Goulburn Rail Heritage Centre


5908 displayed at the NSWRTM Thirlmere on 6 May 2005.

The steam dome bonnet had recently been removed and can be seen sitting on the ground.

Visible is the smaller smokebox door on the oil burning (D)59 class locos, which is made airtight by numerous ‘dogs’ around the circumference.

(The green tint of this photograph is due to the colour of the skylights in the shed roof above.)



Baldwin Lima Hamilton



Builder’s Number & Year

75571 of 1952



Wheel Arrangement




No. in class



5908 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 60’ 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.

The (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!

The (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.

Most (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 early 1975.

The 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.

The authorative ‘Steam Locomotive Data’ (July 1974 edition) provides the following milestones for 5908:

In Service:

31 October 1952


January 1971

Distance Travelled:

643,888 km

The 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.

5908 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.

During 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 work.

A 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.

The 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 class.

UPDATE: Internet newsgroup photos and posts in October 2019 showed that static restoration of 5908 was now underway at the Goulburn Rail Heritage Centre, with the locomotive and tender separated to allow better access to the cab and frame.

I would appreciate the contribution of photographs of 5908 &/or 5916 in stationary boiler use for inclusion on this website.

A rear view of 5908 stored at Goulburn Railway Heritage Centre on 7 January 2012.

Some spring / suspension components are evidently missing on the rear tender bogie, with hardwood inserted to provide the required support!

The tender is in oil-burning configuration with several patches, dings and bent handrails – evidence of a colourful service life.



‘The 59 Class’ by Harry Wright,

Published by the New South Wales Rail Transport Museum, 1996.


‘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.


Wikipedia entry for the NSWGR (D)59 class, retrieved 9 February 2016.


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Page updated: 1 September 2021

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