the mine. The locomotive was then donated to Australian Iron and Steel (AI&S), where it was restored and repainted at their diesel loco workshops. The loco was then placed on stationary display at the AI&S Visitors Centre. In 1978 the locomotive was donated to the Illawarra Light Railway Museum Society (ILRMS) at Albion Park, with volunteers aiming to get her up and running again.
For this purpose, the ILRMS needed to obtain 60cm gauge small section rail for their site. A program for the retrieval of rails from the Corrimal mine was formulated and commenced in April 1972. In all, 35 tons of small gauge rail track were reclaimed from the mine.
Burra now at the Illawarra Light Railway Museum at Albion Park, NSW.
To commemorate the 100-year anniversary of “Burra”, members of the ILRMS trekked along the old rail track between the two now closed mines. Members of the AusIMM Mineral Heritage Subcommittee John Reay, Phil Grant and Andy Hubscher accompanied the other 15 volunteers. The old rail corridor was heavily overgrown and partly washed away with old haulage ropes, rails, skips and the old watering tank still visible.
Figure 3. Members of the 'Expedition' at the Brokers Nose mine site next to the gravity operated haulage engine sited at the top of the incline.
References and acknowledgements
The Corrimal Colliery Railway by K McCarthy
Photo acknowledgements: The ILRMS website and colour photos by Phil Grant.