Qunaba Mill No.4 ‘Jumbo’

Australian Sugar Cane Railway, Bundaberg

My visit to the Australian Sugar Cane Railway on 27 December 2004 found Qunaba Mill No.4 ‘Jumbo’ in dry storage at the rear of the Running Shed.

The loco appeared complete and generally a good candidate for restation, but I understand it requires firebox remediation.


Bundaberg Foundry Engineers Ltd

(now Bundaberg Walkers Engineering Ltd)

Builder’s Number & Year

1 of 1952

Wheel Arrangement



The Bundy Fowler locos

The well-known manufacturer John Fowler & Co, Leeds, UK built many steam locomotives for the Australian sugar cane industry, where their locomotives were held in high regard. In 1935, John Fowler & Co made a strategic decision cease manufacture of steam locomotives in favour of internal combustion designs, leaving a market gap in the Australian sugar industry where there was still demand for steam traction. Stepping in to fill this gap were Australian companies Perry Engineering in Adelaide, and Bundaberg Foundry Engineers Ltd (Bundaberg Foundry) leveraging their established heavy engineering business serving the cane mills of Queensland’s Burnett Region and beyond.

By 1948, Bundaberg Foundry had obtained firm orders from various mills for 8 steam locomotives based on recent John Fowler & Co designs operating in Queensland, in particular 0-6-2T ‘Airdmillan’ (Fowler b/n 20763 of 1935), and with modernisations such as roller-bearing axles. It seems a licence was eventually negotiated with John Fowler & Co, but steel supply proved problematic in the post-war years and the first loco was not completed until 1952. A single 0-4-2T version was among the 8 constructed. These antipodean Fowler cousins became known as ‘Bundy Fowlers’ and were not only among the last steam locomotives built in Australia, but also among the last in revenue service – with all 8 Bundaberg-Fowler steam locomotives ultimately passing into preservation.

John Browning & Brian Webber have written a comprehensive and well-illustrated account of the various steam and diesel locomotives built or reconstructed by Bundaberg Foundry Engineers Limited in ‘Built by Bundaberg Foundry’ as referenced below. Rather than repeat the information provided in that authorative work, I have sought here to provide a brief background to the Bundy-Fowler steam locomotives and their preservation careers.

Qunaba Mill No.4 ‘Jumbo’

First-built of the 8 Bundy Fowler locos was a 0-6-2T unit, whose builder’s plate proclaimed ‘Bundaberg Fowler No.1 1952, Built by Bundaberg Foundry’. It was ordered by Mulgrave Central Mill at Gordonvale in far north Queensland (south of Cairns), but that mill dieselised its loco fleet as early as 1955 and hence the Bundy Fowler loco was sold after only 3 years of use, moving back to the Bundaberg area at Millaquin Mill, situated near the Burnett River, where it became No.1 in their loco fleet.

In 1975 the loco moved to nearby Qunaba Mill. (The intriguing name ‘Qunaba’ is derived from Queensland National Bank, which owned the mill at one stage.) At Qunaba Mill it became No.5 ‘Jumbo’ on the mill roster, being renumbered to No.4 in 1977, and remaining in service until as late as 1980. It was then stored at Millaquin Mill for a few years.

Around 1985, No.4 ‘Jumbo’ was plinthed outside the nearby Bundaberg Rum distillery. In 2002 a change in fortunes came when the loco was donated to the Bundaberg Steam Tramway Preservation Society (BSTPS) in recognition of being the first steam locomotive built in Bundaberg. No.4 ‘Jumbo’ moved to the BSTPS workshops on 1 February 2002 and was placed in dry storage. I understand the plan was to commence restoration works in 2019, but apparently expensive firebox work is needed.

The Australian Sugar Cane Railway is located within the Bundaberg Botanical Gardens and operated by the Bundaberg Steam Tramway Preservation Society. I greatly enjoyed my visit there during the heat and humidity of a Christmas holiday on 26 & 27 December 2004, receiving a warm welcome by Society volunteers who kindly showed me around their operation and running shed. I understand the railway loop around the Botanical Gardens has since been extended to provide a longer journey.

Ross Driver kindly provided this photo of No.4 ‘Jumbo’ leading No.2 ‘Skipper’ working hard double heading a load of cane up Johnson's Hill into Qunaba Mill circa 1977.

The yellow & red livery was a feature of the Qunaba Mill locomotives, whereas the Bundy Fowlers carried Hawthorn Green when first built.

Ross also provided this 1974 photo of No.4 ‘Jumbo’ waiting in a loop for another cane train to pass.

Ross is driving No.4 while his younger brother is the driver of the approaching train.



Light Railway Research Society of Australia Inc. Web site

(Retrieved 3 November 2018):

'Preserved Australian Sugar Cane Locomotives' list by John Browning



Website for Bundaberg Walkers Engineering Ltd,

retrieved 12 September 2022


Browning J. & Webber B.

‘Built by Bundaberg Foundry’, published 2012 by the

Australian Narrow Gauge Railway Museum Society, Woodford QLD

ISBN 978-0-9596009-4-0


'Light Railways - Australia's Magazine of Industrial & Narrow Gauge Railways',

Number 164, April 2002,

published by Light Railway Research Society of Australia Inc.


Australian Sugar Cane Railway website (History page),

retrieved 3 August 2022


Information sheet provided by the Bundaberg Steam Tramway Preservation Society and discussions with members during my visit of 26 & 27 December 2004.

Page updated: 11 December 2022

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