top of page
Anchor 1
Various 31.jpg

Works photograph of K1. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Various 30.jpg

K1 or K2 at work in Tasmania. The locomotive has just crossed the Montezuma Falls trestle bridge. Photo: Welsh Highland Railway.

The World's First Garratt Locomotive

David Matheson

9 March 2020

Garratt locomotives

Garratt locomotives are a type of articulated steam locomotive, named after their inventor Herbert William Garratt (1864–1913). Garratt was a mechanical engineer who was born in England, but worked on railways in various countries, including some time as an inspecting engineer in New South Wales, Australia. He discussed his design for a double articulated locomotive with Beyer, Peacock & Company of Manchester, and it was patented on 11 June 1908. Garratt’s design became known as the Beyer-Garratt type.


Beyer, Peacock & Company manufactured numerous locomotives for railway companies throughout the world, including Australian railways. The Garratt type locomotives were a small proportion of their total output. Garratt locomotives are articulated and have three parts: a centrally-mounted boiler and two steam power units mounted on separate frames. The articulated design enabled them to negotiate tighter curves and lighter track than other large locomotives. In 1928 the patent for Garratt’s design expired and other companies began to build locomotives using Garratt’ basic design. Subsequent engines manufactured by Beyer, Peacock & Company were distinguished from others by being referred to as Beyer-Garratt locomotives.


Garratt locomotives were used on railways throughout the world. They saw service in many countries, most widely in Africa, but also in Asia, Australia, Europe and South America. Garratt locomotives were not used in North America. They were able to generate increases in power over most conventional steam locomotives, while maintaining light axle loads. Their size and power made them favourite engines among many steam locomotive enthusiasts.


World’s first Garratt locomotives

The world’s first Garratt locomotives were used on the North East Dundas Tramway, which was a two foot (610 mm) gauge railway line operated by the Tasmanian Government Railways between Deep Lead (now Williamsford) and Zeehan on the west coast of Tasmania. The North East Dundas Tramway was 18 miles (29 km) in length, and was opened in 1896 for conveying ore from mines at Deep Lead to Zeehan, where the ore was transhipped to another train for transport to the port at Burnie. It was built through rough terrain, requiring steep gradients of up to 1 in 25, tight curves and several bridges. The line was primarily a goods railway, although mixed trains conveying both goods and passengers also operated.


In 1907 a proposal was submitted to the New South Wales Government Railways by Beyer, Peacock & Company for a light Garratt locomotive, but this did not eventuate. The world’s first order for Beyer-Garratt locomotives came from the Tasmanian Government Railways (TGR) when they ordered two for service on the North East Dundas Tramway. Rufus Deeble, Chief Mechanical Engineer of the TGR, recommended the engines, with the contract specifying that they must be able to negotiate curves with a radius as sharp as 1½ chains (30.2 metres) and gradients as steep as 1 in 25. The purchase price was £3462 each. After manufacture they were shipped to Tasmania and were assembled at Zeehan. They had the builder’s numbers 5292 and 5293, and were classified by the Tasmanian Government Railways as the K Class, with road numbers K1 and K2.


Engine K1 had its first trial on 12 January 1910 from Zeehan to Williamsford and return, with a number of officials present, including J. McCormack, General Manager of Tasmanian Government Railways, and W. Double, Chief Mechanical Engineer. Members of the press also attended, indicating the significance of the event. The trial was successful, and K1 and K2 were both soon in regular service. They worked frequent ore trains on the North East Dundas line.


The K Class had two sets of cylinders of different sizes: larger low pressure cylinders on the front bogie and smaller high pressure cylinders on the rear bogie. A unique feature of the K Class was that the cylinders were located towards the middle of the locomotive, with the cranks and driving wheels at the ends, rather than the cylinders at the ends, which was the case for other Garratt locomotives. The placement of the cylinders towards the middle resulted in them being underneath the cab floor, which created hot working conditions for the locomotive crew. The design was altered on subsequent Garratt locomotives.


