First Class
Second Class
Composite (both 1st and 2nd class accommodation)
Water wagon
Parlour car
Guards vans for goods trains
U or X
Guards compartment with brake.

And when you put the letters together for wooden carriages:

  • AAS 1st Corridor Sleeper Lav
  • AL 1st Corridor Lav
  • AL/F 1248 Food Car
  • BBV Econ Brake
  • BC Baggage Car
  • BL Econ Corridor Lav
  • BLV Econ Lav Brake
  • BU Suburban
  • BUV Suburban Brake
  • CL Composite Lav
  • CLV Composite Lav Brake
  • DAS 1st Sleeper Lav
  • DC/G Griddle Car
  • TDV Drover’s Brake van (Steel) with periscope
  • TGV Goods Brake van (Steel) with periscope
  • TGVH Goods Brake van (Steel) with periscope
  • TGVS Goods Brake van (Steel) with periscope

The Sydney Mail for over 40 years was Queensland’s crack train, and it deserves a study on its own.

Sydney Mail hauled by BB18 1/4 1077, passes the Gorge Tank.

With the opening of both gauges to the border, it began running with the following timetable:

Southbound Northbound
Stations Time Stations Time
Brisbane dep 7.00 p.m. Sydney dep 5.20 p.m.
Toowoomba a/d 12.25-35 a.m. Wallan-garra a/d 4.30-5 p.m.
(next day)
Warwick a/d 4.00-10 a.m. Stanthorpe a/d 6.20 p.m.
Stanthorpe a/d 6.20-25 a.m. Warwick a/d 8.40-9.15 p.m.
Wallan-garra a/d 7.45-8.15 a.m. Toowoomba a/d 12.35-50 a.m.
Sydney arr 6.48 am
(next day)
Brisbane arr 6.15 a.m.

About 1894, with ship travel still more popular, the timetable was improved to one which has operated without substantial change ever since. After the introduction of the C-16 class engine, the timetable was modified slightly as the 1907 schedule indicates:

Southbound Northbound
Stations Time Stations Time
Brisbane dep 7.10 a.m. Sydney dep 5.10p.m.
Toowoomba a/d 11.55-12.15 p.m. Wallan-garra a/d 11.00-35a.m. (next day)
Warwick a/d 2.47-54 p.m. Stanthorpe a/d 12.34p.m.
Stanthorpe a/d 4.40 p.m. Warwick a/d 2.09-4 p.m.
Wallan-garra a/d 5.45-6.10 p.m. Toowoomba a/d 4.46-5.06 p.m.
Sydney arr 11.10 am (next day) Brisbane arr 9.25 p.m.

Stanthorpe a/d 4.40 p.m. Warwick a/d 2.09-16p.m. Wallan-garra a/d 5.45-6.10 p.m. Toowoomba a/d 4.46-5.06p.m. Sydney arr 11.10 am (next day) Brisbane arr 9.25 p.m.

The Queensland journey had been accelerated by two hours on the up and three on the down, with only 8 stops between Wallan-garra and Toowoomba on the down trip. A further acceleration occurred when the first B17 class engines arrived in 1911. Then in 1915, the C18 class including the two named engines Sir William and Lady MacGregor took over. These were built specially for the Sydney Mail with the object of eliminating the need for PB15 class assistance over the Little Liverpool and Main Ranges and to Dalveen.

New sets of carriages were built and entered service in 1923 to form the two Sydney Mail sets were: AL 1036, AL 1037, BL 1040, BL 1041, BL 1042, CL 1046 and PARL 1048 entered service in November, and AL 1038, AL 1039, BL 1043, BL 1044 BL 1045, CL 1047 and PARL 1049 entered service in December. (BL 1040 is now owned by SDSR)

(AL = First Class, BL = Second Class, CL = Both First and Second Class, and PARL = Parlour Car).

The timetable in 1924 was:

Southbound Northbound
Stations Time Stations Time
Brisbane dep 8.05 p.m. Sydney dep 2 p.m. & 3.30 p.m.
Toowoomba a/d 12.10-30 p.m. Wallan-garra a/d 8.40 & 9.07-9.30am
Warwick a/d 2.54-3.04 p.m. Stanthorpe a/d 10.27 a.m.
Stanthorpe a/d 4.55 p.m. Warwick a/d 11.55-12.03 p.m.
Wallan-garra a/d 5.55-6.17 & 6.40pm Toowoomba a/d 2.20-2.40 p.m.
Sydney arr 11.25 a.m. & 1.10 p.m. Brisbane arr 6.40 p.m.

The first Pacific B18 class engine No.84 made a successful trial run to Toowoomba on the Sydney Mail on 28th July, 1926.

After the opening of the New South Wales North Coast line to South Brisbane via Kyogle, the Limited Express on the New South Wales side of the border was withdrawn and the Queensland ‘sweeper’ service cut back to Warwick to below the range. There was still some overcrowding as railwaymen on passes were not allowed on the Kyogle route for some time.

