The Ballaarat locomotive is the oldest Australian-built steam locomotive still extant and the first steam engine to operate in Western Australia. It was built in Ballarat, Victoria and named after the town using the original spelling. The engine was commissioned by the Western Australian Timber Company (WATC) that had been awarded a milling concession by the Colony’s governor. The Ballaarat arrived by ship to the Lockeville Jetty in Wonnerup in 1871. It hauled timber 19 kilometres in the Jarrahwood State Forest until the mill closed in 1887.
The Ballaarat has a colourful history. Burnt in a shed and left in a paddock, donated to the Council who donated it to the Western Australian Museum around 1924. The Museum received it but found it too big to move and too expensive to restore, so it was sent to the Western Australian Government Rail Yards. In 1929, it featured in the State Centenary Parade before returning to the Midland railyards. The Busselton community lobbied for its return and after three years, it was sent home and installed in Victoria Square in 1937.
In 2012 it was disassembled and lovingly put back together taking over 550 volunteer hours, local business support and grants. It was moved to the Ballaarat Room to be the centrepiece of interpretation around its history and the timber industry which underpinned the region’s economy.
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