C17 No. 2

Stored at The Workshops museum, Ipswich


The bane of railway photographers – large, black, shadowed objects in a heavily backlit shed!

No. 2 is seen resting in a storage area at the rear of The Workshops museum, Ipswich on 8 October 2004.



Evans, Anderson, Phelan & Co,

Kangaroo Point, Brisbane



Builder’s Number & Year

169 of 1923



Wheel Arrangement




No. in class



No.2 is an example of the Queensland Government Railways’ highly successful C17 class 4-8-0 locomotives, a ‘maid of all work’ type that were powerful enough for main line freight duties, yet with a low axle load which permitted wide deployment and accordingly they could be found on everything from suburban and express passenger trains to main, secondary and branch line freight and mixed traffic work, although the type are perhaps best associated with the long routes through Queensland Government Railways’ (QGR) Northern and Central Divisions.

The C17 design featured a superheated boiler and was developed from the earlier saturated steam C16 type, represented in preservation by No.106.  (The ‘C17’ classification follows QGR nomenclature whereby ‘C’ denotes an 8-coupled locomotive and ‘17’ references the cylinder diameter, in inches).  The first ten C17 class locos built by Ipswich Railway Workshops suffered some early teething troubles, but these were quickly overcome after modifications such as replacing the exhaust steam injectors with more reliable (but less efficient) live steam injectors.  The class leader was actually No.15, completed by Ipswich Railway Workshops and placed in traffic during August 1920.  (QGR had the practice of reallocating to new locomotives the road numbers rendered vacant following the disposal of older machines, hence low-numbered units such as No.2 and No.15 came to be issued to traffic in the 1920’s).  Given the usefulness of the C17 type, orders were placed with a variety of builders over 33 years to 1953, eventually swelling the class to 227 units.

Three main variants were developed as the design was modified over the 33 year build period:

·         The original ‘1920 version’ (143 units), which featured a straight-sided cutaway cab, tall steam dome, cast iron chimney and a low-sided bogie tender.  This version was constructed between 1920 and 1929 and received various road numbers up to No.840.

·         The ‘1938 version’ (66 units), which were improved over the original 1920 design by use of piston valves, Laird crossheads, a wider & taller sedan cab sporting sliding windows, and a slender stovepipe chimney with capuchion lip.  A higher-capacity bogie tender with raised sides was also provided.  These locomotives carried various road numbers (in broken sequences) from 858 to 960.

·         The ‘1950 version’ (40 units) based on the 1938 design but further enhanced by Timken roller bearings on all axles.  These locomotives were built by Walkers Ltd, Maryborough under two orders of 20 locos each and were issued to traffic in brown livery with green lining, earning the nickname “brown bombers”.  They carried numbers 961 to 1000.

Commonwealth Railways, the Federal Government operator of the Trans Australia, Central Australia & North Australia Railways, followed a pragmatic policy of copying proven Australian locomotive designs, a policy which perhaps also reflected a spirit of Federalism.  For their Central Australia Railway linking Port Augusta with Alice Springs, the successful 1920 C17 design was chosen, with 25 ‘NM’ class locomotives built by Thompsons’ Foundry, Castlemaine, Victoria.  Today these Commonwealth Railways cousins are represented in preservation by NM25 and NM34.

The versatility and usefulness of the C17 class provided some protection during the changeover to diesel traction, with many lasting until 1969 and the final few retired at the very end of QGR revenue steam operations in August 1970.  The QGR administration also favoured the C17 class for donation to community groups for static preservation, with many plinthed in various parks and reserves around the State.

Preserved locomotive C17 No.2 entered QGR service in January 1923 and was written off in February 1969.  It was selected to represent an early C17 of the original 1920 version in the collection of the former QR Redbank Locomotive Museum, ostensibly being chosen due to its low running number.  (It is a pity that the more historic class leader No.15 wasn’t also set aside following its withdrawal in July 1968, possibly for display at Ipswich Railway Workshops.)  No. 2 was plinthed at the QR Redbank Locomotive Museum from 1970 to 1992, together with C17 No. 1000 which provided a contrasting example of the modernised ‘1950 version’.

The QR Redbank Locomotive Museum closed its doors in 1992 pending the development of a more comprehensive and interactive railway museum, which eventuated a few years later as The Workshops museum at Ipswich.  However many of the Redbank locomotive exhibits have not been placed on display at The Workshops museum, including C17 No. 2.  Instead these locomotives are kept in a storage shed at the rear of Ipswich Workshops, where they await removal of old boiler lagging and repainting before they could be publicly displayed.  Hopefully funding for this purpose can be found in the near future.

An excellent source of detailed technical and historical information about the C17 class is John Armstrong’s book 'Locomotives in the Tropics - Volume 2 (Queensland Railways 1910 – 1958 and beyond)’, published by the ARHS Queensland Division, 1994.  Wikipedia also includes some further information and photographs.



"Locomotives of Australia" by Leon Oberg,

published by J. W. Books Pty Ltd


Armstrong, J. 'Locomotives in the Tropics - Volume 2

(Queensland Railways 1910 – 1958 and beyond)’,

published by the ARHS Queensland Division, 1994.


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