J & A Brown No.20

Stored for the Dorrigo Steam Railway & Museum


A picture containing grass, train, sky, outdoor

Description automatically generated

One of the two ROD locomotives stored on the former ‘potato siding’ in the Dorrigo station yard.

I believe this one at the end of the siding is No.20. This view is courtesy of Mark Newton & dates from 1999.



North British Locomotive Co, Glasgow



Builder’s Number & Year

22042 of 1918



Wheel Arrangement




No. in class

521 built for ROD

13 purchased as war surplus by J & A Brown


When J & A Brown needed additional motive power for their private railway linking Pelaw Main and Richmond Main collieries to Hunter River loading staithes at Hexham, their eyes turned to British Army ‘Railway Operating Division’ (ROD) 2-8-0 locomotives stored in the UK as war surplus, with the first three (Nos. 12 – 14) purchased in 1925. Entering J & A Brown service in 1926, they proved successful in heavy coal traffic over their main route through the Sugarloaf Range and across Hexham swamp – a line approximately 16km long and including several trestle bridges and three tunnels. Ten more ROD locos were subsequently purchased via several transactions to 1927. J & A Brown also operated a fleet of ’60 miler’ coastal steamers for ferrying coal from Hexham to customers in Sydney Harbour and took advantage of the delivery run of their new ship the SS Minmi to transport the 10 additional ROD locos from the UK as deck cargo.

Colliery output declined during the Depression years and so the 10 additional ROD locomotive were progressively reassembled and placed in service as rail traffic demanded, with the last (No.24) not being reactivated until 1933. In practice a maximum of 10 were in service at any one time, with others awaiting repair or providing spares. (For further background to J & A Brown’s fleet of ROD locomotives, refer to the page for No.21 / 23.)

J & A Brown No.20 was originally ROD 1984, one of 369 built by North British locomotive Company to government contracts for service during World War 1. As ROD 1984 the loco worked in France for a short time after the Armistice prior to returning to the UK in 1919. It was loaned to the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway for a period, and later the London & North-Western Railway where it carried No.2955, prior to being returned for storage in August 1921 and purchased by J & A Brown in 1927.

No.20 was last used in J & A Brown service in May 1968, then joining the growing line of withdrawn steam locomotives stored outside the Hexham running shed. Coal & Allied Industries (successors to J & A Brown) generously donated one ROD locomotive for local preservation in 1973 (No.21 but apparently numbered 23 at the time) while inviting tenders to dispose of the other machines, prompting enthusiasts to scramble to save as many as possible. While the oldest and most historic of J & A Brown’s remaining steam locos were saved, including Avonside No.2, No.3, No.4, Mersey Tank No.5 and ROD Nos.20 & 24, alas seven ROD locos were sold to scrap merchants Sims Metal. These seven ROD locos were crudely cut at Hexham in September 1973 with the butchered remains loaded to bogie wagons and railed to Mascot for further reduction.

I understand No.20 & No.24 may have been purchased by, or on behalf of, UK-based preservation groups, but the cost of transport proved too great, and the Hunter Valley Steam Railway & Museum (HVSR&M) ultimately took ownership. The two locos were stored at Broadmeadow circa 1978, later moving to the HVSR&M storage site at Rhondda Colliery. In late 1983 they were rail hauled to Glenreagh before being towed to Dorrigo along the reopened branch around 1986. Here they have remained in storage on the ‘potato siding’ in the Dorrigo Station yard, together with other locos in the Dorrigo collection.

When the webmaster first started the Australian Steam site, internet connection was much slower than today – I had a ‘fast’ 28.8 KBps modem! – and accordingly early photos (such as the 1999 image on this page) were presented with a small file size to provide an adequate download speed. Writing now in 2021 during a COVID lockdown, I dream of the day I will be able to visit regional NSW once again, and Dorrigo will be high on my destination list so I can take (if granted the owner’s permission) a series of high-quality digital photos of J & A Brown Nos.20 & 24 – and indeed the entire Dorrigo collection.

I have a particular fascination with J & A Brown’s locomotives as I have childhood memories of these machines during their period of storage at Hexham. I would greatly appreciate contribution of photos showing the J &A Brown locos in action, or during their forlorn years of rusty storage at Hexham.



Preston, R. G. ‘The Richmond Vale Railway’

published by the New South Wales Rail Transport Museum, 1989.


Oberg, L. ‘Locomotives of Australia - 1985 to 2010’ (Fifth Edition),

published 2010 by Rosenberg Publishing Pty Ltd


Andrews, B. R. ‘Coal, Railways & Mines – The story of the Railways

and Collieries of J & A Brown’, published by the Iron Horse Press, 2004.


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

published by the Dorrigo Steam Railway & Museum, 1987.


Wikipedia entry for ROD 2-8-0 locomotives, retrieved 22 August 2021.

Page updated: 23 August 2021

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