C17 No. 966

Stored at the Zig Zag Railway


C17 No.966 stored near Clarence Station on the Zig Zag Railway, 31 March 2007.



Walkers Limited, Maryborough



Builder’s Number & Year

503 of 1950



Wheel Arrangement




No. in class



No.966 is one of Queensland Railways’ highly successful C17 class 4-8-0 locomotives of which 227 units were constructed by a variety of builders between 1920 and 1953. The C17’s were a maid of all work type that were powerful enough for main line freight duties, yet with a low axle load which permitted wide deployment and accordingly they could be found on everything from suburban and express passenger trains to main, secondary and branch line freight and mixed traffic work, although the type are perhaps best associated with the long rural routes through Queensland Railways’ (QR) Northern and Central Divisions. The final C17 class members were retired at the very end of QR revenue steam operations in August 1970.

No 966 represents the final 1950 design of C17 which featured Timken roller bearings on all axles, together with the 1938 design improvements of piston valves, Laird crossheads, a wider & taller sedan cab sporting sliding windows, a slender stovepipe chimney with a capuchion lip and a higher-capacity tender. It is one of the final 40 C17’s known as ‘Brown Bombers’ due to their original livery of handsome mid-brown with green lining.

No.966 was placed in Queensland Government Railways service during August 1950 and written off in July 1970 after a working life of nearly 20 years. Upon retirement No. 966 was plinthed at Cooee Bay, Yeppoon for Livingstone Shire Council. It was later acquired by the Capricornian Historical Steam Train Association and relocated to Archer Park, Rockhampton.

By 1994 it appears that No.966 had become derelict and was offered for sale. Later that year it was acquired by the Zig Zag Railway following an appeal for donations from members and transported from Queensland to Lithgow, NSW. No.966 was placed initially placed in storage behind the Zig Zag Railway’s Bottom Points workshop and depot. It then spent several years in storage at Edgecombe Loop, midway along line, until 2006 when towed to Clarence for further storage.

Hopefully No. 966 will one day be fully restored and join sister No.934 as an operational loco on the Zig Zag Railway, although it is likely to act as a source of heavy spares for No.934 in the interim. Indeed, around 2012 the tender bogies were removed (presumably for one of the operating locos) and the tender tank placed at a separate storage site (as per photo below) leaving No.966 tenderless in the Clarence siding.

Despite being derelict, No.966 does attract the interest of passing motorists as it is visible from the nearby Bells Line of Road.  Some non-enthusiast friends with young children tell me they know the Zig Zag’s Clarence Station as “that place with the old steam engine”, a favoured stopping point on their regular journeys to the west! No.966 perhaps acts as an unlikely ambassador for the Zig Zag Railway; if given a suitable static restoration, it could become a worthwhile landmark and attraction at Clarence Station, maintaining a steam railway ambience and photo piece between service trains. A bay platform is under construction at Clarence Station and No.966 would make an excellent resident! However the first job needing to be done prior to any restoration, either static or operational, would have to be removal of the old boiler insulation by specialist contractors, which would be an expensive task.

For further information about the Queensland Railways’ C17 class locomotives, refer to the page for C17 No.2.

A second view of C17 No.966 & tender stored near Clarence Station on 31 March 2007.

No.966’s tender (minus bogies) is now stored away from the locomotive, as per this view of 29 March 2015.

The Zig Zag Railway also has a number of spare C17 boilers in store, such as this example seen on 29 March 2015.




‘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.


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