is one of twenty (D)59 class goods locomotives
ordered by the New South Wales Government Railways (NSWGR) from Baldwin
Lima Hamilton Corp, the famous American locomotive builders Baldwin having
merged with Lima-Hamilton in December 1950.
The (D)59’s were ordered at a turbulent
time in the history of Australian labour relations, with the 1949 coal
strikes crippling the railways and hence the broader economy. In response, the NSWGR specified the (D)59 class as oil-burners, while significant numbers of
the earlier (D)55 class Standard Goods Engines were also converted to oil
firing. The NSWGR also specified
short ‘bobtail’ tenders so the (D)59’s could be
turned on 50’ turntables, but the design and manufacture of these tenders
delayed the normally speedy delivery by Baldwin. The class was placed in service between
30 August 1952 and 31 March 1953.
(D)59 class display typical American locomotive features such as running
plates located high above the driving wheels, a generous cab and external
pipe runs, providing easy access during maintenance but at the expense of
aesthetics. The (D)59
design was a repeat of the United States Army Transport Corp (USATC) S200
type, designed and built for Second World War service in the Middle-East
and deployed to Egypt, Palestine and Lebanon. A number of S200 type locomotives ended
up with the Italian Railways (FS Class 747), others in Iran (Trans-Iranian Railway class 42) and two batches were
purchased by the Turkish Railways, where at least two survive including 46244 at Camlik Museum.
The similarity of these USATC S200 war locomotives to the NSWGR (D)59 class is immediately apparent from photographs, excepting
the much shorter NSWGR bobtail tenders!
(D)59 class were well regarded by the NSWGR, with
their power, acceleration and speed providing operational flexibility. Due to these attributes they were often
assigned to pick-up goods duties, particularly on the ‘short north’ main
line from Sydney to Newcastle. Most
class members were converted to coal firing between 1962 and 1966,
excepting 5918 (withdrawn following accident damage to its tender and
progressively cannibalised for parts), 5908 & 5916. The oil burning locos are easily
distinguishable from coal-fired examples by the smaller smokebox door,
which is made airtight by numerous ‘dogs’ around the circumference,
together with the oil tank sitting high in tender.
(D)59 class members survived until very late in
the steam era, with 5910 being the last in revenue traffic when condemned
on 11 August 1972. Some inactive (D)59’s survived a few more years, with 5905, 5915 and
5920 stored at Enfield Loco Depot until the final clear-out of that site in
59’s were a firm favourite of my father, who found in them a resemblance to
the 700-series Mikados of his native South Australia, for comparison, refer
to SAR loco 702.
authorative ‘Steam Locomotive Data’ (July 1974 edition) provides the
following milestones for 5908:
31 October 1952
two remaining oil burners 5908 & 5916 last worked as shunters in Grafton
and dodged the scrap heap by finding further use as stationary boilers at
Broadmeadow Loco Depot, Newcastle.
5916 was transferred to Eveleigh Carriage Workshops in August 1974
for further stationary boiler use, with both 5908 & 5916 lasting in this
capacity until 1977. 5908 moved to
the New South Wales Rail Transport Museum (NSWRTM) at Thirlmere later in
1977, where it was placed on static display as an example of a (D)59 in original oil burning configuration. Being an oil-burner, it remains largely
in its original configuration as first delivered by Baldwin Lima Hamilton.
was rather grimy, worn and rust streaked when delivered to the NSWRTM
Thirlmere in 1977 and was already missing some parts. There was a proposal to section the
locomotive for display, but fortunately this never came to pass. The webmaster gave 5908 a quick repaint
to basic black during 1991 (during which I was chastised by one member who
said “Why are you doing that? It is only for parts!”) Indeed both 5908 and 5916 occasionally
donated parts to help keep sister 5910 in traffic, however it is likely
that any missing parts could be found in the extensive stores at Thirlmere.
2008, 5908's boiler clothing and underlying lagging as removed by
specialist contractors. The boiler
clothing and associated fittings were not replaced at completion of the
change of location came for 5908 on 27 November 2009 when it was road
hauled from NSWRTM Thirlmere (together with 5916 and 3085) to the Goulburn Rail Heritage
Centre, which is housed within the historic Goulburn Roundhouse. Here it is displayed under cover on one
of the roundhouse roads. Hopefully
one day funds can be found to restore this locomotive, either statically or
– preferably - as an operable exhibit.
I believe it would be a wonderful operating exhibit which would
reflect some significant themes in period Australian history, including (as
a USATC war locomotive design) the contribution America made to the region
in World War Two and afterwards, and as an oil-burner, the 1949 coal
strikes and following labour relations & political developments.
definite history for the NSWGR (D)59 class can be found in the excellent
book ‘The 59 Class’ by Harry Wright, published by the New South Wales Rail
Transport Museum in 1996 and featuring many colour and B&W
photographs. Further information
about 5908 can be found on the NSW Office on Environment and Heritage fact sheet for this locomotive. Additional technical details can also be
found on the Wikipedia entry for the NSWGR (D)59
would appreciate the contribution of any photographs of 5908 &/or 5916
in stationary boiler use for inclusion on this website.