Locomotive 3830 represents the epitome of steam locomotive development in New South Wales. It was the last of the 38 class locomotives to be built and the last passenger locomotive to be designed and built by the New South Wales Government Railways. The 38 class saw the last period of popular rail travel prior to the use of the domestic airlines and the increased popularity of the family car. The 38 class locomotives held off the diesel invasion for over a decade and were gradually relegated to goods train operation. They were finally withdrawn from service during the 1960s and early 1970s.
The 38 class locomotives were designed by the New South Wales Government Railways, under the leadership of Harold Young, last of the railways' Chief Mechanical Engineers of the steam era. They were built during World War II to replace the slower 36 class engines and were used on overnight express and mail trains, daylight expresses and other services. With their capacity for sustained high speed, acceleration and hill climbing abilities, the 38 class locomotives hauled the heaviest air-conditioned express services single-handedly over some of the State's steepest grades. Their range and reliability meant that this class could work trains the entire distance from Sydney to the break-of-gauge at Albury without an engine change.
Despite their size, the 38s were hand fired and required constant feed of their 48 square foot grate. A typical run from Sydney to Newcastle would consume about 4.5 tonnes of coal, giving the toiling fireman no opportunity to rest. As a concession only the best quality coal was used. They operated with a boiler pressure of 245 lb/sq. in (1688 kPa), the highest for any locomotive in Australia, and could haul trains at the maximum track-allowable speed of 70 m.p.h. (112 km/h).
Locomotive 3830 was the last of the 38 class locomotives to be produced. It was built at the Eveleigh Railway Workshops and went into service on 27 September, 1949. Perhaps its most significant journey was to haul the first standard gauge Spirit of Progress from Melbourne to Sydney in 1962. The locomotive travelled a total of 1 696 796 kilometres before being withdrawn from service in 1967 after 19 years on the New South Wales Government Railways. It was subsequently set aside for preservation and purchased by the Museum at a nominal fee from the State Rail Authority.
Restoration of the locomotive began in August 1992 and was jointly undertaken by the Museum and 3801 Limited, operators of steam locomotive 3801. Restoration work on the boiler and tender was undertaken at the Hunter Valley Training Company, Maitland. A dedicated team of 12 volunteers under museum supervision spent about 21,000 hours working on the locomotive at Eveleigh over a five year period.
On Wednesday 22 October 1997, 30 years to the day after its final run, locomotive 3830 was recommissioned during a ceremony at the Museum.
Thompson, John B., "The C38 Class Pacific Locomotives of the New South Wales Government Railways", Eveleigh Press, Matraville, NSW, 1992.
Gilbertson Col, & Grant, Andrew, 'Welcome Back 3830 'in "Railway Digest : Australian Railway Historical Society NSW Division", November 1997.