There is mindless trivia and then there are locomotive withdrawal dates. Most pass unremarked, but I always had a degree of affection for that wheezing cylinder of steam known as former NSWGR locomotive 2535.
By the time I appeared on the planet, 2535 was an octogenarian and nearing the end of its second career. Its first career had ended on March 1961 when the Railway Commissioner permitted its sale to Corrimal Coal & Coke Company.
By 1965, the parent company - Australian Iron & Steel Pty Ltd, had moved the loco across to its Bulli Colliery. Here it loaded bogie coal wagons deep in the shadow of the escarpment, dragged them eastward to cross a spindly iron bridge passing over the top of the Princes Highway, and into the exchange sidings for government diesels to collect. When this role was completed, the opposite transaction was effected. The following photograph was taken during its final months and oozes the loco's work-weary countenance.
In the face of progress, this mundane and prosaic role could not last forever. And so it was, on 29 February 1972 - 40 years ago this week - that 2535 finished up this role and moved onto its new career as a stuffed show pony in the grounds of the Australian Iron & Steel's visitor centre at Cringila.
Here too, 2535 didn't quite fit in against the backdrop of squat industrial tank locos and slag wagons. Within five years it was on the move again, this time to Rhonda Colliery - the erstwhile safe haven for steam locomotives owned by the Dorrigo Steam Railway & Museum. According to the Museum's website, a sum of $7,600 was needed to liberate 2535 at the time. I suspect that this amount was roughly equivalent to the scrap value of 71 tons of steam locomotive in 1976, but its just a hunch.
Along with most of the Museum's collection, 2535 now resides at Dorrigo. The wonderfully comprehensive Australian Steam site carries a photograph of 2535 awaiting restoration in 2004. As this little loco turns 130 years of age next year, lets hope the restorer's brush approaches it soon.