Another unusual feature of the K Class was compounding, and a 2-8-0+0-8-2 engine built for Burma Railways was the only other Garratt locomotive with this feature. Compounding in steam engines involves steam being expanded in more than one stage. This typically involves initial expansion in a high pressure cylinder, and then, after it has lost some of its heat and pressure, the steam exhausts into a low pressure cylinder. In the K Class, a steam pipe led from the dome to the high pressure cylinders towards the rear, and then exhaust steam was transferred along a main steam pipe to the low pressure cylinders towards the front. Compounding was designed to make locomotives more efficient by saving on water and fuel. It became a feature on many locomotives towards the end of the 1800s, but later declined when superheating was able to provide similar efficiency gains at a cheaper cost.


K1 and K2 continued in regular service in Tasmania until the Nickel Junction to Williamsford section was closed on 30 June 1929, being replaced by an aerial ropeway. They were then used less frequently on the remaining section of the line between Zeehan and Nickel Junction until 1938–9 when the North East Dundas Tramway closed completely. K1 and K2 were then stored at Zeehan.


Garratts compared

As technology advanced, steam locomotives became larger and more powerful. A comparison between Tasmania’s K Class Garratt locomotives and the New South Wales AD60 Class Garratts, introduced to service in 1952, shows the huge differences in size between the two locomotive classes.

K Class

Wheel arrangement: 0-4-0+0-4-0

Boiler pressure: 195 pounds per square inch (1345.5 kPa)

Tractive effort: 17,900 pounds at 95 % (79.6 kN)


High pressure: 11 X 16 inches (27.9 X 40.6 cm)

Low pressure: 17 X 16 inches (43.2 X 40.6 cm)

Driving wheel diameter: 31.5 inches (80 cm)

Firebox area: 14.8 square feet (1.4 m2)

Length: 34 feet (10.4 metres)

Weight: 33.5 tons (34.0 tonnes)


 AD60 Class

Wheel arrangement: 4-8-4+4-8-4

Boiler pressure: 200 pounds per square inch (1379 kPa)

Tractive effort: 59,560 pounds (264.9 kN)

Cylinders: 19¼ X 26 inches (48.9 X 66.0 cm)

Driving wheel diameter: 55 inches (139.7 cm)

Firebox area: 63.5 square feet (5.90 m2)

Length: 108 feet, 8 inches (33.1 m)


Original: 260.0 tons (264.2 tonnes)

Modified: 264.25 tons (268.5 tonnes)


Charles Smith, an apprentice who had started with the Tasmanian Government Railways in 1940, took photos of K1 at Zeehan in 1945 and suggested that Beyer Peacock be contacted. Initially they were only interested in the locomotive’s plates, but later saw its historical importance. In 1947 K1 was overhauled and dismantled, then returned to England. Some parts from K2 were used in the overhaul. K1 became an exhibit at Beyer, Peacock & Company’s works in Manchester, acknowledging its significance as the world’s first Garratt locomotive. Charles Smith eventually became the Chief Engineer of Tasmanian Government Railways successor Australian National Railways, and retired in 1981.


After the closure of Beyer, Peacock & Company in 1966, K1 was sold to the Ffestiniog Railway in Wales and moved to Portmadoc. Unfortunately, it was too large for the railway’s loading gauge. It was stored for ten years, and then cosmetically in 1976 it was restored and displayed at the National Railway Museum in York. In 1995 it was acquired by the Welsh Highland Railway and a lengthy restoration to operating condition began. It was moved to the Tyseley Locomotive Works in Birmingham, where it was completely stripped down. Much work was carried out by volunteers, but outside contractors were used to refurbish some components and manufacture new ones where required. A replacement boiler was needed and the locomotive had its loading gauge reduced for service on the Welsh Highland Railway. K1 was moved to Wales in 2000 and work continued. On 22 August 2004 it was steamed under its own power for the first time since its service in Tasmania.

Over the next few years further work was done on K1 as problems emerged that required attention and trials were run. On 8 September 2006 it operated a special train for supporters. The first public services operated the following day.


