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.
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.
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 A number were withdrawn in 1942 and 1943, but the balance
lasted to the end of QGR steam operations, being withdrawn between 1967 and
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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