Cooma-Monaro Railway, Cooma

3203 stored at Broadmeadow on 15 December 2012; photo kindly contributed by Jeff Mullier.

The faded & work-stained livery makes a poignant comparison with the 1973 view below.



Beyer Peacock & Co,




Builder’s Number & Year

3402 of 1891



Wheel Arrangement




No. in class



This notable locomotive represents one of the three standard classes designed by NSWGR Chief Mechanical Engineer William Thow in conjunction with Beyer Peacock & Co, Manchester; a 4-6-0 passenger loco, a 2-8-0 freight loco and a 4-6-4T for suburban duties. Thow developed the 4-6-0 passenger design following his earlier success with the South Australian Railways R-class 4-6-0s (such as preserved Rx93) and NSWGR experience with American 4-6-0’s on heavy Blue Mountains grades, placing an initial order for 50 saturated engines at a time of severe motive power shortages. They were officially known as the P(6) class but railwaymen knew them as ‘the Manchester engines’, with the P(6) class becoming the backbone of NSWGR passenger fleet with 191 constructed by a number of builders over a 19 year period to 1911.

While 4-6-0’s were common on US railways by 1891 (where they were known as ‘Ten Wheelers’), the P(6) design was in advance of contemporary British practice and preceded the UK’s first 4-6-0 (the Highland Railway Jones Goods) by four years; the webmaster suspects the P(6) would also have performed admirably over the Scottish grades! The P(6) class provides an example of how Australian railways followed a hybrid of British and American railway influences.

Preserved engine P 8 / 3203 was the third of the P(6) class constructed but the first to enter traffic, with P 6 / 3201 and P 7 / 3202 following (perhaps having been delayed by type testing and the official Beyer Peacock photographs in works grey). It was the third NSWGR locomotive to carry the road number 8 and officially entered traffic on 3 February 1892, with class leader P 6 / 3201 following on 10 February 1892. The P(6) engines were reclassified as (C)32’s in 1924, with P 8 becoming 3203. It received a superheated boiler in November 1932 before being condemned on 17 November 1967.

Many of the class were rebuilt with new frames mid-life, these can be recognised by the straight frame sections under the smokebox, particularly those from the smokebox door to the buffer. 3203 exhibits these features, having received new frames in September 1954; sister 3265 is the only surviving example with the original frame design. This rebuild was applied to many older members of the class (presumably in response to frame cracking with age) and these locos, thus renewed, went on to be overly represented among the final members of the class in NSWGR service.

The first 50 P(6) class engines were supplied with 6-wheel tenders but these were later generally replaced with larger 3650 gallon bogie tenders. Some P(6) / (C)32 engines retained 6-wheel tenders to permit turning on short 50’ turntables; the final example was 3229 which remained available for the Richmond branch run until sold for scrap on 24 March 1972.

Sister 3246 has the distinction of hauling the NSWGR’s official last steam-hauled revenue passenger train, the Newcastle-Broadmeadow-Newcastle local to connect with the down Northern expresses, on Saturday 24 July 1971. (This is often incorrectly recorded as the Newcastle-Singleton-Newcastle passenger trip of the same day, which was 3246’s prior run.) There were also some subsequent unofficial passenger workings by 59-class engines between Gosford and Wyong in the following months, resulting from the failure of the rostered diesel locomotive.) Alas 3246 wasn’t saved for preservation, instead it donated its boiler (with a distinctive polished brass steam dome) to 3203 around 1973 and subsequently sold for scrap; I have always thought it a pity that 3203’s old boiler wasn’t swapped back to make 3246 a static exhibit and a source of further heavy spares for 3203 & 3214.

While most of the (C)32 class were withdrawn and scrapped in the 1960’s, official records show that a handful survived into the 1970’s. Fortunately 3203 was saved (together with 3214) for the formative NSWRTM at Enfield Roundhouse, from where it featured on various rail tours around the state. (As a very young boy I went on a Richmond run behind either 3203 or 3214, I distinctly remember the loco being carefully balanced on the Richmond turntable so the crew could turn her by hand.) Alas boiler age eventually again caught up with 3203 and it was withdrawn from operations in approximately 1981 and placed on static display in the Thirlmere display shed.

