Owned by a syndicate of Lachlan Valley Railway members


The webmaster lives near Sydney Central Station, so on weekends I can get a steam fix while on my way to get a morning coffee!

On such a morning a brief detour to Central found 5917 awaiting departure with the ’Illawarra Treetop Flyer’ of 7 December 2008.



Baldwin Lima Hamilton



Builder’s Number & Year

75580 of 1952



Wheel Arrangement




No. in class



5917 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 US 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 Baldwin’s normally speedy delivery. The class was placed in service between 30 August 1952 and 31 March 1953, with most converted to coal firing during the 1960’s. (For further general information about the (D)59 class, refer to the entry for 5908.)

The authorative ‘Steam Locomotive Data’ (July 1974 edition) provides the following milestones for preserved loco 5917:

In Service:

12 March 1953

Converted from Oil to Coal firing:

January 1963


August 1972

Distance Travelled:

806,735 km

Following withdrawal from NSWGR service, 5917 was selected for preservation and purchased by a syndicate of rail enthusiasts associated with the Lachlan Valley Railway at Cowra. This group have immaculately maintained 5917 for main line traffic over subsequent decades, with the loco nominally based at Cowra but in practice travelling widely during its preservation career. 5917 has also been placed on hire from time to time to various other railway heritage organisations that were in need of steam motive power, including the ARHS Canberra Division in the 1970’s and a spell with 3801 Limited at Eveleigh in the 2000’s. 5917 has often joined the roster of steam locomotives for the annual Thirlmere ‘Festival of Steam’ to mark the opening of the steam train season following summer fire bans, and also the annual ‘Hunter Valley Steam Fest’ centred on Maitland.

For a period during the 1980’s, 5917 wore attractive lined green livery and was paired with the smaller Standard Turret Tender belonging to 5367 as its original tender required a replacement tank. Both the loco and original tender underwent an extensive overhaul at the Lachlan Valley Railway’s Cowra depot during the 1990's, returning to main line operations by September 2007.

Occasionally 5917 and sister 5910 have double-headed on tour trains, a great combination for the rail fan to experience!  Another memorable tour in the webmaster’s recollection was a 1986 re-enactment of the Hawkesbury River bank engine operations, with 5917 taking a sold-out train from Hornsby station down to Hawkesbury River where 5367 then attached for a double-headed run up Cowan Bank and through Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park back to Hornsby. (Prior to electrification of this route in 1959, a small loco depot at Hawkesbury River had catered for an allocation of 6 or so Standard Goods Engines for banking duties on the steep and curving Cowan Bank with its 1:40 average gradient.)

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 which also features many fine colour and B&W photographs. Some further technical details can also be found on the Wikipedia entry for the NSWGR (D)59 class.

A second view of 5917 awaiting departure with the ’Illawarra Treetop Flyer’ on 7 December 2008.

Detail of 5917’s cab showing the handsome brass cabside numbers typical of NSWGR locos.  7 December 2008.

5917 in green livery and 5367 hauling a Lachlan Valley Railway tour train near Holmwood on 13 April 1986.

At this stage 5917 was paired with the standard turret tender from 5367, which in turn was paired with the 3650 gallon tender ex-3237.

This photo was kindly contributed by Chris Stratton.

This fine slide view of 5917 our tour duty is courtesy of John Hurst’s collection and is dated July 1977.

John’s caption reads “5917 crosses a tributary of Mulwaree Ponds, near Komungla, on the Goulburn-Queanbeyan railway.

5917 had just recently been beautifully restored by the Lachlan Valley Railway Society, and was on loan to the ARHS (ACT Divn) of Canberra.”

A second slide view of 5917 on tour duty, courtesy of John Hurst’s collection and dated November 1977.

“5917 running tender first across the picturesque Burbong Bridge, on the border of the Australian Capital Territory.”

This profile view clearly shows the relative shortness of the bobtail tenders specified by the NSWGR.



‘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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