PB15 No.454

Bellarine Railway


My thanks to Roy Bird for contributing this view of PPB15 No.454 resting cold between running days at Queenscliff station.



Walkers Limited, Maryborough



Builder’s Number & Year

99 of 1909



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 A number were withdrawn in 1942 and 1943, but the balance lasted to the end of QGR steam operations, being withdrawn between 1967 and 1970.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.454 entered service with Queensland Government Railways in March 1909 and was written off in January 1970 after a working life of 60 years. No.454 was among the final handful of steam locomotives stored at Ipswich Workshops when tenders were called for their disposal during 1973, keeping company with No’s 440, 448, 531, 599 & Walschaerts example No.745. Of these, No.448 was sold to Brisbane enthusiasts and No.454 obtained by the Geelong Steam Preservation Society (GSPS), while the others were sold to Sims Metal and scrapped at Banyo in August & September 1973. No.454 arrived at the GSPS base at Belmont Common, Geelong in 1973 and featured in operations on their short running line in parkland alongside the Barwon River.

The nucleus of the GSPS steam locomotive collection are those donated by Australian Portland Cement Limited from their Fyansford cement works near Geelong, including two Beyer-Garratts and some interesting industrial locomotives. The GSPS quickly outgrew their operation at Belmont Common as their locomotive stable grew via interstate acquisitions, building a collection to represent the various 3’ 6” operators around Australia. Having outgrown their initial operations at Belmont Common, the GSPS turned their eyes to the Victorian Railways branch line from Geelong to Queenscliff on the Bellarine Peninsular, which closed in 1976. Being 5’ 3” gauge, the branch needed to be converted to 3’ 6” gauge, with the initial section completed by 1979 and operations later extended to Drysdale. The title of the Bellarine Railway members’ newsletter of the 1980’s had a wonderful pun referencing this gauge conversion: ‘Narrow-Minded’.

No.454 is a perfect size for Bellarine Railway tourist operations between Queenscliff and Drysdale. I have fond memories of this loco steaming along the picturesque shores of Swan Bay (an inlet from Port Phillip Bay) between Queenscliff and Lakers Siding, usually matched with a suitable set of ex-Queensland Railways passenger stock. 

After many years of running, alas No.454 was out of service and pending overhaul by March 2007. Inspection has revealed that a new boiler barrel and front tube plate is required, together with general repair and restoration. My visit to the Bellarine Railway on 10 October 2013 found No.454 (sans boiler) parked in the storage shed at Lakers Siding. Hopefully funds can be found for boiler rebuilding so that this sparkling performer can again ride the Bellarine rails.

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.

Side view of No.454 resting at Queenscliff shows some features of this attractive and well-proportioned loco:

Polished brass boiler bands, white-wall tyres and a tall ornate sand dome.

The loco displays some modernisations applied by QGR such as a boiler-mounted generator to supply the electric headlight.

A view onto the footplate reveals polished brass boiler cladding around the backhead.



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.


Information provided via email from David Price, 27 January 2011.


Sallis, R. ‘Australian Preservation of Narrow Gauge Railways’,

Published by Peacock Publications, Hyde Park, SA, 1979.


Wikipedia page for PB15 class, retrieved 28 September 2020.

Page updated: 7 December 2020

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