Heavy Harry – Fred Rochow rail tales

In 1941, “Heavy Harry H220”, a 3-cylinder loco, was built. It was the largest and heaviest steam locomotive in the Victorian Railways fleet, the largest steam locomotive built in Australia and the heaviest non-articulated steam locomotive in the southern hemisphere. He was to run the Overland from Melbourne to Ararat, but with the advent of war, they couldn’t restructure all the bridges and they couldn’t re-lay with heavier line. He was taken there a couple of times and just about wrecked the whole lot. Fully loaded, it was 260 tons.

He got put on the north and the north-east again, the most powerful at the time and he was given the job of fast-goods running, through-loading, stopping only to change crews of 800-ton through-load. He was taken out in 1957 and fortunately is preserved at Newport Museum.

Around this time, early in the 1940s, the Wodonga crews were very busy with the Snowy Scheme being built and it meant a lot of extra trains on the Cudgewa line, with cement and steel and goods. There were four to five trains a day.

As the Snowy Scheme started to wind down, there was a surplus of crews at Wodonga, which could have meant transfers. The local fellows didn’t want to shift. Then they started the Standard Gauge – there was going to be a lot of extra running. With good negotiations by our loco fellows – Mick Seymour was one and Tom Symonds, with their Member of the time, Tom Mitchell, Member of Parliament – they secured most of the running on the Standard Gauge and saved the Wodonga Depot. Saved it from winding right down, for it kept most of the young men here. It saved a lot of fellows from being transferred.

At the end of the 1950s, we got the R-Class and N-Class locos. They were brought out from England. With the talk of Standard Gauge in the air, they were built so they could be converted from 5ft 3inches to 4ft 8½inches, by just taking out a spreader piece right down the centre and squeezing them up. But that never happened – the Diesels came in!