Mary Valley Heritage Railway



C 17 802 at Dagun Station, 2003.
C 17 802, of the MVHR, at Dagun Railway Station in May 2003.
Courtesy: Tony Hallam.

The completion of the North Coast Line between Brisbane and Cairns in 1924 created the need for more steam locomotives to handle the increased rail traffic. At that stage the decision to build more of the C 17 class locomotive was taken. The C 17 class of locomotive was a lightweight Queensland design that was suited to the lightweight track and sharp curves of the Queensland Railways. The C 17 class of locomotive was an improved superheated version of the C 16 class goods locomotive, which first appeared in 1903. The first locomotives of the C 17 class first appeared in 1920. The locomotives were built by various makers in Australia and overseas, until 1953.

The C 17 class of locomotives were overall, the most numerous class of Queensland engine and was also possibly its most versatile. The C 17 worked almost any train Queensland-suburban passenger, goods or freight trains, shunt trains and even the air-conditioned trains in Western Queensland.

C 17 802 at North Ipswich Yard , QR.

C 17 802 at North Ipswich Yard during its time as a Queensland Railways locomotive.
Photo: Courtesy: QR Heritage Historical Library.

Weighing in at just over 80 tonnes and with eight driving wheels, the C 17 class became the mainstay of the Queensland Railways steam fleet. It could handle secondary branch line work and also haul the mail trains of the Queensland Railways. In fact, 227 of this type of locomotive served with Queensland Railways, from 1920 through to 1969 when steam locomotives were finally withdrawn from service.

The need for this type of locomotive was so desperate after World War 1, that the Queensland Government of the 1920’s ordered locomotives from the English firm of Armstrong, Whitworth and Company. These locomotives were completed in England and shipped to Australia arriving in 1927. C 17 class locomotive No 802 arrived from England in 1927, and entered service in July of the same year. The total cost of C 17 802 in entering service was 5013 pounds.

802 worked mainly in the former Maryborough District during its working life. 802 would have worked the Murgon, Gayndah and Monto branches. In its 42 year career with Queensland Railways, C 17 802 travelled many miles and it was involved in a few incidents. In March of 1953, its tender de-railed at Gayndah. In December 1953, the locomotive was partly de-railed at Monto. In February of 1955, the loco de-railed at Murgon and in May of 1955 it was involved in a collision at Baddow, just outside of Maryborough.

Alterations that occurred to 802 were it received the tender of C 16 511, in April 1957 and this tender was to stay with C 17 802 all its working life. It received a Pyle National Electric light generator during the Second World War and it was re-boilered in 1942, 1947, 1951 1955 and 1961. In the late 1960’s the end of steam locomotives was announced by Queensland Railways and in June of 1969 C 17 802 was condemned. It was donated to the Roma and District Tourist Association where it would remained for 31 years. The locomotive of 802 was preserved with the tender of B 18 ¼ 866.

C 17 802’s Builder’s Plate
C 17 802’s Builder’s Plate with reference to Armstrong Whitworth and Company.
Courtesy: Tony Hallam.

C 17 802 was to remain in Roma until 2000, when it was removed by the Mary Valley Heritage Railway to Gympie. The intention was to restore 802 to working order. In 2003 this was achieved by the MVHR and since then it has run continuously and is the steam motive power of the MVHR fleet.

In May of 2003, C 17 802 teamed with C 17 45 to run a special train to celebrate the 5th Anniversary of the MVHR. The only time that C 17 802 has not been in service was during a period from October 2005 to March 2006 when all of its axle-boxes were replaced. During this time the steam motive power for the MVHR was the Queensland Railways owned AC 16 221 A, which was leased from QR by the MVHR.

Since then C 17 802 has continued to be the mainstay and the main attraction for the Mary Valley Heritage Railway. It is amazing to think that a piece of machinery is still performing the work it was designed for over eighty years ago.

Queensland Railways: Locomotive History Card C 17 802.
John Armstrong. Locomotives in the Tropics. Vol 2. 1994. ARHS Qld Div.