PB15 No.444

The Workshops, Ipswich


No.444 displayed with a short mixed train at the entrance to The Workshops railway museum, Ipswich.

The mixed train consist includes a wonderful old 4-wheel sheep van and a flat car.



Walkers Limited, Maryborough



Builder’s Number & Year

89 of 1908



Wheel Arrangement




No. in class

203 (Stephenson valve gear)

  30 (Walschaerts valve gear)


The PB15 class were conceived as a passenger version of the earlier B15 class 4-6-0 freight locomotives dating from 1889, hence the ‘P’ prefix. A key difference was the larger diameter driving wheels, being 4’ for the PB15 class as opposed to the original 3’ diameter of the B15 class. The classification otherwise followed the Queensland Government Railways (QGR) naming convention of ‘B’ for 6-coupled locomotives and ‘15’ to designate 15-inch cylinder diameter. The first PB15 class locomotive entered service in 1899, 10 years after the B15 class. The PB15’s proved to be useful locomotives in addition to their handsome, well-proportioned looks, and the class had grown to 202 examples by 1912.

As a testament to the utility of the PB15 design, the Ipswich Railway Workshops constructed an additional unit in 1924 for the Aramac Shire Tramway; this locomotive later passed into QGR stock in 1958 becoming No.12. When the Queensland Railways administration of the early 1920’s identified a need for additional mixed traffic locomotives for light lines, the proven PB15 design was selected with a further 30 units built by Walkers Limited, Maryborough between 1925 & 1926. These ‘1924 design’ PB15’s featured Walschaerts valve gear instead of the original Stephenson gear, together with other modifications and modernisations.

The PB15 class found extensive use on mail and passenger trains, lightly-laid main lines (such as the Main Range route from Cairns to the Atherton Tableland) and country branch lines, together with suburban passenger and shunting turns. A number were withdrawn in 1942 and 1943, but the balance lasted to the end of QGR steam operations, being withdrawn between 1967 and 1970.

PB15 No.444 entered service with Queensland Government Railways in July 1908 and was written off in October 1969 after a working life of 61 years. No.444 was selected to represent the class in the Redbank Railway Museum, where it was statically displayed among the locomotive exhibits from 1970 until that museum closed in 1992. The Redbank exhibits later moved to the newly established railway museum at Ipswich Railway Workshops, known as ‘The Workshops’. Here No.444 was placed on display with a short mixed train near the museum entrance, representing a typical light lines scene from the QR’s early years.

Excellent references for further information about the PB15 class are ‘Locomotives in the Tropics - Volume 1 (Queensland Railways 1864 - 1910)’, which covers the original Stephenson valve gear locos, and Volume 2 (Queensland Railways 1910 – 1958 and beyond) which covers the 1924 design / Walschaerts valve gear locomotives. The Wikipedia page for the PB15 class also contains useful technical data.

The ones that got away

The final steam locomotives dispatched from Ipswich for scrapping was a batch of seven that departed in June 1973, being cut up at Banyo in August & September of that year. Alas this final dispatch included four PB15 class 4-6-0’s, No’s 440, 531, 599 & Walschaerts example No.745. The QR administration held the 4-8-0 C17 class in very high regard and many were donated for static preservation around the state, but perhaps it is regrettable that some PB15’s were not donated instead, being more historic and representative exhibits of QGR steam power.

A scanned photo view of No.444 near the entrance to the Ipswich Railway Workshops Museum. 17 November 2002

P815 No.444 taking water while on a tour train to Beaudesert, photo courtesy of Anthony Winstone.

The train consists of clerestory coaches which I believe remain part of the heritage fleet.

Interesting it had a stovepipe chimney at that stage, but earlier cast-iron lipped variety by time preserved at Redbank.



Armstrong, J. 'Locomotives in the Tropics - Volume 1

(Queensland Railways 1864 – 1910)’,

published by the ARHS Queensland Division, 1985.


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

(Queensland Railways 1910 – 1958 and beyond)’,

published by the ARHS Queensland Division, 1994.


‘Locomotives of Australia 1854 to 2010’ (Fifth Edition, 2010),
by Leon Oberg, published by Rosenberg Publishing Pty Ltd.


Wikipedia page for PB15 class, retrieved 28 September 2020.


Information provided by J. Salomon via email,

29 February 2020

Page updated: 6 December 2020

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