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British Industrial History

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Robertson, Martin and Smith

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Robertson, Martin and Smith of Melbourne, Australia.

The company manufactured the first steam locomotive to be built in Australia.

Robertson, Martin and Smith comprised a partnership of William B. Robertson, an English born engineer, John Martin and William Smith. The company was operating from at least mid 1853 with office at Lambeth-place, Flinders-lane west, Melbourne, when they advertised for labourers, through proclamation in the Government Gazette. In June they tendered for the construction of a steam gondola for the Cremorne Gardens a pleasure ground on the Yarra River in Richmond.

When the Melbourne and Hobson's Bay Railway Co began construction of the first steam-hauled railway line to operate in Australia, they ordered locomotives from the British engineering firm of Robert Stephenson and Co. However, the ship was delayed, and so the railway looked to the firm that had previously constructed a small donkey engine for hauling supplies along the line during construction. The boiler was made by Langlands foundry and Robertson Martin & Smith assembled it at a rented premises on the Maribyrnong River.

The locomotive was completed in just ten weeks and cost £2,700. Forming the first steam train to travel in Australia, a 2-2-2WT locomotive which first ran in trials on 9 September 1854, and then commenced regular trips on 12 September 1854.

The firm used the then vacant bluestone buildings of Joseph Raleigh's boiling down works on the Saltwater River near Footscray, to erect the locomotive. Raleigh had died in 1852, so it appears the buildings were not in use at the time.

The partnership was dissolved on 10 July 1855

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