South Australian Railways W class

The South Australian Railways W and Wx class was a class of 2-6-0 steam locomotives operated by the South Australian Railways. Some were used by the Commonwealth Railways in the Northern Territory and by contractors.

South Australian Railways W and Wx class
South Australian Railways W class loco no 34 and short mixed train, SE Div, ca 1880.jpg
A W class locomotive at the head of a short narrow‑gauge mixed train, about 1880
Type and origin
Power typeSteam
BuilderBeyer, Peacock & Co
Build date1877-1882
Total produced35
 • Whyte2-6-0
Gauge1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in)
Driver dia.3 ft 3 in (991 mm)
Height11 ft 4 in (3,454.4 mm)
Adhesive weight33,040 lb (14,987 kg)
Loco weight42,000 lb (19,051 kg)
Fuel typeCoal
 • Firegrate area
45 sq ft (4.2 m2)
Boiler pressureW: 130 psi (896 kPa)
Wx: 145 psi (1,000 kPa)
Heating surface544 sq ft (50.5 m2)
Cylinder size12 in × 20 in (305 mm × 508 mm)
Performance figures
Tractive effort8,159 lbf (36.29 kN)
Factor of adh.4.05
OperatorsSouth Australian Railways 1877–1929
Commonwealth Railways 1911–1950
PreservedW 53 (as North Australia Railway NF5) and Wx 18
Disposition1 destroyed in air raid, 32 scrapped, 2[needs update] preserved


The W class was the second class of locomotive built to the 2-6-0 (Mogul) wheel arrangement to be supplied to the South Australian Railways (SAR) – the first being the U class, of which there were only eight. The class eventually totalled 35 in number and saw service on every SAR narrow gauge line. The locomotives were first introduced in 1878 during a period of rapid expansion of the railway system.

The class were ordered as light goods locomotives for use on the expanding South Australian Railways 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) gauge lines, necessarily limited in size and weight by the lightweight 40 lb/yd rails used at the time.[1] The locomotives were built by Beyer, Peacock & Co. of Manchester.

Early W class units were used during construction of the Central Australia Railway between Port Augusta and Quorn in 1878 before entering revenue service with SAR. During their operational career, the locomotives were used within South Australia on the isolated Eyre Peninsula Railway, in the south east on now closed lines in the Kingston, Naracoorte and Mount Gambier areas as well as the line north from Port Augusta. Many were sold or leased to contractors and they were also used by the Railways Construction Branch.[2] Several of the locomotives were sold to C&E Millar and used for construction of the Palmerston and Pine Creek Railway in the Northern Territory and would continue to work the isolated line for the remainder of their operational lives.[3]

Wx and NF classesEdit

From 1903, the SAR began to rebuild W class locomotives with upgraded boilers increased to 145 psi (1,000 kPa) pressure, which improved the tractive effort to 8,566 lbf (38.10 kN).[1] 18 of the class were rebuilt and designated Wx class.

In 1911, administrative responsibility for the Northern Territory, including the Palmerston and Pine Creek Railway, was passed from South Australia to the Commonwealth. Five unmodified W class locomotives were transferred to Commonwealth Railways at the Parap railway workshops and designated NF class. The condition of these locomotives was such that W35 and W41 were stripped down and the parts from both used to make NF7 an operational locomotive. Commonwealth Railways purchased an additional two locomotives of the class in 1915 from private interests involved with building the Eyre Peninsula Railway.[4]

The W class as delivered, before the boiler upgrade that saw some of them classified as Wx (click to enlarge)

Withdrawal from serviceEdit

By 1929, unmodified W class units had been withdrawn from service by South Australian Railways and the majority sold for scrap. TW22 had been sold to Western Australian Government Railways in 1893 and was not withdrawn until 1958. W38, in private hands with Baxter and Saddler from 1896, was condemned in 1955. Several Wx class units were also withdrawn in 1929, but a small number endured until 1959[3] when the SAR's South-eastern Division narrow-gauge lines were converted to 1600 mm (5 ft 3 in).

The six units converted by Commonwealth Railways to NF class were withdrawn between 1928 and 1945; three worked on the North Australia Railway operating the line during World War II. NF6 was destroyed during the first Japanese air raid on Darwin in 1942[4] while shunting munitions on the Stokes Hill jetty. The locomotive was blown into the harbour and although both driver and fireman survived, the fate of NF6 remains unknown as it has never been located.[5][failed verification]


South Australian Railways W53, later Commonwealth Railways NF5, which operated on the North Australia Railway, at the National Trust's Pine Creek railway station museum

Two have been preserved:[needs update]

  • NF5 (W53) has been restored to operational condition at Pine Creek, Northern Territory. One of the earliest examples of the class, W53 was built in 1877 and was used on the construction of the Port Augusta–Quorn section of what became the Central Australia Railway; it was one of two W class purchased by Commonwealth Railways in 1915 and redesignated NF5 for use on the North Australia Railway. NF5 was withdrawn from service following the end of World War II and was preserved and displayed in several locations around Darwin,[4] before its eventual relocation to Pine Creek, where it was restored to operating condition as a Centenary of Federation project by the Pine Creek Community Government Council.[6]
  • Wx18 is stored at the Pichi Richi Railway, Quorn. It entered service in July 1879, was upgraded to Wx class in 1911, and in 1959 hauled the last narrow gauge goods train on the Kingston–Naracoorte line, where it had spent its operational life. It was displayed in Naracoorte until moved to Pichi Richi in July 1985. It is currently[when?] dismantled awaiting restoration.[3]


  1. ^ a b Llanso, Steve. "South Australian Railways 2-6-0 Locomotives". Archived from the original on 29 May 2012.
  2. ^ Webshots Archived October 28, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ a b c Drymalik, Chris. "Locomotive Information: Narrow Gauge W/Wx-class 2-6-0 locomotives". ComRails.
  4. ^ a b c Drymalik, Chris. "Locomotive Information: Narrow Gauge NF". ComRails.
  5. ^ "The Ex-SAR W or CR class NF in Darwin Habour [sic]". RailPage. 8 January 2012.
  6. ^ "Pine Creek". Katherine: Adventure Territory. Katherine Visitor Information Centre. Archived from the original on 2 February 2014.

External linksEdit

  Media related to South Australian Railways W class at Wikimedia Commons