Racecourse Mill No.1

Port Milang Historic Railway Museum


Racecourse Mill No.1 stored at Kallangur / Murrumba Downs on 12 April 2003, with Triffids slowly encroaching!

The ‘Thomas’ blue livery acquired while plinthed in a Mackay Outer Harbour park is slowly fading.


John Fowler & Co, Leeds

Builder’s Number & Year

17683 of 1927 (loco)

17684 of 1927 (tender)

Wheel Arrangement



This locomotive was built by John Fowler & Co. Ltd, the famous Leeds builder of traction engines and small industrial locomotives, becoming No.1 on the roster at Racecourse Mill, near West Mackay. It was an unusual Fowler product as most of their 0-4-2 locos had a side tank configuration whereas this example was built with a tender, with its own builder’s number!

Photos of Racecourse Mill No.1 in service show the loco wore a handsome livery of unlined bottle green. It received a replacement boiler in 1953 before being withdrawn from service in 1965, after which it was stored at the mill for some years. In 1971 the loco was plinthed (sans tender) in Mulherin Park at Mackay Outer Harbour, ostensibly as playground equipment.

A change of circumstances came in 1993 when Racecourse No.1 was acquired by a private collector and stored at his industrial estate at Kallangur / Murrumba Downs, together with several other locos at that site. Meanwhile, the original tender also remained in existence, privately owned by a second party, and kept in the vicinity of Marian Mill.

A change in ownership for Racecourse No.1 came around 2007, following the passing of its previous owner. At this stage the loco moved to a recycled building materials site in Virginia, Brisbane, where it could be glimpsed sitting just inside the gates.

Apparently, the loco was sold again, and in October 2018, Racecourse No.1 was spotted in an industrial storage site at Kingswood in Sydney’s West, keeping company with ‘Sydney’ (Hudswell Clarke 1838 of 1950). Would it be too much to hope this latest move is the first step towards Racecourse No.1 being reunited with its tender and restored?

In May 2021, Racecourse No.1 moved to the Port Milang Historic Railway Museum in South Australia, who have since purchased the locomotive following fund raising. The Port Milang Historic Railway Museum website provides further information for Racecourse No.1 including original Fowler engineering drawings and a selection of very good photos showing the loco in operation at Racecourse Mill. According to their website, the locomotive is intended for cosmetic restoration - while it is missing many parts, loco restorers have proven anything can be replaced if sufficient labour and money can be found!

Note - Builder’s Number:

The builder’s number for this locomotive is recorded as Fowler b/n 17693 on the Light Railway Research Society of Australia web site 'Preserved Australian Sugar Cane Locomotives' list, as referenced below – and I had it listed as such on this site until October 2021 - but other references show the loco as Fowler b/n 17683, which is also recorded on the Leeds Engine Builders website & database. Therefore, I have now adjusted this site to also show b/n 17683.

Racecourse Mill No.1’s original tender (b/n 17684) also still exists in private ownership, and is stored in the vicinity of Marian Mill.

As can be seen, the original tender was a well-proportioned riveted job with attractive rolled edges, but corrosion has taken its toll.

This photo is dated March 2006 and was kindly contributed by Brett Geraghty.

Racecourse Mill No.1 as a park plaything at Mackay Outer Harbour (with the ugly forward sandboxes removed).

The loco has been painted in ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ inspired blue livery with red highlights and yellow ‘1’ on the cabside.

The cab doesn’t look like a Fowler original, but rather a more modern welded replacement.

This undated view was kindly contributed by Tom Badger.



Light Railway Research Society of Australia Inc. Web site

(Retrieved 1 October 2021):

'Preserved Australian Sugar Cane Locomotives' list by John Browning



Wikipedia page for John Fowler & Co,

retrieved 15 September 2018


Port Milang Historic Railway Museum website,

retrieved 1 October 2021


Leeds Engine Builders website & database,

John Fowler & Co search page, retrieved 1 October 2021

Page updated: 5 October 2021

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