Qunaba Mill ‘Nipper’

Australian Sugar Cane Railway, Bundaberg


No.3 ‘Nipper’ on duty at the Australian Sugar Cane Railway, Bundaberg Botanic Gardens on 26 December 2004.


Bundaberg Foundry Engineers Ltd

(now Bundaberg Walkers Engineering Ltd)

Builder’s Number & Year

3 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 locomotives, leaving a market gap in the Australian sugar industry where there was still demand for steam locomotives. 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 at Queensland mills, 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 and Brian Webber have written a comprehensive and well-illustrated account of the various steam and diesel locomotives built and 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 ‘Nipper’

‘Nipper’ is the only Bundy-Fowler not built to 0-6-2T configuration. While having the same boiler design as its sisters, it was instead devised as a 0-4-2T, apparently because Mourilyan Mill (south of Townsville) preferred that wheel arrangement and made this specification when placing their order with Bundaberg Foundry. The loco was No.8 on the Mourilyan Mill roster.

In the late 1960’s the loco returned to the Bundaberg area when sold to Millaquin Mill, remaining there until the mid-1970’s. It finished its working career at Qunaba Mill, Bundaberg, where it received the name ‘Nipper' and remained in traffic until 1979. (The intriguing name ‘Qunaba’ is derived from Queensland National Bank, which owned the mill at one stage.)

‘Nipper’ entered the sphere of railway preservation in 1981 when donated to the Bundaberg Steam Tramway Preservation Society, where it was restored to steam in November 1988. A new firebox and tubes were built and fitted by the Bundaberg Foundry in 1991. A further overhaul has followed in more recent years, after which Nipper was recommissioned in late 2014.

The Bundaberg Steam Tramway Preservation Society operate the Australian Sugar Cane Railway within the Bundaberg Botanical Gardens. 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 visitors with a longer journey.



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


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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