BHP Newcastle No.4

Stored for the Dorrigo Steam Railway & Museum


A train on the tracks

Description automatically generated with low confidence

My visit to Dorrigo of 24 January 2004 found BHP Newcastle No.4 stored on the newly laid sidings, in company with other 4-wheel industrial shunters.


H.K. Porter Co, Pittsburgh USA

Builder’s Number & Year

5685 of 1915

Wheel Arrangement


No. in class



The H. K. Porter Company of Pittsburgh specialised in small 4-wheel steam locomotives for industrial and construction use, although some larger main-line locomotives were also built. In addition, H. K. Porter became a dominant manufacturer of small compressed-air locomotives for underground operation, and fireless locomotives for use in chemical plants and refineries where the risk of fire prohibited the conventional steam locomotives.

Among their many customers worldwide was the BHP Newcastle steelworks, established in 1915, which settled on the Porter 0-4-0T design as their de-facto standard for shunting work. Porter initially supplied three 0-4-0T locomotives to BHP Newcastle (Nos.2 - 4), later joined by a further 7 Porter examples and 8 copies built in BHP Newcastle’s own workshops. Porter also supplied smaller 915mm gauge 0-4-0ST locos to the BHP Newcastle plant for the internal ingot transfer line. These locos rubbed shoulders with an eclectic mix of steam locomotives at the Newcastle steelworks, including ‘funnies’ converted for shunting work - such as 0-6-0ST No.1, rebuilt from E17 class 0-6-0 E40 (Henry Vale b/n 5 of 1870) and No.26, rebuilt from NSWGR 2-6-0 tender loco No.2415. (Leon Oberg provides a thorough account of the interesting steam fleet at BHP Newcastle in the fifth edition of his ‘Locomotives of Australia – 1854 to 2010, together with anecdotes from former BHP employees.)

Upon dieselisation of the BHP Newcastle shunting fleet, most of their steam locomotives quickly found themselves as feed for the company steelmaking furnace, but a lucky few were transferred or sold for further duties elsewhere.

With the arrival of standard gauge link to the BHP Whyalla steelworks in South Australia, two of the BHP built 0-4-0T copies were relocated there – becoming B1 (formerly No.21) & B2 (formerly No.25) on the local roster. B2 lasted the longest at Whyalla but alas was scrapped in 1968. It would have made a fine specimen for local preservation, or an interesting addition to at the Mile End Railway Museum, adding to the story of South Australia’s economic development and gauge quandaries.

Porter engine No.16 was sold to Emu Gravel in western Sydney in 1962, followed by No,12 in 1963, with No.12 lasting until 1967 when road transport took over. No.16 was saved for posterity by the NSW Rail Transport Museum (now NSW Rail Museum) and served as shunter at the Enfield and Thirlmere museum sites for many years but is now plinthed at St Mary’s.

Porter No.4 (one of the original batch of three Porter 0-4-0T locomotives) was sold to Commonwealth Steel Co Ltd, Newcastle in 1962 – one of the heavy industrial plants leveraging feedstock from the adjacent steelworks, and stablemate with preserved Barclay locomotive ‘Juno’. Here No.4 worked into the early 1970’s before being donated to the Hunter Valley Steam Railway & Museum collection in 1975. It was later transported to Dorrigo for the Dorrigo Steam Railway & Museum and placed in storage on the newly constructed display sidings, awaiting the collection being opened to the public. (If I recall correctly, in speaking with owner of the Dorrigo collection, I understood a good quantity of heavy spares are held for No.4 including a set of wheels.)



‘Locomotives of Australia – 1854 to 2010’ by Leon Oberg,

5th edition, 2010, published by Rosenberg Publishing Pty Ltd

ISBN 9781921719011


Kramer, J. 'The Dorrigo Steam Railway & Museum - an Illustrated Guide',

published by the Dorrigo Steam Railway & Museum, 1987.


Griffiths D. ‘BHP Tramways Centenary History’

Published by Mile End Railway Museum, 1985

Page updated: 12 December 2021

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