Last of the NSWGR's "Big Engines"


This view of 18 January 2009 shows 5711 at Valley Heights, where it had recently arrived by rail.

It is coupled to a spare 36-class tender (tab 3607) as a suitable tender was required to effect rail transport and its own tender is dismantled and under restoration. 

The Gresley conjugating valve gear can be seen, together with the inclined third (middle) cylinder.


5711 was built by Clyde Engineering (builder's number 435 of 1930) a as one of 25 members of the D-57 class heavy freight locomotives.  These locomotives differed from earlier NSWGR motive power via a number of innovations including a cast steel frame, a third / inside cylinder (using Gresley conjugating valve gear), and an automatic stoker to feed the large firebox.


Due to civil engineering constraints, the class was confined to operations from Sydney to Thirroul on the Illawarra line, to Junee on the Main Southern line and to Lithgow on the Great Western line. The D-57 class were significantly more powerful than the Standard Goods classes of 2-8-0 freight locomotive which they displaced, and accordingly their introduction led to significant increases in freight train loads and operations on those routes. b


A further batch of 25 similar locomotives of the D-58 class were planned in the 1950's, however certain design modifications proved less successful. Impending diesel locomotive deliveries led to only 13 D-58 class locomotives being actually completed.


Both the D-57's and D-58's were withdrawn early in the changeover to diesel traction, and 5711 was the last in service when withdrawn in October 1961 (c)Photographs from the early 1960's often feature the melancholy sight of lines of D-57 & D-58 "big engines" lined up on the scrap roads at Enfield locomotive depot, separated from their tenders as these were given a further lease of life as water tankers.  Fortunately 5711 was retained for preservation following approaches by enthusiasts to the NSWGR administration and was safely stored at the Enfield No.3 roundhouse pending the formation of a railway museum, which ultimately became the NSWRTM.  (I understand that a request to also preserve a D-58 locomotive failed as the Railways administration considered the D-57's & D-58's as the same class from an operational perspective.)  For many years 5711 featured in the logo of the NSWRTM, symbolising its place in the organisation's formation.


A static restoration by a group of NSWRTM members was underway by the early 1970's and photos show the tender had been repainted.  This restoration ended tragically in 1972 when three NSWRTM members died in a car accident as they headed north to photograph steam operations in the Hunter Valley.


5711 was transferred from Enfield to Thirlmere on 17 June 1975 as part of a train of exhibits hauled by 3801. d  At this stage 5711 showed the effects of years of open storage at Enfield, and continued to deteriorate in the open display conditions of early years at the NSWRTM Thirlmere site.  A second restoration was begun in the early 1980's with the intention of returning 5711 to steam.  By 1985 the engine unit had been stripped and de-rusting of components was well underway, with the tender dismantled and stored in the workshop area.  Unfortunately technical, operational and financial constraints have dogged the proposed restoration to steam and, although many components had been reconditioned, there had been no visible progress with reassembly since the early 1990's. e


The NSWRTM subsequently decided to proceed with a static restoration of 5711 and progress restarted during 2007 following transfer of the tender frame & bogies, locomotive cab and other components to the Valley Heights Locomotive Depot Heritage Museum.  Since that time there has been good progress at Valley Heights with the repair and restoration of the tender frames and bogies to a high standard.  The locomotive unit of 5711 also arrived by rail at Valley Heights during the night of 15 September 2008.  Details and photographs of the restoration can be found on the Valley Heights Locomotive Depot Heritage Museum website. e


5711 is one of NSW's most significant rail heritage items and hopefully the full static restoration of this locomotive will now be completed at Valley Heights, fulfilling the vision of the NSWRTM's founders and the many members connected with the locomotive over the years. e



This view of 17 January 2004 shows 5711 as it appeared from the early 1990's until its transfer to Valley Heights in 2008. 

The cab had been restored (but now requires further attention) and the old boiler sheeting is piled to the side of the locomotive.

Various other components were stored nearby.



This April 1985 photo shows the early stages of 5711's restoration at the NSWRTM, with components being removed and the firebox being needle-gunned. 

Other locos in view are 5096 (front, tender)  and 6040 (behind) with B390 (2419) to the right. 

Today this area is enclosed within the NSWRTM display hall.






These four black & white images are kindly provided by Rod Hawkes and show 5711 stored at Enfield No.3 turntable in the 1965/66 period.





a "Locomotives of Australia" by Leon Oberg, published by J. W. Books Pty Ltd, 1982 reprint, pp. 256
b "A Compendium of New South Wales Steam Locomotives" compiled by Alex Grunbach, published by the Australian Railway Historical Society, New South Wales Division, 1989, pp.201.
c "A Compendium of New South Wales Steam Locomotives" compiled by Alex Grunbach, published by the Australian Railway Historical Society, New South Wales Division, 1989, pp.205.
d "Roundhouse" magazine published by the NSWRTM, Volume XIII No.2 of July 1976, article "Museum on the Move" pp.16.
e Personal comment or observation.



Page updated:  26 May 2013

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