C17 No. 812

Southern Downs Steam Railway


C17 No.812 nears the end of its overhaul and repaint at RAILCO’s Atherton depot in October 1999.

The locomotive is turned out in attractive crimson livery with brass boiler crinolines.

The straight cab, tall steam dome and cast iron chimney of the original C17 ‘1920 design’ make for a handsome, well-proportioned locomotive.

On this day the brass number and builder’s plated are fitted, but not the cylinder cladding (presumably for ease of maintenance).

This photo was kindly contributed by Graham Watkins.



Sir W G Armstrong Whitworth & Co Ltd,

Newcastle upon Tyne



Builder’s Number & Year

860 of 1927



Wheel Arrangement




No. in class



No.812 is one of Queensland Government Railways’ highly successful C17 class 4-8-0 locomotives of which 227 units were constructed by a variety of builders between 1920 and 1953. No.812 represents the original ‘1920 design’ of C17 which are identifiable by a smaller, straight-sided cutaway cab, tall steam dome, cast iron chimney and a low-sided bogie tender. It also retains the original style of boiler with a tall steam dome. No.812 is one of a batch of 25 additional C17-class engines imported from the UK manufacturer Armstrong Whitworth & Co in 1927 and unloaded at the Pinkenba wharf in Brisbane.  (For further information about the Queensland Government Railways’ C17 class locomotives, refer to the page for C17 No.2.)

No.812 was placed in Queensland Government Railways service in July 1927 and written off 42 years later in June 1969.  Following retirement it was placed in a park at Atherton (on the eponymous Atherton Tableland, inland from Cairns in tropical Far North Queensland) for the local Rotary Club.

In 1988, Queensland Rail closed the Atherton Tablelands railway line south from Atherton via Herberton to Ravenshoe.  Local community group RAILCO was formed to campaign for retention and reopening of the line, spawning separate tourist railways at both the Ravenshoe and Atherton ends of the line. No.812 plinthed at Atherton was acquired and restored to operation at the RAILCO Atherton depot at Platypus Park, just south of the town (as Atherton Station and yard was still being used by Queensland Rail). A period video shows the hardy RAILCO volunteers overhauled the tender by laying it on its side, to gain access to the underframe! Trolley rides were offered on the line to help raise awareness and funds for repair of the permanent way. No.812 subsequently operated over a restored section of the line towards Herberton, with the webmaster remembering a pleasant but short trip of about 3km length enjoyed during the summer of 1996 in an interesting mix of rollingstock including a louvre-sided car ostensibly converted from a bogie goods wagon. A subsequent visit in July 2004 found the Atherton operations suspended due to deteriorating track condition, with RAILCO instead concentrating on their successful operation with D17 No.268 at the other end of the line between Ravenshoe and Tumoulin. During this period No.812 and its train remained in open storage at Platypus Park, hoping for funding to restore the railway up the 1:33 grades and Herberton Range tunnel through to Herberton.

In September 2016 I was contacted by the new owner of No.812 and provided with further information about this locomotive. It is now privately owned and has been leased to the Southern Downs Steam Railway, Warwick, where it arrived in September 2016. Here it was intended to be overhauled for operation on tourist train services, providing a second loco to their restored C17 No.971. (Around January 2016 the loco unit of No.812 was spotted in a haulier’s yard at an industrial site at Myrtletown, behind Brisbane airport, during its transport south from the Atherton Tablelands; attracting some attention on rail fan social media sites! No.812’s tender had taken a different route south with a sojourn at the owner’s rural property in South-East Queensland during its trip south.) I look forward to seeing this handsome and capable locomotive in service at Warwick. (I have subsequently been informed that No.802 has been found to have significant frame cracking and poor boiler condition, which would be expensive but not insurmountable obstacles to restoration.)

This view was kindly provided by Ken McHugh on his visit to Atherton on 25 November 2006.

Ken found No.812 to be stored operational, with all plates and backhead fittings removed for safekeeping.

This more recent view of No.812 at Atherton was contributed by Joel Turner and is dated 11 May 2013.

No.812 has since been transported to the south of Queensland and is presently in storage at a Brisbane site.



"Locomotives of Australia" by Leon Oberg,

published by J. W. Books Pty Ltd


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

(Queensland Railways 1910 – 1958 and beyond)’,

published by the ARHS Queensland Division, 1994.


Wikipedia page for the Atherton Tablelands railway line,

retrieved 8 February 2016

Page updated: 19 October 2019

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