The Tasmanian Government Railways K class were 0-4-0+0-4-0 steam locomotives which were operated by Tasmanian Government Railways. From 1909, a total of two locomotives of this class were built; though only one of them survives to this day.
K1 and it's sister K2 were the first locomotives in the world built to the Beyer-Garratt articulated locomotive design, making K1 one of the most significant preserved Australian steam locomotives. Beyer-Garratt locomotives took their name from the patented designs of Herbert William Garratt and were built by (or under subcontract to) Beyer Peacock & Company of Manchester. This significant innovation in locomotive design delivered a large, efficient boiler and deep firebox slung between two bogie power units, providing the tractive effort of two locomotives without the cost of two crews. Articulation made the Beyer-Garratt well suited to tight curves, and coupled with their high tractive effort, the Beyer-Garratt design came to be associated with steep and curvaceous railway routes.
K1 was built by Beyer Peacock & Co (builder's number 5292 of 1909) for the Tasmanian Government Railway's North East Dundas Tramway from Zeehan to Williamsford on Tasmania's west coast. K1 and K2 had a 0-4-0 + 0-4-0 wheel configuration, providing good flexibility around the tight curves of the North East Dundas Tramway. K1 and K2 used a compound steam expansion system which was not repeated on subsequent Garratt locomotives, with the rear bogie using high pressure steam and the leading bogie further expanding the steam in larger diameter low-pressure cylinders. The cylinder positioning on the inside of the bogie was also not repeated on later Garratt locomotives, as this placement led to a hot cab floor.
K1 was fortunately saved for preservation when it was repurchased by Beyer Peacock & Co for display at its Gorton workshops in Manchester as early as 1947. The preserved K1 contains some components of it's sister K2, and was apparently rebuilt with some K2 components after lying in storage at Zeehan, Tasmania since about 1939.
After the closure of Beyer Peacock & Co. in 1966, K1 was sold to the Ffestiniog Railway, and was subsequently displayed at the National Railway Museum, York from the 1980's to 1995.
K1 has been fully overhauled and restored to operation by the "K1 Group" for use on the Welsh Highland Railway, since 1995, including the construction of a new boiler. Here it complements a fleet of more modern Beyer-Garratt locomotives in the form of ex-South African Railways NGG16-class 2-6-2 + 2-6-2 locomotives.
A small ceremony took place at the Welsh Highland Railway's Caernarfon station on 5 September 2008 when the UK's Institute of Mechanical Engineers presented the Engineering Heritage award to the K1 Group and a plaque headboard was unveiled on the loco. The plaque reads:
A. E. Durrant provides a history of K1 and its context as the pioneer Beyer-Garratt, together with all subsequent Beyer-Garratt locomotives, in his excellent book "Garratt Locomotives of the World".
Today the North East Dundas Tramway provides an excellent bushwalking trail through Tasmanian rainforest national parkland, especially the 10 km section from Williamsford to Montezuma Falls.