I have often been surprised at the acceleration and speed of a (C)32 on the mainline; these engines can really fly when the driver opens the regulator, providing thrilling enthusiast trips and exhilarating lineside run-pasts. It seems hard to reconcile 3203 as a static exhibit with the whir of wheels and motion when she was a main-line certified tour loco. While 3203 has been retired, fortunately this experience can still be had behind main-line certified sisters 3237 and 3265.

Around 2008, loco 3203 was transferred to Broadmeadow Roundhouse for storage during the upgrade of the NSWRTM Thirlmere site. 3203 has since remained stored in the roundhouse at Broadmeadow; hopefully can again be available for public viewing at some stage in the future.

During 2017, specialist contractors were engaged to remove dangerous boiler lagging from 3203, with this work being done in-situ at Broadmeadow Roundhouse. NSW Rail Museum volunteers carefully removed the handrails and other boiler fittings in preparation for this work, allowing the boiler lagging to be removed without damage to the locomotive.

It is perhaps a pity that the NSWGR of the 1960’s & early 70’s didn’t support the preservation of steam locomotives by local community groups or councils, as was common in other states; today most NSW railway towns have no steam locomotive to commemorate their connection to the railway age. Under a different policy there may have been many of Thow’s standard locomotives plinthed around the state, with the iconic P(6) / (C)32 class being prime candidates.

Ron Preston’s book ‘Standards In Steam - The 32 Class’ provides a wealth of photographs, technical and operational information about the P(6) / (C)32 class locomotives and is recommended for anyone seeking further history on these fine locomotives. An excellent online resource for detailed information about this locomotive is the fact sheet for 3203 on the NSW Government Office of Environment & Heritage website. Wikipedia also provides some further information on the P(6) / (C)32 class locomotives and 4-6-0 locomotives worldwide.


3203 is now on long-term loan to the Cooma Monaro Railway and arrived via road at Cooma station on 10 May 2023. This type of locomotive were regular performers on the Cooma line, including double-header snow specials delivering trainloads of winter sports enthusiasts to Cooma, gateway to the NSW alpine townships. The Cooma railyard and station precinct has been wonderfully preserved by Cooma Monaro Railway and is well worth a visit, including the delightful 2-road engine shed that once regularly housed sister (C)32 class locos. Recent photos reveal that 3203 has been cosmetically restored during its years of storage at Broadmeadow, and I understand it is now to be placed in covered static display within the Cooma rail precinct.

This fine 1973 photo is courtesy of John Hurst and shows 3203 working hard as it climbs through the Blue Mountains near Mt Victoria.

Back in those days locomotive crews didn’t wear Hi-Viz orange clothing!

6-wheel tender Tab 473 was built by Beyer Peacock & Co as part of the initial order for 50 P(6) class locomotives.

It was first issued to traffic with P 473 (later renumbered 3222) on 1 August 1892.

This 6-wheel tender was last paired with 1709 / H381 from 1964 to around 1987 and is seen in storage at Trainworks on 23 November 2008.

Unfortunately this old P(6) tender was sold for scrap by the NSW Office of Rail Heritage in 2011.



‘Locomotives of Australia’ by Leon Oberg,

published by J. W. Books Pty Ltd


‘A Compendium of New South Wales Steam Locomotives’

compiled by Alex Grunbach,

published by the Australian Railway Historical Society,

New South Wales Division, 1989.


‘Steam Locomotive Data’ July 1974 edition,

compiled by J. H. Forsyth

for the Public Transport Commission of NSW.


‘Standards In Steam - The 32 Class’

by R. G. Preston, published in 1987

by the New South Wales Rail Transport Museum.


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