B15 No.299

Maryborough Railway Station


No.299 displayed in a bay platform at Maryborough station. 19 July 1996

The cowcatcher a wonderful statement of branch line usage.



Walkers Limited, Maryborough



Builder’s Number & Year

1 of 1897



Wheel Arrangement




No. in class

98 (including 6 originally built for the Chillagoe Railway & Mining Co)


Following the successful B13 class mixed traffic locomotives, the B15 class locomotives used the same 4-6-0 wheel arrangement but were designed for freight service and provided with small 3’ driving wheels. The initial order was for 15 locomotives and supplied by Nasmyth Wilson & Co. of Patricroft in 1889. Judged a success, the class grew to 92 examples via further orders from Yorkshire Engine Co (10), Evans, Anderson & Phelan (21) and Walkers Limited of Maryborough (46). Interestingly the private Chillagoe Railway & Mining Co also ordered 6 of these locomotives from Walkers for their Atherton tableland operations, and these locomotives also came into Queensland Railway’s stock when the government took control of their line in 1919.

Apparently the small 3’ driving wheels of the original design caused damage to the track and accordingly B15s were unpopular with the Queensland Railway’s civil engineering department. The small driving wheels are evident in early photos of B15’s and presumably these locos were not noted for high speed! In modern times, track ride and other complex engineering problems can be assessed by computer modelling and design, but in earlier times trial & error was required! In an attempt to overcome track damage problems, Queensland Railways purchased three sets of 3’ 9” wheels from the South Australian Railways; this trial proved successful – and also improved the overall proportions and appearance! All but five of the B15 class were progressively updated with 3’ 9” driving wheels from the 1900’s through to the 1920s, being redesignated ‘B15 Con’ (i.e. converted). The remaining five non-converted B15’s were written off together in November 1934. The original 15 Nasmyth Wilson & Co. locos were supplied with 120psi iron boilers while subsequent engines were supplied with 140psi steel boilers, and most B15’s also received replacement 160psi boilers during overhauls and rebuilding over the years.

B15 Con. withdrawals began with 26 written off in 1935 and proceeded gradually thereafter, with only 18 remaining on the books into the 1960s. They retained usefulness in light lines and shunting roles, and B15’s were principal motive power in the tropical far north of Queensland, particularly the Cairns – Main Range – Atherton Tablelands lines, owing to the light rails in the area. No double the class were extremely busy during the World War 2 years, when many military facilities were established around Cairns and the Atherton Tableland as a staging point for Pacific operations, leveraging the rail and port facilities in the area.

Preserved example No.299 is notable as being the first locomotive officially built by Walkers Limited of Maryborough, carrying their builder’s number No.1 of 1897, although the first railway locomotive constructed by that company was in fact a humble 0-4-0VB logging locomotive built in 1873 and named Mary Ann. The service history for No.299 shows it began duties in January 1897 and was converted in May 1915. It worked at Townsville & Cairns its entire working life before being retired in June 1966. Fortunately it was preserved in Maryborough in recognition as the first loco built by Walkers Limited, following a suggestion by the Queensland Division of the Australian Railway Historical Society.

I believe No.299 ran occasional enthusiast trips in the 1970’s from Maryborough on the branch line to Pialba (Harvey Bay) and Urangan, which today a popular whale watching town and access point to the World Heritage Fraser Island, but in pioneer days served as a deep water port for Maryborough and the region. (Indeed, steam locomotives built by Walkers Ltd for the Tasmanian Government Railway and other points were exported via the railway along the Urangan pier.) Alas the Pialba branch closed in 1993 and is now a bicycle track!

Today No.299 resides in a sheltered bay platform at Maryborough station, as seen in the photos on this page which date from my visit on 19 July 1996. I understand the loco remains nominally operable, but presumably would require overhaul and documentation to meet the documentation and certification requirements of today’s standards. I found plenty of railway & historical interest at Maryborough station during my visit; this was a bustling station during World War 2 and I recall the air-raid bunker was intact and presented as a historical feature of the precinct, among other items.

The Wikipedia page for the B15 class contains useful technical data for these locomotives.

The builder’s plate for No.299 displayed proudly on the cabside:

“Walkers Limited, Engineers, Maryborough – No.1, 1897”

This purposeful old brass Jacksons padlock, stamped “QR”, secures a storage locker on the footplate.



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

(Queensland Railways 1864 – 1910)’,

published by the ARHS Queensland Division, 1985.


‘Locomotives of Australia’ by Leon Oberg,

published by J. W. Books Pty Ltd


Wikipedia page for B15 class, retrieved 28 September 2020.

Page updated: 26 October 2020

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