Charles Smith, who had played a pivotal role in K1’s preservation, sent a message to the Welsh Highland Railway upon the return of K1 to service:

I congratulate all the dedicated people who have contributed to this momentous occasion. For the very first locomotive of such an important type to be still in existence after ninety-seven years and to be re-entering revenue service must surely be unique. I consider K1 to be the most important Garratt in the world.


I have a special interest in K1 as I had a role in its preservation. As a junior assistant engineer I went to Tasmania's west coast to initiate feed water treatment for steam locomotives subject to boiler corrosion from the acid feed water of that region. In the workshop was K1, complete, just as it had ceased operation 15 years before. At this time I was unaware of its existence. I took photos for my own information that later proved helpful towards preservation.


K2 was outside in the yard separated into three units. I found that the Tasmanian Government Railways had tried to sell the Ks without success and scrapping was being considered.


About this time Beyer Peacock wrote to TGR asking if the nameplates of K1 were in existence as they would like to purchase them for their museum in the works at Manchester. There seemed no possibility of preservation in Tasmania and I saw this as a possible way of saving this important locomotive. I discussed the situation with the chief draftsman, Douglas Wherrett, and we went together to the chief engineer, Mr. George Mullins, who gave us permission to write a letter to Beyer Peacock, for his signature, offering K1 for purchase at scrap value and enclosing my photos to show its completeness.


Beyer Peacock purchased K1 and arranged shipping through the Emu Bay Railway Company.


I have followed restoration progress with great interest by means of your website. When I saw K1 in 1945 I could not have anticipated that it would return to service 61 years later. What a marvellous achievement this is, which I am sure will draw enthusiasts from all over the world. Once again, my congratulations to all concerned.


Charles Smith, OAM MIE Aust, CPE


In November 2006 a ceremony was held in Launceston, Tasmania, to commemorate K1’s engineering and historical significance. The Tasmanian Association of Tourist Railways had arranged for a plaque to be made. It reads: “Presented by the Tourist Railways of Tasmania in recognition of the Historical and Engineering significance of this locomotive.” The plaque was forwarded to the Welsh Highland Railway to be fitted to K1.

From 2006 K1 operated further train services operated and more work on the locomotive was undertaken. In 2007 it was converted from oil burning to coal burning. To mark its centenary in 2009 it was painted in Tasmanian Government Railways livery of glass black with red and yellow lining. In August 2009 it participated in the Great Garratt Gathering at Manchester and visited its birthplace in the Beyer Peacock boiler shop before being returned to the Welsh Highland Railway.



Burke, D, ‘A brief history of the Garratt locomotive in Australia’, Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin, no. 184, Feb 1953, pp. 13-15.

Burke, D, ‘A brief history of the Garratt locomotive in Australia’, Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin, no. 185, Mar 1953, pp. 25-29.

Grunbach, A, A compendium of New South Wales steam locomotives, Australian Railway Historical Society, NSW Division, Sydney, 1989.

K1, the world’s first Garratt <>.

‘North-east Dundas railway: new patent engine’, Zeehan and Dundas Herald, 13 Jan 1910, p. 2.

Oberg, L, Locomotives of Australia: 1854 to 2007, 5th edn, Rosenberg, Sydney, 2010.

Rail Tasmania, Garratt locomotives <>.

‘Railways of the west coast, the North-East Dundas Tramway’, Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin, no. 66, April 1943, pp. 48–50.

Welsh Highland Railway Society <>.

Wikipedia, Garratt <>.

Wikipedia, Herbert William Garratt <>.

Wikipedia, North East Dundas Tramway <>.

Wikipedia, Tasmanian Government Railways K Class <>.

WC 262.jpg

K1 taking water at Caernarfon station on the Welsh Highland Railway, 23 July 2008. Photo: Phil Parker, Wikimedia Commons.

WC 264.jpg

K1, the world’s first Garratt locomotive on the Welsh Highland Railway, with a passenger train entering Snowdon Ranger railway station on 19 October 2007. Photo: NoelWalley, Wkimedia Commons.



bottom of page