A bit of broad history re 3801 and its ownership.
The restoration of 3801 was spearheaded by Mr. David Hill then Chief Executive Officer of the State Rail Authority. David Hill put together a team consisting of representatives of State Rail, ARHS (NSW), NSWRTM, and the MAAS to assess 3801. At an onsite meeting of the group at the New South Wales Rail Transport Museum, Thirlmere to inspect locomotive 3801 to gauge the scope of the work required, serious boiler faults were found, particularly with the inner firebox, with a new one required. The boiler would be the biggest stumbling block to the restoration and would decide if the project could continue. Given the amount of work identified by this inspection, it also highlighted that a dedicated and focused group would be required to make this restoration possible.
The Department Industrial Relation had set up a Training Centre in Newcastle because of the down turn in industry and the need to provide a centre to try and complete the Indentures of apprentices now looking at losing their employment. A project was needed for these young people to work on and State Rail needed someone to restore 3801 to operation and service.
Locomotive 3801was towed to Newcastle’s State Dockyard where the Hunter Valley Training Company had set up a workshop and disassembly of the locomotive commenced. Early in the restoration 2 committees were set, a Restoration Committee and a Technical Committee. The Restoration Committee would be responsible for Maintaining liaison with SRA, setting policy for the restoration (including substantial donations) and eventual operation of the locomotive, this Committee would basically become the Company 3801 LTD. From the onset 3801 had to cost its owners, State Rail nothing and its operation had to be self funding.
In August 1986 the boiler for 3801 was hydrostatically tested and after an initial failure the second test was successful with the boiler reaching the full pressure of 245PSI using hot water from 5910. With the restoration, first dubbed ‘Mission Impossible now almost at a point where it was going to succeed a lease was granted by the SRA to 3801 Ltd for a period of 20 years, this being the life expectancy of the boiler. This lease was so that if anything happened the SRA did not lose ownership of the locomotive. In November 1986, 3801 successfully completed 2 days of trials before being completed, and officially handed over. About the same time 3801 Ltd advertised for a Maintenance Manager to maintain 3801. The locomotive returned to Sydney and for a 6 month period, for crew training, the locomotive was sent to Thirlmere. In July 1987 3801 left Thirlmere for its new home, this would be the Large Erecting Shop at Eveleigh. Operations of 3801 locomotive and company then commenced from this location.
While working at the RTM in the late 90’s various exhibits were being assessed and reports written which became SRA’s Moveable Heritage blueprint. The SRA now needed to be responsible for its Heritage assets. At the same time the SRA was being broken up and Railcorp became the new corporate name with the Office of Rail Heritage being established as the Heritage arm.
When the lease on 3801 expired, as per the conditions, 3801 was returned to its owner the SRA, now RailCorp or the ORH. The locomotive was again housed at Thirlmere while the ORH assessed the new restoration of the locomotive. As has been seen the locomotive was again moved to Chullora for this restoration by the ORH and as per the original report the locomotive should be made available again to the people of NSW enjoy through tour operations
One note of interest: When the 80’s restoration was being considered the DIR Apprentice Directorate wanted the whole locomotive or nothing. They were offered initially the tender but that was not acceptable, it was all or nothing. They were eventually given the full restoration and the Staff, and especially the Apprentices took ownership, took pride in their work and did a magnificent restoration which saw 3801 complete its full projected life in preservation service. A restoration experience I was fortunate enough to witness and record on film.
What started as ‘Mission Impossible’ was mission completed over 20 years later.