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Steam locomotive No.1243

Built in 1882, Locomotive 1243 is one of eight mainline steam passenger engines built in Sydney for the New South Wales Government Railways at the Atlas Engineering Works to the design of Messrs Beyer Peacock & Co. of Manchester, England. With a wheel arrangement of 4-4-0, the locomotive is referred to as an Australian eight wheeler, designed for Australian conditions and built in Australia to encourage local industry. In all sixty-eight "Australian eight wheeler" locomotives were …


Object No.


Object Statement

Locomotive, full size, steam, No.1243, metal / glass, made by Davey and Company, Atlas Engineering Works, Hay Street West, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1882

Physical Description

Locomotive, full size, steam, No.1243, metal / glass, made by Davey and Company, Atlas Engineering Works, Hay Street West, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1882

The design of Locomotive 1243 was close to the British 23 class locomotives of the time with a short free steaming boiler and a high ratio of heating surface in relation to tractive effort. This made it ideal for relatively level roads. In keeping with the British 23 class, the locomotive had a raked smokebox and polished brass helmet dome with Salter safety valves. A different feature of the New South Wales-built engine is the leading four-wheel Bissel bogie, instead of a two-wheel pony truck which gave 20% more tractive effort.

The locomotive was modified in about 1899 to improve its steaming capacity. A Belpaire (flat top) boiler replaced the original round top boiler, the raked smokebox was made upright, and a standard cast funnel was added. Following this a new extended smokebox was installed in 1967.

The valve gear is internal of Stephenson's configuration and the Westinghouse brake pump is fitted to the left-hand side of the smokebox. Although originally a green livery the locomotive is now finished in black.


Builder: Davey and Company, Atlas Engineering Works, Hay Street West, Sydney
Date built: 1882
Type: tender type, standard gauge
Wheel arrangement: 4-4-0
Class: C-79 later Z12
Number in class: 68
Date in Service: 1882-1955
Tractive effort: 13 100 lbs (58 268 N)
Boiler pressure: 140 p.s.i. (965 kPa)
Cylinders (2): outside, 18 in x 24 in (457 mm x 609 mm)
Steam Pressure: 140 lbs (965 kPa)
Valve Gear: Stephenson's
Leading wheels: 36 in diameter (914 mm)
Driving wheels: 5 ft 6 in diameter (1 676 mm)
Heating surface: Firebox: originally 87 sq. ft (8 sq. m) later 94 sq. ft (8.7 sq. m)
Overall length: 27 ft 11 in (8.5 m)
Overall height: 13 ft 6 in (4.1 m)
Overall width: 9 ft (approx.) (2.7 m)
Brakes: Westinghouse
coal: 4.5 tons (4 600 kg)
water: 2000 gals (9 000 litres)



4120 mm


2550 mm



As the railway network in New South Wales expanded throughout the 1870s a greater demand for motive power was required to handle the increasing passenger and mail traffic. A special locomotive for use in Australia was subsequently designed in England by the locomotive manufacturers, Beyer, Peacock & Co. of Manchester based on the very successful British 23 class 4-4-0 tank locomotives which the company had supplied to the Metropolitan Railway in London. Herman Lange, works manager and successor to Charles Beyer who had founded the famous locomotive works, is said to have personally supervised the development of the "Australian eight wheeler".

Locomotive 1243 is one of sixty-eight 12-class locomotives which were manufactured by several companies for operation on the New South Wales railways to carry passengers and mail.

The first batch of 30 locomotives was built by Beyer Peacock and placed in service in New South Wales between 1877 and 1879. They were designated the 79 class. Although a few existing locomotives had been locally fitted with Westinghouse continuous air brakes, these were the first engines to have been imported with such brakes fitted.

The next batch of 26 locomotives was built by the Scottish firm of Dubs & Co. of Glasgow and were handed over to the New South Wales railways between 1880 and 1881. In 1881, a further four were built by Beyer Peacock. Then, in order to assist local industry, a contract for a further eight engines was awarded to Davey and Company, Atlas Engineering Works, of Hay Street West, Sydney. Locomotive 1243 was the second of these locomotives to be built at a cost of £3,343. Beyer Peacock's engine No. 125 was used as a pattern for its construction.



Locomotive 1243 was originally designated a 79 class engine and numbered 176. After much delay Locomotive 176 entered service in February 1882 initially working on the main express passengers lines and mail trains on the Great Southern and Western railways. The locomotive was originally given a green livery but in 1884 a sombre black paintwork was applied, apparently as a cost cutting measure by the railways, due to fading of the green paint.

After the opening of the Hawkesbury River railway bridge in 1889, 176 operated out of Newcastle and later Bathurst. The 79 class engines were the mainstay of the New South Wales expanding railway system for about 20 years but an inability to cope with gradients greater than 1:40 and the introduction of new more powerful engines, saw the 79 class locomotives moved to the more easily graded branch lines. In 1916, Locomotive 176 was transferred to Narrabri West, followed by Dubbo in 1923. In 1924 the locomotive classification system was altered in New South Wales and the 79 class locomotives was reclassified as Z12 locomotives and 176 was renumbered 1243. The locomotive was allocated to Nyngan in 1929, back to Dubbo in 1935 and Temora in 1939.

During World War II, Locomotive 1243 was transferred to Enfield in Sydney and leased to the United States Army for shunting duty at Regents Park. After the War it moved to Mudgee then Parkes and returned to Enfield in 1950 to serve as a wash out engine before returning to Narrabri West in 1952. By 1954 only 10 of the original sixty-eight 12 class engines remained in service. In 1955, 1243 was outshopped to Enfield where it was returned to its original green livery with a polished brass dome for display in the New South Wales Railways' Centenary celebrations at Sydney Central Station. The locomotive received so much attention and admiration that it was kept in working order for operation as a special excursion train and from 1960 became part of the official Vintage Train along with the Governor's carriage now displayed beside 1243 in the Museum. The Vintage Train undertook a variety of special train tours attending town centenaries and local government celebrations all over the State. This was originally overseen by the railways but later by the Railway Transport Museum at Thirlmere.

The locomotive achieved notoriety in 1969 when it featured in the film "Ned Kelly" and was repainted in its green livery and a cowcatcher added. The electric lamps were enclosed in kerosene lamp casings, to add authenticity, and the 1243 brass cab numbers were replaced by the original number 176. It continued in service with the Vintage Train until 1982 and was housed at the Rail Transport Museum at Thirlmere where the locomotive's present black livery was undertaken in 1978. Prior to permanent display in the Transport exhibition of the Powerhouse Museum in 1988 the rail museum prepared the locomotive for display by repainting it and removing the smokebox extension.

Locomotive 1243 was owned and operated by the New South Wales Government Railways. From the mid-1960s the locomotive was set aside for the Museum but was kept in storage at the Rail Transport Museum at Thirlmere from the 1970s. From 1988 Locomotive 1243 has been on permanent display in the Transport exhibition of the Museum.

A six-wheel tender, No. 208, displayed with the locomotive is not the original but dates from the same period. It was also restored at Thirlmere.

Cite this Object


Steam locomotive No.1243 2022, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 28 November 2022, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=Steam locomotive No.1243 |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=28 November 2022 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}