C17 No. 779

Formerly plinthed at Cloncurry, reported as scrapped


A digitised view of a C17 standing on a freshly-laid concrete plinth at Cloncurry some time prior to 1977.

This photo is courtesy of David Nielsen from his late father’s slide collection.

The tender shows number “779” and “ND” which I believe stands for Northern Division.



Walkers Limited, Maryborough



Builder’s Number & Year

406 of 1926



Wheel Arrangement




No. in class



No.779 was one of Queensland Railways’ highly successful C17 class “maid of all work” 4-8-0 locomotives, with 227 units constructed by a variety of builders between 1920 and 1953.  The “C17” classification follows Queensland Rail nomenclature whereby “C” denotes an 8-coupled locomotive and “17” references the cylinder diameter (in inches).  The C17 design featured a superheated boiler and was developed from the earlier saturated steam C16 type.  The final C17 class members were retired from service at the very end of Queensland Railways revenue steam operations in August 1970.

The updated 1982 edition of “Locomotives of Australia” by Leon Oberg lists two C17 class locomotives plinthed at Cloncurry:

·         No. 779 (Walkers Ltd B/n 406 of 1926); photo evidence (above) shows a locomotive with the tender number 779 plinthed next to railway prior to 1977.  According to “Locomotives in the Tropics”, No.779 was written off the Queensland Railways books in June 1969.  This very informative book provides details of all Queensland Railways steam locomotives that were preserved, but makes no mention of No.779 as having been retained in any capacity.

The book 'The Return of Steam Locomotive C17, No. 45' by R. Stark states that C17 779 was scrapped by the Australian Army in 1979 at Cloncurry.  (The webmaster is perplexed to know what business the Army would have had in such an exercise; perhaps someone connected with this event could confirm its occurrence and circumstances.)

As per the photo above, No.779 was situated facing south in a small park close to the centre of Cloncurry, between Station St, the rail corridor, Scarr & Ramsay Sts, at approximately S20 42.385 E140 30.630.

·         No. 819 (Armstrong Whitworth & Co. B/n 867 of 1927).  According to “Locomotives in the Tropics”, No.819 was written off the Queensland Railways books in December 1968 and placed in a Cloncurry park for the Cloncurry Historical Society.  No.819 is reported as having been plinthed in Mary Kathleen Memorial Park, Cloncurry by the 1990’s until acquired by the Mary Valley Railway, being relocated to Gympie on 11 September 1996.

Mary Kathleen Memorial Park is clearly a different location to that formerly occupied by No.779, being approximately 1km to the East South East.

It seems unlikely that Cloncurry, a relatively small town in the far west of Queensland, would have two C17 class locomotives on display, so it is tempting to speculate that the identities of No.779 and No.819 became confused and the two reported locos are in fact one, perhaps with mixed tenders or other markings.  If this were the case, perhaps the plinthed “No.779” moved from the lineside to Mary Kathleen Park around 1979, at which stage it became known as “No.819”.

Interestingly, I have received a digital copy of a letter 16 June 1988 from a senior Queensland Rail engineer to a railway historian, stating:

“A search of departmental records reveals that while Locomotive 819 was at one stage considered for display at Cloncurry there is no record of it being sent there but later correspondence indicates locomotive 779 was available for display there.”

Contributions of photographs or further information about the steam locomotives once displayed at Cloncurry and the reported scrapping of No.779 in 1979 would be much appreciated.



"Locomotives of Australia" by Leon Oberg, published by J. W. Books Pty Ltd


Stark, R. J., 'The Return of Steam Locomotive C17, No. 45',

published 2000 by The Degener Timms Publications, Gympie, Queensland


Armstrong, J. 'Locomotives in the Tropics - Volume 2

(Queensland Railways 1910 – 1958 and beyond)’,

published by the ARHS Queensland Division, 1994.


Information provided by John McCandless via email dated 12 January 2005.


Information provided by David Nielsen via email dated 18 September 2015.


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