These versatile engines were a superheated version of the earlier built C16s. The class eventually contained more engines and was built over a longer period than any other type on QR. Five builders constructed 227 engines between 1920 and 1953. Commonwealth Railways used this design for their NM Class.

The first engine, N°15 was built by Ipswich Workshops and entered service on 12th August 1920. This low road number was due to a policy in force at the time to reuse numbers off recently condemned locomotives. Increasing traffic and the completion of the North Coast Railway linking Brisbane with Cairns in 1924 created a demand for additional motive power. To meet this shortage, 143 C17 Class locomotives were constructed by 1929. Such was the urgency for new motive power, that the government of the day awarded one contract to a UK firm for 20 locomotives, contrary to its policy that supported local manufacturers. Onset of the Great Depression and consequent reduced loading then subdued the need for any additional motive power. Indeed, many of the existing engines were placed in storage. As the economy slowly recovered, Ipswich produced a further six locomotives in 1938. These incorporated a number of new features similar to those introduced on the most recently completed batch of B18¼ engines. Increased traffic during World War 2 saw the Commissioner for Railways seek to obtain a further 60 members of the class. Wartime exigencies prevented this being achieved and ultimately resulted in the importation of 20 AC16 Class engines from America and delivery of 23 of the ill-fated Australian Standard Garratts that had been developed under auspices of the Commonwealth Land Transport Board. Unfortunately, neither of these acquisitions had the availability or versatility of the C17 Class. Walkers Limited delivered the next six C17s in 1945 and post war orders were placed for a further 66. The last engine of the class, N°1000, entered service on 21st September 1953.

The engines built up until 1929 had large steam domes, open cabs and C16 style tenders. Those constructed from 1938 onwards, commencing with N°858, had small steam domes, sedan cabs with welded tenders and also larger diameter (9½”) piston valves. The two types of boilers were occasionally interchanged at overhauls and by later years most of the old-style ones had been replaced. The last 40 engines, N°961 to N°1000, were fitted with roller bearings and painted brown with green lining. They acquired the nick name of “Brown Bombers” after world champion boxer Joe Lewis. Those overhauled in the last years of steam operations were repainted black. The fitting of large mushroom air snifting valves above the cylinders was possibly the most obvious of numerous modifications that were carried out to most members of the class during their long working lives. Several also had additional sandboxes and/or rear headlights fitted at various times for working branch lines where no turning facilities were available.

They were used to haul Mail Trains on lines could not accommodate heavier (B18¼) classes, also suburban passenger, mixed, goods and branch line trains. Until 1948 they were the heaviest engines that could work north of Mackay. Prior to the introduction of 60ton Diesel Electric Locomotives, they were responsible for hauling the air-conditioned Inlander, Midlander and Westlander air-conditioned trains for parts of their respective journeys. The engines had wide availability and by 1960 were still the heaviest locomotives that could operate on 85% of the system. Despite being designed to run on 41¼ and 42lb rails they were regularly used on the heavier main lines. Here, they acquitted themselves well with goods and passenger trains at moderate speeds. They were capable of hauling approximately 90% of a B18¼ loads on goods trains but owing to their limited boiler capacity this figure was considerably less on passenger trains that ran to tight schedules on sections with long uphill grades. Due to their short travel valves, they were hard pressed to attain speeds much above 45mph. Until 1967, they were rostered to work the South Western Mail between Warwick and Dirranbandi. This involved a single engine working a return trip of 513miles (826km) in a little over 24 hours.

The class was considered to be reliable by the administration and was generally popular with their crews although they could be uncomfortable to ride on at higher speeds. The first engine was written off in 1952 after 31 years’ service. Over 200 members of the class were still on the register in 1960. Strengthening of some lines and increasing numbers of diesels saw them gradually relegated to less important roles although it was not unusual for Ipswich to use one to substitute for an unavailable B18¼ or BB18¼ on Brisbane suburban passenger trains as late as 1967. After the commencement of Moura coal traffic and before the rearrangement of Gladstone yard, C17 engines were used to haul coal trains from the yard to the unloading facilities at the wharf. This involved moving loads in excess of 1000 tons. Engines used for this work were the only QR steam locomotives to be fitted with two-way radios. Nineteen were still in service in November 1969; ten at Ipswich, eight at Mackay and one at Maryborough. The last 34 members of the class were written off the books in 1970 although several of them continued to be used around Ipswich for shunting and departmental purposes until March 1972.

An ‘improved C17’, with a 2-8-2-wheel arrangement, was designed after World War 2 incorporating features of both the existing C17 and AC16 engines. Approval was granted for eighteen of these new CC17 engines to be built at Ipswich Workshops. Construction began in 1950 but at a retarded rate because of post war material shortages and the heavy repair programme. With increasing interest now centred on diesel traction the venture gradually lost its priority. Some components were built but no major assembly work was completed and by 1953 the project was abandoned.

Builder N° Built Construction Period
Ipswich Railway Workshops  16 1920-22, 1938
Walkers Limited, Engineers, Maryborough, Qld  138 1920-23, 1927, 1929, 1945-46, 1948, 1950-53 
Evans, Anderson, Phelan & Co, Brisbane 28 1921-23, 1925-27
Sir W G Armstrong Whitworth & Co, UK 25 1927
Clyde Engineering Co, Granville, NSW 20 1948-50
TOTAL 227 1920 – 1953



  • Wheel arrangement


  • Cylinders (diameter X stroke) ins. (4)

    17 X 22

  • Rigid Wheel Base


  • Length over Buffers


  • Coupled Wheels diameter ins.


