No.1 Locomotive hauled the first passenger train in New South Wales on the line between Sydney and Parramatta in 1855. It is one of the most significant objects in the Museum's collection relating to the history of New South Wales and has been in the Museum's possession for well over a century. It was designed by James McConnell and built in England by Robert Stephenson & Co of Newcastle-on-Tyne and is significant in British railway history as it is a very rare surviving McConnell-designed goods express locomotive of the early 1850s. It is believed to be the only example of its type in the world.
The establishment of a railway in New South Wales commenced in 1846 when a private company, the Sydney Railway company, was formed with the objective of building a railway line between Sydney and Parramatta. Work on the construction commenced in 1851 but labour shortages and internal debates made progress slow. In January 1855 four locomotives arrived by ship including Locomotive No.1 which hauled the first passenger train, a special service, from Sydney Station to Long Cove viaduct (near the present site of Lewisham) on 28 May 1855.
The high cost of constructing the railway presented the directors of the Sydney Railway Company with innumerable problems and in September 1855 the New South Wales Government assumed responsibility for its operation. The line was officially opened on 26 September 1855 with No. 3 Locomotive hauling the official train, as No. 1 was out of service that day. The line of 14 miles took 50 minutes with four intermediate stations between Sydney and Parramatta at Newtown, Ashfield, Burwood and Homebush. On the first day a total of 3 554 passengers were carried and the fares to Parramatta were 4 shillings, 3 shillings and 2 shillings respectively for 1st, 2nd and 3rd class. The event attracted crowds of people dressed in their finery eager to be the first passengers. The railway proved such a great success but the locomotives were too heavy for the Barlow rails then in use.
From 1857 Locomotive No.1 was used mainly for hauling goods and passengers between Sydney, Campbelltown, Richmond and Penrith. It was withdrawn from service in 1877 after 22 years of operation, having travelled 155 667 miles (250 468 km). After retirement No. 1 languished in "Rotten Row", an area at the Railway Workshops at Eveleigh where old engines were put pending reconstruction or final condemnation. It was later refitted with parts of other engines of its class by the Railways and presented to the Museum on 8 May 1884.
No. 1 Locomotive was initially displayed in the Museum's original building, an Agricultural Hall in the Domain behind Sydney Hospital. Later, in 1893, the engine was housed in a small building behind the Museum's second home in Harris Street, Ultimo. During the late 1970s No.1 underwent an extensive restoration and conservation program. Each part was stripped down, cleaned and polished to reveal the individually stamped numbers. This process found conclusively that the locomotive was made predominantly of No. 1 Locomotive parts as well as parts of locomotive Nos.2, 3 and 4.
The six-wheel tender of No.1 Locomotive was still in service in 1878 although it appears to have been withdrawn soon after. It was restored in 1955 for the New South Wales Railways' Centenary celebrations and later presented to the Museum for display with No.1 Locomotive. Since 1988 No.1 Locomotive and tender have been displayed with 1st, 2nd and 3rd class carriages of the day in a permanent exhibition in the Museum.
Andrew Grant, 2005