In 1945, the timetable read:

Southbound Northbound
Stations Time Stations Time
Brisbane dep 7.45 p.m. Sydney dep 1.15p.m.
Toowoomba a/d 12.05-30 p.m. Wallan-garra a/d 8.27-55 a.m. (next day)
Warwick a/d 3.01-2 p.m. Stanthorpe a/d 10.06 a.m.
Stanthorpe a/d 5.07-12 p.m. Warwick a/d 11.58-12.10 p.m.
Wallan-garra a/d 6.22-7.02 p.m. Toowoomba a/d 2.34-3.00 p.m.
Sydney arr 1.25 p.m. (next day) Brisbane arr 7.05 p.m.

The service postwar was reduced to four, then three per week and even two during a New South Wales Railways’ economy drive between 1957 and 1960. Little further change in timetable occurred until ‘dieselisation’, the times now being:

Southbound Northbound
Stations Time Stations Time
Brisbane dep 8.15 a.m. Sydney dep 3.10 p.m.
Toowoomba a/d 12.03-28 p.m. Wallan-garra a/d 7.23-55 a.m. (Tu, Th, Sa)
Warwick a/d 2.30-40 p.m. Stanthorpe a/d 8.59 a.m.
Stanthorpe a/d 4.25 p.m. Warwick a/d 10.45-54 a.m.
Wallan-garra a/d 5.30-6.15 p.m. Toowoomba a/d 12.47-1.26 p.m.
Sydney arr 9.59 a.m. (We, Fr, Su) Brisbane arr 5.15 p.m.

There were frequent disagreements between the two Administrations as the trains were more important to Queensland than to New South Wales, which however had to run twice as far and so services have always been adjusted to fit in with the Southern State. Thus, running three times weekly, the Queensland Railways had to use two sets of coaches to run less than half the mileage that New South Wales was able to run with one. It was a long struggle to get agreement for trains to leave each capital on Saturdays, although when introduced in 1905, it was quite popular.

Until 1930, the service saw the best of Queensland’s rolling stock including parlour cars with revolving chairs and all the latest known features when built in 1910.

Another new train was built in Ipswich to replace one burnt out at Wallan-garra in January, 1913 – perhaps the most serious carriage fire in the state. Small buffets for light refreshments were included, manned by the conductors, but these facilities were withdrawn in 1930. Station staff along the line were asked to water platforms to avoid dust nuisance to passengers. Apart from the parlour cars, these distinctive Sydney Mail trains ran to Wallan-garra for over 60 years, and they were a delight to the passenger wishing to view the mountain scenery in fresh air.

Type: C17
Built: Betwwen 1920 – 1953
Builders: Ipswich Railway Workshops – (16 units)
Walkers Ltd – (138 units)
Evans Andersons and Phelan – (28 units)
Armstrong, Whtworth & Co. – (25 units)
Clyde Engineering – (20 units)
Weight: 56.8t (engine + tender when empty) 82.9t (engine + ender when full)
Length: 16.3m
Width: 2.620m
Height: 3.8m
Boiler pressure: 7,206 kPa
Tractive effort: 93.4kN
Coal: 8.13t
Water: 13,865l
Driving wheels: 1.14m in diameter
Grate area: 1.719 sqm
Valve gear: Walschaerts
Gauge: 1,065mm gauge (3ft 6in)

Queensland Steam Locomotive codes are derived from the number of drive wheels and the size of the cylinders.

  • “A” denotes that the engine has 4 driving wheels, (2 on each side),
  • “B” that the engine has 6 driving wheels (3 on each side), and
  • “C” has eight driving wheels (4 on each side).

The number after the letter is the cylinder size in inches. Thus C17, is a steam locomotive with 8 driving wheels and a 17″ cylinder. (Aren’t we glad that QR didn’t recode their locomotives when decimalization was introduced, other wise it would now be called a C432.)

No.971 is the nine hundred and seventy first steam locomotive built for Queensland Railways!

A total of 227 C17’s were built for use on Queensland Railways. These locomotives were built by various makers both in Australia and overseas. The design was also used by the Commonwealth Railways which operated on the Central Australian narrow gauge railway, (“The Old Ghan”) to Alice Springs. The first C17s entered service in the 1920s. In 1938 an updated version was introduced, which had a bigger sedan type cab and other changes.

The main reason so many of this class were constructed was that it was the most powerful form of conventional locomotive that could run on Queensland tracks, regardless of the limitations of axle loading.

In June and November 1947 contracts were let to Walkers Ltd, Maryborough Queensland, for a total of 40 more C17 locomotives, with Timken Roller Bearings fitted to all axles. These locomotives began entering service in 1950.

The Walkers Ltd engines were all painted in a medium brown colour scheme with willow green lining on the footboards, and tender edges, a black smokebox and red buffer beams. They had polished brass bands around the boiler. The engines were nicknamed ‘Brown Bombers’ after the world heavyweight boxing champions of the time, Joe Louis.

The C17 class of locomotive was an improved superheated version of the C16 class goods locomotive, which appeared in 1903.

The C17 locomotive being overall the most numerous class of Queensland engine and was also possibly its most versatile. It worked almost any train in Queensland, be it suburban passenger, goods train, shunter or even hauling air-conditioned trains in western Queensland.