North Eton Mill No.4

Originally War Department No.327


North Eton Mill No.4 stored at the North Eton Mill site in approximately 1998.

The front rail guard can be seen below the front coupler, together with the extended smokebox and slender Hunslet chimney.

A modern electric headlight is mounted front and rear; service photos show a Stones generator had sat above the left side tank.

This photo was kindly contributed by Mark Gough.



Hunslet Engine Company Ltd,
Leeds, England

Builder’s Number & Year

1239 of 1917

Wheel Arrangement



This locomotive is one of 155 ‘War Office’ class 4-6-0T locomotives constructed by Hunslet for the British Army for use on the War Department Light Railways supplying the front-line during World War 1. The design is an evolution of an earlier Hunslet 0-6-0T type, with extended frames and an added 4-wheel bogie to provide a low axle-load suitable for quickly-laid light railway. An interesting design feature is the front & rear rail-guard just above rail height, which assisted to clear debris & obstructions from the rail, and provide a low ‘drop height’ in the event of derailment so the engine was more likely to stay upright and could be quickly re-railed.

This locomotive carried the number 327 in War Department service. At the end of hostilities it returned from France and was overhauled by Hunslet during 1919, becoming available for purchase as war surplus via the War Stores Disposal Board. In 1920 it was sold into the Australian sugar-cane industry, one of 15 War Office Hunslets acquired via the Engineering Supply Company of Australia (ESCA) in two batches in 1920 and 1924. It became No.4 on the roster of the North Eton Sugar Mill, near Mackay in Queensland’s tropical north. During 44 years of cane haulage duties it received a number of modifications including an extended smokebox, boiler & tank repairs, and addition of electric light equipment. The cab was altered by removal of the rear spectacle plate and addition of an extended roof, presumably for improved staff amenity in tropical heat and downpours!

North Eton Mill No.4 was retired around 1964 and plinthed in Langford Park, Eton. Here is was displayed under a weather roof as part of a local war memorial display. Unfortunately the loco was deteriorating in the tropical air and was relocated in 1997 to the old North Eton Mill site for secure storage. During mid-2005 it was donated to The Workshops railway museum and relocated to their Ipswich site. After a period of storage it has now been meticulously restored to its original War Department configuration, with short smokebox, enclosed cab and riveted side tanks. North Eton No.4 can now be found displayed in the main exhibition area in immaculate condition and painted in matt black livery as War Department No.327.

Robert Shiels has written an excellent & well illustrated history of this locomotive, together with the Hunslet War Office class 4-6-0T locomotives and the World War 1 trench supply railways, in Light Railways magazine of June 2018 (Number 261).

A rear view of No.4 stored at North Eton Mill site around 1998. The rear rail guard can be seen.

North Eton Mill modifications are evident; the cab rear spectacle plate has been removed and the cab roof extended.

At this stage the loco had one side tank of riveted construction, and the other welded!

This photo was kindly contributed by Mark Gough.



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

Number 261, June 2018, published by Light Railway Research Society of Australia Inc.

Article ‘Hunslet locomotive 1239 (WD327) on the Western Front and in Queensland’

By Robert Shiels.


Light Railway Research Society of Australia Inc. Web site

(retrieved 30 September 2018):

'Preserved Australian Sugar Cane Locomotives' list

by John Browning (


Wikipedia page for Hunslet Engine Company Ltd,

retrieved 30 September 2018

Page updated: 14 October 2018

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