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Malcolm Moore 4wPM "TACL" built mid 1920s

Historical Photo
Recent Photo

Status: Awaiting Long Term Restoration

This locomotive frame was once a 3-ft (910mm) gauge rail tractor owned and operated by the Mount Horsfall Sawmilling Company, formed in 1923 by father and son Benjamin and Philip Davis to exploit timber growing on private property on the ridge separating the Yarra and Latrobe watersheds.  Two sawmills were installed, and an expensive outlet tramway constructed from the mills down the steep valley to join with the Loch Valley tramway to Noojee.  The Company soon lost the rights to the timber it was hoping to cut cheaply to a rival sawmiller, and quickly found itself in financial difficulty.  A rescue plan involving the injection of additional capital by Henry Jones IXL was thwarted when, in February 1926, bushfire swept the area, destroying one of the mills and the Loch Valley tramway on which the Company relied to get its timber to Noojee.  The firm went into liquidation in September 1927.

B. J. Davis Pty Ltd was formed with a large creditor shareholding to take over the assets of the former company and try and rescue something from the mess, but the stipulation by the Melbourne & Metropolitan Board of Works that no sawmilling be permitted in its recently-acquired Upper Yarra catchment soon put an end to even this rescue package.  The mill plant was abandoned in the bush and progressively stripped by thieves of small items of value before the area was once again burnt in 1939.  The firm’s rail tractor was discovered during roading operations in the early 1980s and removed from the bush by the Forests Commission.

This rail tractor is clearly of the 4wPM “TACL” (Tractor Appliance Company Limited) type.  The TACL tractor appears to have originated in the USA when the Brookville Locomotive Company of Pennsylvania began construction of small locomotives based on Ford truck power plants in 1917.  By January 1926, the Company was selling a chain-drive rail tractor based on the Fordson tractor power plant with three speeds in both directions.  In Australia, the idea was adopted by Malcolm Moore of Port Melbourne and sold under the TACL name.  This rail tractor is quite different from the three other preserved TACLs known, and may be the earliest known version of the type.  Perhaps its closest “relative” is the fully-restored TACL tractor owned and operated by the Puffing Billy Preservation Society and shown in the black and white photograph.

Unfortunately, the frame is too bent for the tractor at Alexandra to be easily restored, and it is likely to remain a static exhibit for the foreseeable future.