The "Coffee Pot" is one of the most historic vehicles in the Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society (PRRPS) collection. It is a direct link with the old South Australian Railways (SAR) days of early last century.

The vehicle consists of two main parts: an engine unit and a passenger coach. The rear section pivots on a point beneath the firebox on the engine frame, and the cab floor is part of the coach frame.

The engine unit consists of a small saturated locomotive-type boiler and a cab fitted on a four wheel underframe. Two outside cylinders drive the rear axle only; the leading axle is not driven. Walschaerts valve gear is used.

The coach was finished in dark oak stained and varnished timber. The interior features seating framed in stained timber and upholstered with mock leather. The first class compartment has elaborate pressed ceiling patterns and carpeted floor, while second class has linoleum floor covering and plain ceiling. Seating is provided for nine first and thirteen second class passengers in separate compartments (the fitting of an auxiliary water tank reduced the number of passengers in second class by four).

The engine unit was built by Kitson & Co of Leeds, England in 1905, and the coach was built by Metropolitan Amalgamated Railway Carriage and Wagon Co of Birmingham. The vehicle was introduced by the SAR in August 1906 for the Great Northern Division, while a similar unit went to the South East Division.

Under SAR ownership it was known as "Steam Motor Coach No. 1" and its regular duty was a weekly trip to Hawker, hauling a four-wheel van to carry parcels and mail. Because of its limited range it was necessary to take water at Gordon. The vehicle was also available for charter on weekends and was often used for transport by tennis and football clubs. Trips to Port Augusta, Hammond, Carrieton, Orroroo and on one occasion as far as Parachilna were made.

When taken over by the Commonwealth Railways it was re-classified as NJAB1. It spent its entire working life at the Quorn Depot from 1906 to 1932.

It was nicknamed the "Coffee Pot" after railwaymen chalked "Coffee" and "Cocoa" on two water barrels that had been placed on the running boards at the front on either side as a spare water supply.

With its performance deteriorating in its later years, it was withdrawn from service in 1932 and stored under cover at Quorn until the depot was dismantled in the mid-1950s. It was then restored externally at Port Augusta prior to transfer to Alice Springs in 1960, where it was placed as a static display near the railway station, under the care of the National Trust. During 1975 the National Trust kindly relinquished control so that it could be returned to Quorn for restoration to working order by PRRPS.

The Coffee Pot returned to service in 1984 following an extensive restoration project led by PRRPS member Hayden Hart. The Coffee Pot is the only example of its type operating in the world.

Steam Motor Coach No. 1 on a trial run at Quorn, 1906. Photograph courtesy of the State Library of South Australia. SLSA: B 45335.
Photograph courtesy of the State Library of South Australia. SLSA: B 27771.

Technical specifications

Builder Kitson & Co. (engine unit)
Metropolitan Amalgamated Railway Carriage and Wagon Co. (carriage unit)
Wheel arrangement 2-2-0WT
Weight 19 tons 1 cwt 19.4 t
Tractive effort 2 015 lb 8.96 kN
Boiler pressure 170 psi 1170 kPa
Driving wheels 2 ft 4½ in 0.72 m
Cylinders 6½ x 10 in 165 x 255 mm
Valve gear Walschaerts
Coal capacity 840 lb 380 kg
Water capacity 220 gal 1000 L
The unveiling of the Coffee Pot on 20 May 1984 following the completion of its restoration project (Photo: Jeremy Browne)
The Coffee Pot in operation, June 1989 (Photo: Jeremy Browne)