ex-South African Railways


This photo of 20 August 2004 shows 3620 working upgrade to Kuranda.



North British Locomotive Co,




Builder’s Number & Year

26332 of 1949



Wheel Arrangement




No. in class



No.3620 is an ex-South African Railways Class 24 locomotive, a class of 100 modern steam locomotives built by North British and delivered between 1948 and 1949 to replace ageing locos on lightly-laid branch lines. Following retirement, No.3620 was purchased from the South African Railways by a New Zealander, together with several other South African steam locos. These locos were imported to New Zealand and housed at the old steam loco depot at Parnell, Auckland from approximately 1996.

No.3620 was transported to Australia in January 2001 for operation on the Cairns Kuranda Steam Train service, which provided a steam-hauled tourist train to the well-known market town of Kuranda, competing with the regular Queensland Rail diesel-hauled service. The photos on this page date from a very enjoyable trip the webmaster experienced on the Cairns Kuranda Steam Train on 20 August 2004; No. 3620 performed faultlessly that day on the steep grades and tight corners of the mountain-climbing route to Kuranda, conditions identical to the South African routes it was designed for.

From a steam locomotive design perspective, No.3620 is notable as the only locomotive preserved in Australia with the Berkshire (2-8-4) wheel arrangement. It is also the only Australian example of a Vanderbilt tender; this design features a cylindrical water tank and was relatively common in the USA.

In 2003, No.3620 was converted from coal firing to instead burn waste oil. Apart from environmental benefits, conversion to waste oil firing may also have reflected the high cost of supplying locomotive coal to Cairns! During its time on Cairns-Kuranda Steam Train service, No.3620 also carried the number 0401 because the original South African Railways number 3620 is in the range allocated by Queensland Rail (QR) to electric locomotives, while a block of QR numbers starting at 0401 is reserved for privately owned steam locos.

Alas the Cairns Kuranda Steam Train service finished after a few years and No.3620 / 0401 and its train were placed in storage at the Cairns Kuranda Steam Train depot in Cairns. While nominally operational, I understand No.3620 has not steamed since 2005.

UPDATE: On 9 March 2020, No.3620 moved to a new base at Point Lonsdale in Victoria. I understand it remains in the ownership of the New Zealand individual and is intended to be used on the QTrain, a restaurant train service which operates on the Bellarine Railway using modern ex-QR ‘Sunlander’ rollingstock.


As an aside, an article in the North British Locomotive Preservation Group newsletter of August 2010 reported they had sold sister No.3647 to an Australian representing the ‘National Locomotive Company of Australia’ with the implication it was planned to import the loco to Australia. As at 2020, I understand No.3647 remains stored at Germiston Locomotive Depot, South Africa; I would appreciate any further information about No.3647 and the plans for this loco.

This photo of 20 August 2004 shows 3620 at Barron Falls station, en-route to Kuranda.

Barron Falls station offers an impressive view over the eponymous waterfall nearby.

Joel Turner has contributed this more recent view of 3620 in its running shed at Cairns on 13 May 2013.

The number 0401 has been removed from the buffer beam as QR electric loco 3620 had by then been converted to 3520!

Comparison with the photo above shows the bell has been removed and the headlight move above the smokebox.

The blast-pipe petticoat appears to be sitting on the front running board.

3620 (aka 0401) sparkles in the morning sunshine while awaiting departure from Freshwater station. 20 August 2004.

Cabside featuring the North British ‘diamond’ builder’s plate; a gem indeed.

View of the cab revealing the raked front plate (similar to the WAGR W-class); I believe this was intended to reduce heat in the cab.



Dulez, J.A., ‘Railways of Southern Africa 150 years’,

Published by VIDRAIL Productions, 2012


Information provided by C. Malone via email, 11 December 2001


North British Locomotive Preservation Group (NBLPG) –

March 2020 Newsletter


North British Locomotive Preservation Group (NBLPG) Website,

retrieved 14 August 2010.


Wikipedia page for South African Class 24 2-8-4,

Retrieved 6 June 2020.

Page updated: 29 September 2020

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