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Day’s rail tractor (Ruoak Timbers)

Historical Photo
Recent Photo

Status: Operational

Rail tractors were popular with Victorian sawmillers.  They were generally cheaper than a steam locomotive, required no special qualifications to drive, and used proven power plants for which spares were available locally.  This particular tractor was purchased by Ruoak Timbers in 1940 to work the outlet tramway from its No.4 and No.5 mills high in the Royston Valley, replacing twenty horses and five men.  The tractor was built to the rather unusual gauge of 3-ft 4½-in (1049mm) to conform with the gauge of the Rubicon Forest tramways.  The tractor was constructed by Day’s Engineering of South Melbourne which, although better known for its pumping equipment, built more than fifty rail tractors for Victorian sawmillers and other industrial tramway users.  The rail tractor remained in use until about 1952, when all tramway transport was abandoned, and the tractor was removed from the bush and put into storage at Ruoak’s Alexandra mill.  In 1981, it was donated to the Alexandra Timber Tramway and was the first locomotive to be restored to operating condition at the Museum.

This rail tractor is almost complete as built, the only item replaced being the roof (the uprights are original).  Today, only four timber tramway tractors built by Day’s survive (an incomplete example at Erica, a heavily modified example at Marysville, and the two at Alexandra).  This is the only one in operational condition.  Note the wide wheel treads and deep flanges for operating on roughly-built tramways.  Although this tractor was designed to run on wooden rails, in practice it was found that the tractor derailed frequently until the line was progressively re-laid with steel rails.