Wickhams in Australia & New Zealand
In Australia, a number of their products saw service, including miners riding cars, and a small locomotive built for Consolidated Goldfields in Kalgoorlie.
Wickham started life as a generalist engineering shop, and later specialised in brewery equipment, especially equipment that allowed automation and mass production of brewed products. The parents of the founder were brewers.
A change in focus led Wickham into the rail industry, mainly for the export market. A major line for Wickham were heavy inspection cars, and later light and heavy duty railcars.
Wickham specialised in small production runs of vehicles, built to specification of their customers. Wickham were well known for excellence in engineering, and service. The company continued to provide spares for all its products until the plant in Ware closed in 1991.
Wickham saw Fairmont Railway Motors Inc. (USA) as a competitor, particularly on the South American Roads, and built several cars to compete with Fairmont's M19/M9 and (similar to) the S series gang cars. Their attempt to market into Fairmont territory saw the creation of a self made two stroke engine, fitted into a trolley known as a No. 15 or "Wasp". In the Oceania Region, their most famous product were kits of a copied Fairmont for New Zealand Railways. This car went on to become the 1Z.
As well as the 1Z for New Zealand, Wickham also supplied its wheels of 14", 16" and 20" for the "jiggers". In later years, Fairmont 14" wheels were used on Wickham Cars.
An example of the "Zephyr" car was imported into New Zealand. The "Zephyr" led to the development of the Wickham 8A series of cars. These cars looked not dissimilar to the Victorian Railways "K" cars, and had a motor similar to that in the SAR "S" class, a flat twin opposed motor. In the case of the Wickham, it was a Douglas twin. Several commentators have noted the similarity of the SAR S and a Douglas.
In Australia, Wickham trolleys and inspection cars were run on the Western Australian Government Railways, Midland Railway of Western Australia, New South Wales Government Railways, Goonde Mill, Macknade Mill, and Victoria Mill in Queensland, Mount Newman Mines, Silverton Tramway, Commonwealth Railways, and one with the South Australian Railways.
The earliest records of Wickhams coming to Australia were cars sent out for the Midland Railway of WA (1926), and the Western Australian Government Railways in 1938 (type 6, BN 2474). MRWA's head office was in the UK, and they had a very strong history of buying only from the British. the only exception were their diesels, even then they were English Electrics built in Australia.
Wickham also built and sent to WA a small diesel locomotive for the Goldfields - so far no trace has been found, and a rail grinder to the Emu Bay Railway.
Many of the earlier vehicles were built by Wickham and exported erect. Wickham saw that there was an opportunity to build cars from kits, much like Fairmont Railway Motors did with the Tutts/Pacific deal. Most of the Type Four Gang cars in New South Wales and South Australia (Commonwealth Railways) were built under license by Marine and Industrial Power Pty Ltd in Sydney, NSW. Greg Lee notes that the early cars in NSW were imported complete. The imported and Australian cars can be distinguished by the metal used in construction
The possibility of kits under production nearly put Wickham through the hoop when a deal in South America turned sour.
Unlike Fairmont, who used their own motors (probably because that's how they started out) Wickham cars made extensive use of J.A.P. (J. A. Prestwich, of Wolverhampton) motors, as well as Villiers and BSA (British Small Arms) units, and gearboxes of either their own design, or off-the-shelf units such as Albion. For their larger units, they made extensive use of common industrial and automotive power plants and transmission systems.
In addition to those listed below, there was also a Type 27 gang car (BN 7327) built for a 3'6" operation and shipped to Adelaide (so could have been either SAR, CR, BHP Co Ltd, or Silverton). Given it was the sister to the broad gauge Type 4, one wonders if it was the SAR as a trial unit. There was also a Type 27 built for 3' coal operation run by the State Electricity Commission of Victoria,
Wickham traded out of the United States for a while-it appears it is no longer.
Other Wickham Links
Dam Rail | Preserved Armoured Trolley
The Book of Wickham History
(click on "new and recent titles")
Wickham Works List
A listing of the cars Wickham built, or were built under licence
The Section Car Page
Authors own collection (Wickham brochures and build cards), Ken McHugh, David Mewes, Colin Barry, Murray Willmott, Keith Gunner, Greg Lee, the "History of D Wickham and Co". Kalgoorlie-Boulder Loopline Society, National Railway Museum, Port Adelaide, Daniel Garland. Roy Carter, Ben Calcott, The Wickham Yahoo Group, Jim Cooper, Ian Jolly, Albert Melchert/NSWGR Trikes
Developed March 20, 2004 , Updated March 25 2022
© Nic Doncaster 2004 - 2022