B13 No.161

A fascinating survivor on the Normanton-Croydon Railway


No.161 displayed at Normanton Station - 1 September 2008; this photo is courtesy of Dan Van Scherpenseel.

The boiler is sitting low in the frames; it is hard to reconcile the boiler height with the smokebox saddle spacer, as seen in earlier photo below.

The chimney doesn’t look original – it is more drain pipe than stove pipe! – and possibly dates from the boiler’s last use as stationary plant.

More recent photos (from Google Earth) show the cab roof has since been replaced.



Kitson and Company, Leeds



Builder’s Number & Year

2894 of 1885



Wheel Arrangement




No. in class



The B13 class were a mixed-traffic design originating with 19 locomotives supplied by Dubs & Co, Glasgow. These first 19 locomotives were simple and reliable machines supplied with saturated steam boilers that sat low in the frames, with a short smokebox and spartan cab. Following orders from Kitson & Co, Dubs & Co, and Phoenix Engine Co, Ipswich swelled the class to 112 units by 1892, with the later engines differentiated by a lengthened driving wheelbase to accommodate larger fireboxes, and associated higher-pitched boilers. Extended smokeboxes were also found to improve performance. Firebox variations included ‘wide type’ and ‘deep type’ with the latter proving more economic, and accordingly the wide firebox engines were among the earliest B13’s to be withdrawn. Indeed six of the wide firebox B13 locos were sold to the Commonwealth Railways for use on the North Australia Railway (Darwin) where they were known as the Ng class. Other B13 class members were rebuilt with deep fireboxes and higher-pitched boilers, with a characteristic high smokebox saddle (as seen on preserved sister No.48). Most of the B13 class were withdrawn in the 1920’s and 30’s, with a number being sold into the sugar industry and local shire tramways.

No.161 was built to the long-wheelbase design and entered service on the Central Railway in May 1886. (The Central Railway started from Rockhampton reaching inland to Emerald; together with most other isolated divisions, they were eventually linked into the state rail network.) No.161 was transferred to the isolated Normanton - Croydon Railway in 1894 and rebuilt to ‘deep firebox’ configuration in April 1909; presumably this work was performed at Normanton.

No.161 was written off at Normanton in June 1926. Its original boiler was transferred to the Croydon pump where it survived derelict, although the firebox has been scrapped. A second boiler was sold into the Stanhills tin field (near Croydon) in 1926 with the boiler from No. 234 substituted. This third boiler was later jacked out of the locomotive and taken to Croydon. No.161’s frames, ashpan, wheels and tender remained at Normanton railway station for many years, together with the remaining portions of other steam locomotives that had worked on this remote line.

In recent years No.161 has been reunited with its original low-pitch boiler, painted in ‘Gulflander’ livery and placed on display at Normanton Station, as seen in the photo above. Judging by the boiler height, the raised smokebox saddle spacer was removed so that the older low-pitched boiler could be refitted, thus reversing the 1909 rebuilding.

The Wikipedia page for the B13 class contains useful technical data for these locomotives.

This photo is kindly provided by Murray Lawrence and shows the remains of No.161 at Normanton in January 1993.

At this stage the old boiler had yet to be refitted for display purposes.

Sitting proud is the raised smokebox saddle used when high-pitched boilers were fitted to B13 locomotives.

This photo is kindly provided by Murray Lawrence and shows the boilers of No.203 (front) and No.161 (rear) at Clarina in January 1993.

The ‘Gulflander' railmotor is standing behind the two abandoned boilers.



Armstrong, J. 'Locomotives in the Tropics - Volume 1

(Queensland Railways 1864 – 1910)’,

published by the ARHS Queensland Division, 1985.


Knowles, J. W. 'Lonely Rails in the Gulf Country –

The story of the Normanton - Croydon Railway and the Gulflander',

Revised second edition 1993, published by J. W. Knowles and

distributed by the Australian Narrow Gauge Railway Museum Society,

PO Box 270, Brisbane 4002. (Appendix 4, Page 58)


Wikipedia page for B13 class, retrieved 28 September 2020.

Page updated: 20 October 2020

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