PB15 No.738

ARHS Rosewood Railway


PB15 No.738 in steam at the Rosewood Railway Museum, and sporting a fine vintage headlamp (which appears to surround a modern electric headlight).

This view was kindly contributed by Anthony Winstone and I believe dates from 1992, when the loco was newly restored to traffic.



Walkers Limited, Maryborough



Builder’s Number & Year

385 of 1926



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 A number were withdrawn in 1942 and 1943, but the balance lasted to the end of QGR steam operations, being withdrawn between 1967 and 1970. This preserved example PB15 No.738 entered service with Queensland Government Railways in May 1926 and was written off in October 1969 after a working life of 43 years.

The webmaster enjoyed a number of visits to the Rosewood Railway over the years, the first in 1996 on the return from a scuba-diving trip to the Great Barrier Reef. A guide book to the Rosewood Railway obtained on that visit provides some history for this locomotive. It was initially retained as part of the QGR heritage fleet, in company with sister No.732. In heritage duties it was fitted with a slender cast-iron chimney, acetylene headlamp and older whistle more in keeping with the original 1899 version of PB15. Apparently it required boiler repairs by 1977 and was withdrawn in August of that year, ultimately being determined as surplus to the requirements of the heritage fleet. The ARHS Queensland Division established the Rosewood Railway to provide a tourist railway with regular weekend operations, probably a worthwhile counterpoint to the rather sterile display of static plinthed locomotives at the former Redbank Railway Museum. No.738 was acquired by the ARHS Queensland Division for the Rosewood Railway, where it was delivered in 1985 with overhaul work beginning almost immediately. Restoration required the locomotive and tender to be completely dismantled down to the frames, with the wheels and motion removed for inspection and overhaul. The boiler was repaired and retubed, and a new welded tender tank built on the overhauled tender frame and bogies. Following extensive work by ARHS Queensland volunteers, the loco returned to steam in July 1992. No.738 is well suited to the lightly-laid tracks of the Rosewood Railway, a surviving portion of the former Marburg branch which served local towns and several small coal mines along the route. The Rosewood Railway section includes a stiff 1:50 uphill climb on the return from Cabanda, giving an opportunity for the driver to open the regulator and the steam loco to do some real work!

Alas the Rosewood Railway running days have ceased in recent years – apparently a reflection of the growing cost of insurance and regulatory requirements for heritage railway operations, coupled with an ageing volunteer base. I believe No.738 is securely stored at Rosewood and I hope a return to operations can be achieved in the future.

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.

This scanned photo of December 2002 shows No.738 resting at the Rosewood Railway, awaiting the next running day.

By this stage the loco sported a historically accurate stovepipe capuchion chimney, together with an electric headlight.

(Home-made rain covers are fitted over the chimney and tender bogie axle boxes.)

A second scanned photo view of No.738 resting between operating days at the Rosewood Railway. December 2002.



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.


Cash, G. ‘Rosewood Railway Museum, the remaking of a railway’

published by the ARHS Queensland Division, 1992.


Wikipedia page for PB15 class, retrieved 28 September 2020.

Page updated: 7 December 2020

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