  • Axle Load

    8.3 original | 9.2 from 1935 modification | 8.7 from 1938 design | 8.9 Roller Bearing

  • Boiler Pressure psi

    160 original | 1.75 from 1935 modification |

  • Heating Surface of tubes - sq feet

    823 original | 733 from 1935 modification | 733 from 1938 design | 763 Roller Bearing

  • Heating Surface total - sq feet

    1000 original | 951 from 1935 modification | 951 from 1938 design | 909 Roller Bearing

  • Grate area - sq feet


  • Weight - adhesive - tons

    33.1 original | 35.5 Roller Bearing

  • Weight Engine

    44.9 original | 48 Roller Bearing

  • Coal capacity - tons

    4.5 original | 8 from 1935 modification | 7.35 from 1938 design

  • Tractive Effort - lbs. (85%)

    19215 original | 21016 from 1935 modification

  • Factor of Adhesion

    3.86 original | 3.53 from 1935 modification | 3.53 from 1938 design | 3.79 Roller Bearing

  • Valve Gear


  • WH Pump

    10 X 10⅝

  • Brake Valve

    No 4 original | No 4 from 1935 modification | A6-ET from 1938 design | A6-ET Roller Bearing

Zig Zag Railway

C17 N° 934

QR suffered heavily due to the huge demands placed on it during the crisis years of World War 2 and traffic remained at an unexpectedly high level in the immediate post war period. Maintenance that had been deferred during the war was beyond the capacity of the railway’s own workshops and the unprecedented step was taken to let out some of this work to private engineering firms. The immediate need for new locomotives resulted in orders being placed with interstate and overseas manufacturers, contrary to government policy. One of these contracts was awarded to Clyde Engineering Co at Granville NSW.

N°934 was the 501st locomotive constructed by that firm at a cost of ₤18,584/3/3 ($1,206,497.60 at today’s value). It was partially dismantled for railing to Queensland where it was reassembled and entered service on 13th October 1949. The engine was initially allotted to Rockhampton and later transferred to Mackay; both depots being in the Central Division. During its time in this division, it received five general overhauls and one partial overhaul at Rockhampton Workshops. On the first of these workshop visits in 1953 the engine was painted brown with green lining. She was subsequently repainted black in accordance with the instruction that this colour scheme was only intended for roller bearing engines.

The engine was heavily utilized in its early life and during the first five years amassed over half of its total mileage. The highest monthly mileage of 5693 (9162km) was achieved in September 1950. Most of the engines attached to Mackay depot were used for seasonal sugar traffic. Outside the busy sugar season many were placed in temporary storage for periods of up to six months. Engine N°934 was no exception and spent parts of 1958, 1961, 1963, 1965 and 1966 stored out of use. The engine travelled to Ipswich for its final overhaul in 1967. Here it received a repaired boiler ex engine N°932 and tender from N°929. She completed a successful trail on 14th December 1967 and then was placed in storage.

By then increasing numbers of diesels resulted in a surplus of steam locomotives and N°934 remained in store until being written off in October 1969 after achieving a total mileage of 453,287 (729495km). Although officially removed from the register she was subsequently used for some excursion train working and was one of the class members retained for shunting and departmental purposes around Ipswich until March 1972. She was sold to Zig Zag Railway in 1975.

C17 N°966

Engine N°966 was the 503rd locomotive built by Walkers Limited at a cost of ₤20,320/4/11 ($1,319,205.42 in today’s values). She was the sixth engine in the final batch of 40 locomotives of the class to be constructed. After completing successful trials, the engine was issued to traffic on 9th August 1950 and allotted to Townsville in the Northern Division. Being one of the new roller bearing engines, it was a valuable asset to the depot and used initially on important trains such as the Sunshine Express on the final leg of its journey to Cairns. These duties enabled the engine attaining high mileages, so much so that it needed its first workshop attention after just two years’ service. Another overhaul became due in May 1955.

There was an unscheduled visit to Townsville Workshops at the end of that year due to damage sustained in a collision with C17 N°975 at Torrens Creek on 15th December 1955. These repairs caused the engine to be out of service until 29th June 1957.

C17s were then the heaviest engine able to work beyond Hughenden on the Great Northern Railway to Mount Isa. Dieselization of that section at the end of 1964 greatly reduced their workload and several engines, including N°966, were placed in store in 1965. She returned to service for a brief period until May 1966 after which she remained out of use for the following 2½ years. During this period, she underwent her final overhaul at Townsville. On 13th November 1968, she was returned to service and was transferred to the Central Division. She was attached to Mackay Depot and continued to work until being withdrawn at Rockhampton in December 1969 after running a total of 472,522 miles (760450km).

N°966 was donated to the Livingstone Shire Council for display in a park at Cooee Bay, Yeppoon in June 1970 but was later acquired by the Capricornian Historical Steam Train Association and moved to Archer Park Rockhampton. She was obtained by Zig Zag Railway in 1995 and is yet to be restored

Other Locomotives

10 Class

10 Class Diesel Hydraulic Locomotives

AC16 C16 Tender

AC16 Class Locomotives

BB18 Class Locomotives

BB18¼ Class Locomotives

Beyer Garratt Locomotives

C17 Locomotive

C17 Class Locomotives


DD17 Class Locomotives