526 ‘Duchess of Gloucester’

Scrapped in 1971


An evocative photo of 526 ‘Duchess of Gloucester’ working hard through the Adelaide Hills.

This undated view was contributed by Lee Moles and is believed to be taken on the curve coming into Belair Station.

This photo captures the spirit of the SAR’s broad gauge ‘Big Engines’ which revolutionised operations through the Adelaide Hills.

Today Belair is the end of the broad-gauge suburban line into the Adelaide Hills; the right track carrying 526 remains broad gauge and terminates at Belair Station,
while the left track has been converted to standard gauge and continues as the interstate link to Melbourne and other points to the East.

No.526 ‘Duchess of Gloucester’ featured on several ARHS SA rail tours in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s and seems to have been a popular performer. Its last rail tour was to Riverton on 24 April 1971, after which the loco faced an uncertain future.

By mid-1971 sister No.520 remained stored at Islington Railway Workshops but threatened with imminent scrapping, and so enthusiasts began negotiating with railway authorities to save at least one and hopefully both Nos.520 and 526. An inspection revealed No.526’s boiler had only a limited remaining service life, and not having found much support with authorities to retain either 520 or 526, enthusiasts’ efforts were focussed on an urgent $20,000 fundraising appeal to save No.520. Sadly No.526 was indeed scrapped around November 1971, its loss at least spurring on fundraising efforts for No.520 which was ultimately saved. While No.526 was being scrapped it was observed that its tender frame was also in very poor condition, thus vindicating the decision to focus on No.520 instead.

It seems not all of No.526 ‘Duchess of Gloucester’ was lost, as some components were retained as heavy spares for sister No.520, notably the driving wheels which are now stored at the SteamRanger depot at Mt Barker.

526's distinctive nosecone (including chimney and road numbers) was apparently also saved by an enthusiast and restored, as they were advertised for private sale in April 2003.

As an aside, the SAR 520-class featured distinctive ‘Shark Nose’ streamlining similar to the famous Pennsylvania Railroad T1 class locomotives. While none of those were saved for preservation, an ambitious project by the Pennsylvania Railroad T1 Steam Locomotive Trust in the USA is creating a new example No.5550 as a ‘new build’ project.

Rx 209 & Rx 216

Kenn Pearce has provided an interesting and well-illustrated account of efforts to establish the SteamRanger locomotive fleet in his booklet ‘Saving Steam – The early years of SAR broad gauge steam preservation’. It is sobering to recall the race against time to save some of the remaining steam locomotives at Islington in the early 1970’s. Kenn’s booklet also documents that the last two broad-gauge SAR steam locomotives to be scrapped were Rx 209 and Rx 216. These were among four stored at Islington Railway Workshops since the mid-1960’s awaiting scrapping but retained for some time pending the possibility of static preservation. While two of the four eventually found homes, unfortunately the final two met their demise:

·        Rx209 – scrapped in June 1973

·       Rx216 (paired an older 6-wheel tender) – scrapped in July 1974

It is perhaps a pity these two locos were not retained at least as heavy spares for SteamRanger’s operating Rx-class locos Rx 207 and Rx 224, allowing boiler swaps and other component exchange to significantly reduce the time needed for overhauls.



Fluck R. E., Sampson R., & Bird K. J. 'Steam locomotives and Railcars of the South Australian Railways',

Published by The Mile End Railway Museum (SA) Inc, 1986.


Pearce, K. ‘Saving Steam – The early years of SAR broad gauge steam preservation’

Written by Kenn Pearce based on an interview with Dean Harvey.

Published by Railmac Publications, 2015

ISBN 9781864770995

Page updated: 1 August 2022

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