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The American Connection

Edward Loughry was only twenty-four when his employer, the Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia, sent him across half the world to bring the first steam trams to Sydney. With a cargo of four small locomotives (‘steam motors’) and six double- deck carriages, he sailed aboard SS Dryad from New York harbour on 15 May 1879. Awaiting his arrival was the new tramway that the railways were hurriedly completing to carry passengers from Redfern station to the magnificent International Exhibition in the Botanic Gardens, due to open on 17 September.

Loughry reached Sydney with his cargo on 3 September, but because of bad weather he had to wait another week before Dryad’s unloading could start. Within two weeks he was close to having the new locomotion up and running, though horse cars were used initially. The first steam tram, with Loughry at the throttle, set out on 23 September and six days later the regular service began. Over the next three- and-a-half months a total of 443,000 people travelled by steam tram to the grand Garden Palace Pavilion.

Some say the ‘Americanisation’ of Sydney dated from Loughry’s arrival with the Baldwin trams. A Sydney Mail report of 18 October 1879 described his part in an experiment to test steam’s pulling power up the grade between Campbell and Liverpool Streets.

The driver of No. 3 motor, Mr E.A. Loughry (who came with the machinery from the States), however was fully confident that there was sufficient power to draw four or five cars, and to test the matter he was allowed yesterday to attach three cars to the engine in his charge. At half- past 10, the three cars were coupled, and as the number of passengers was insufficient to fill more than one carriage, the conductor, Mr Bolton, offered to the crowd of small boys that the tramway still attracts to the terminus, the glory of a free ride to Hunter-Street and back. The cars were then fairly loaded, and a start was made, the motor dragging the three cars with quite as much ease as one.

A severe trial of the tractive power occurred at Goulburn Street when the cars were brought to a standstill to admit a few passengers; but in the starting again there was not the slightest difficulty. The tram moved off with as much apparent ease as if the ground had been perfectly level, and, as the steam pressure was not more than one half of what the engine is constructed to bear, and moreover, as nothing like the full speed of the motor was used, it was quite evident that at least six heavily laden cars were fully within the compass of the motor, even taking into account the sharp curves and the steepness of the gradient.

One thing was especially noteworthy – the ease and rapidity with which the cars were brought to a standstill. When at full speed, it seemed to require little more than three or four feet to bring the tram to a sudden stop. Coming down the gradient at a very rapid rate, the driver stopped the cars so suddenly that from the time he shut off the steam till they were motionless, the space covered could not exceed seven feet. This is owing to the use of the atmospheric pressure break, worked by steam, and affords the most reliable evidence of the safety with which our streets may be traversed by the tramways. A very large number of persons, assembled along the route to and from Hunter Street, were attracted by the novelty of the spectacle; and several members of the Legislature beamed approval from the side walks.

To the young engineman from Bellfonte, Pennsylvania was entrusted the entire mechanical operation of the tramway, his official post being that of shed foreman on 15s a day. In his charge were the four 12-tonne motors costing £860 each, plus the six carriages and spare parts, totalling another £3107. In later years, he recalled for the NSW Railway and Tramway Magazine how the early steam trams had met with:

– considerable obstruction from the public, who controlled vehicular traffic, and had little sympathy from the press, excepting one evening paper. The police also hesitated to interfere when obstruction occurred. It was not an unusual experience for trams to be stopped for a considerable time because of a horse vehicle obstructing the line, and very often the motor driver would have to leave his motor, take the horse by the head and lead him off the line. As time rolled on, this opposition died out.

In those years, the railways department owned and operated the system.  After a couple of months the Secretary for Railways decided to make redundant the 40 men working on the tramway because they were not official railway employees, to which Loughry replied: ‘If they go, I go, too.’  Commissioner Goodchap, on hearing of the young American’s stand, directed that all the men should be inducted into regular railway ranks.

Another crisis arose when six additional motors required to handle the new Randwick line’s gala race meeting on 4 September 1880 were still upon the high seas. Probably remembering the frustration with his own voyage, Loughry cabled New Zealand and directed that all packing cases containing the motors and parts – about one hundred in number – were to be lifted on deck for the arrival in Sydney. Three days before the races the Royal Mail steamer docked in Sydney Cove; at dawn next day the cases were hauled to Pitt Street shed, where a squad of railway mechanics awaited Loughry’s orders.

Though Loughry resigned in November 1880 to return to the Baldwin Company, his next assignment brought him back to Australia. For nine months he was based in Adelaide supervising the assembly and testing of the first American locomotives purchased by the South Australian Railways.

The sight and sounds of the iron horse always seemed to be part of Loughry’s life. The son of an American engineman, his career began in 1869 as a fourteen-year-old messenger (‘callboy’) for the Pennsylvania Railroad Company. After gaining an apprentice­ship at the Baldwin works, he joined the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad and from fireman graduated to locomotive driver – ‘engineer’ to use the American term. He drove for the Philadelphia and Reading company, but after another year received an offer to move back to Baldwin as a travelling locomotive engineer, overseeing the introduction of the company’s huge locomotive output among railways around the world.

But Sydney called him back. In October 1881, Loughry and his brother Jim, who was also an engineman, wed the two Locke sisters, Mary and Therese at St Francis’ Church, O’Connell Plains, near Bathurst. After a spell as a manager of Thomas Wearne’s engineering works at Glebe, which held steam tram contracts, Loughry rejoined the New South Wales Railways and Tramways in November 1883 as a travelling locomotive inspector and retired in 1919 as an Outdoor Superintendent. He died in Sydney at the age of 85 in 1941..

Article courtesy of ‘Jeggernaut’; A story of Sydney in the wild days of the steam trams’. Written by David Burke. This book is an amazing book all about Steam Trams.

Brought to you by Tram Scrolls Australia, Australia’s leading specialist in replica early 20th centurt tram and bus scrolls, blinds and rolls.