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Locomotive No. 1, Sydney, between 1858 and 1860. Photo: Stereoview by William Hetzer, between 1858 and 1860, Wikimedia Commons. This image is of Australian origin and is now in the public domain because its term of copyright has expired.

No. 1 Locomotive and carriages, Powerhouse Museum, Saturday, 17 December 2016.

Locomotive No. 1, New South Wales

David Matheson

9 December 2018

New South Wales is in the rare position of having its first locomotive preserved. Locomotive No. 1 is displayed in Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum. No. 1 was the class leader of the four 1 Class locomotives ordered by the Sydney Railway Company in 1853. It was built by Robert Stephenson & Company at Newcastle-on-Tyne in England.


1 Class Locomotives

The 1 Class locomotives were designed by James McConnell. McConnell was a Locomotive Superintendent with the London & North-Western Railway, and had been appointed as consulting engineer for the Sydney Railway Company. The locomotives were built with 0-4-2 wheel arrangement, and had a tractive effort of 8940 pounds (39.77 kN). The total weight of the engine and tender was 46 t, 9 c, 1 q (47.21 tonnes). No. 1 had the builder’s number 958.


The four 1 Class locomotives were painted in the same livery used by the London & North-Western Railway Company, which included Brunswick green along the boiler, Gulf red buffer beam, side rails, splashers, and footplate steps, black boiler bands, mainframe and buffers, and white line work.


The first two locomotives departed the manufacturer’s works in May 1854. They were partly dismantled, with some parts placed into packing cases before leaving London on the ship John Fielden on 21 September 1854. Also on board were a number of carriages. The John Fielden arrived in Sydney on 13 January 1855, but unloading of the locomotives did not commence until 27 February.


No. 1 had its first run on 26 April and was then used in ballasting work on the railway between Sydney and Parramatta, which was then under construction. It also hauled inspection trips along the line prior to its official opening. On the day of the official opening of the line on 26 September 1855, No. 1 was not operational as it required repairs.


Regular service

No. 1 initially operated in regular service between Sydney and Parramatta. As the railway system in New South Wales expanded it travelled to further destinations. The 1 Class locomotives operated a range of services, but mostly hauled goods trains. They did not have roofs when they first entered service but these were fitted when major repair work was undertaken around 1865.


During its working life No. 1 was involved in at least two accidents. On 10 July 1858 it was hauling a mixed train from Sydney to Parramatta. Two horse boxes were between the locomotive and the passenger carriages.  The leading horse box became derailed near Haslam’s Creek (now Lidcombe), causing the train to detach from the locomotive. Both horse boxes and three passenger carriages fell down an embankment. Two passengers were killed and others were injured. On 6 January 1868 No. 1 was involved in a rear-end collision at Newtown. It was hauling goods train when it collided with the rear of a passenger train, resulting in the death of one passenger and injuries to others.


Locomotive No. 1 was retired in 1877 after 22 years in service. Following its withdrawal it was stored on ‘Rotten Row’ at Eveleigh Locomotive Workshops, where old engines were placed prior to scrapping.



In 1884 No. 1 was given to the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences. It was initially displayed at the Agricultural Hall in the Domain before being moved into the museum’s new building in Harris Street, Ultimo, in 1893, where it remained until it was eventually placed in the Powerhouse Museum. On four occasions Locomotive No. 1 was taken out of the museum for special displays:

  • In 1905 it was displayed near Sydney station to mark the 50th anniversary of the railways in New South Wales. Around the same time it was hauled by rail to Canterbury to enable photographs to be taken.

  • Locomotive No. 1 was displayed as part of the Industrial and Model Exhibition at the Railway Institute near Sydney station in January 1917.

  • In 1938 the sesquicentenary of European settlement in New South Wales was marked and Locomotive No. 1 was placed on a plinth in Martin Place, Sydney. Unfortunately some of the original brass was stolen from the cab.

  • The centenary of railways in New South Wales was celebrated in 1955. There were extensive displays at Sydney Terminal station, including Locomotive No. 1 in the gardens out the front of the building.


In 1930 plans were announced for No. 1 to be recommissioned and driven across the Sydney Harbour Bridge on its opening day, but this never eventuated.


For many years there was debate about whether Locomotive No. 1 was actually Locomotive No. 2 or made up of parts of all four locomotives of its class. A significant restoration during the late 1970s involved stripping the locomotive down, cleaning and polishing it. The removal of grease and paint revealed that most parts of the locomotive had the builder’s number 958, indicating they were from Locomotive No. 1. Some parts were from the other members of the class, as a result of the practice many years earlier of replacing worn out parts with those from other engines when available.


A search of the Powerhouse Museum archives in 2005 uncovered correspondence which had previously been misplaced relating to the acquisition of Locomotive No. 1 by the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences in 1884. Included was a list of items missing from the locomotive when it was requested by the Museum in 1883, together with advice that the missing parts could be obtained from Locomotive No. 2. Therefore, information obtained in the 1970s and in 2005 indicated that the locomotive in the museum’s collection was indeed Locomotive No. 1.


Locomotive No. 1 was placed in the Powerhouse Museum when the first stage opened in 1981. In September 1987 it was moved to its current position within the expanded Powerhouse Museum prior to its opening in March 1988. It remains on display, along with three passenger carriages.



‘Fatal accident on the Great Southern Railway’, Empire, 12 July 1858, p. 4.

Forsyth, JH, Steam locomotive data, Public Transport Commission of New South Wales, Sydney, 1974.

Grunbach, A, A compendium of New South Wales steam locomotives, Australian Railway Historical Society, New South Wales Division, Sydney, 1989.

Hagarty, D, The building of the Sydney railway, Australian Railway Historical Society, New South Wales Division, Sydney, 2005.

‘Industrial exhibition’, Sydney Morning Herald, 16 January 1917, p. 8.

Oberg, L, Locomotives of Australia: 1854 to 2007, Rosenberg, Sydney, 2007.

‘Railway accident’, Sydney Morning Herald, 7 January 1868, p. 5.

Simpson, S, ‘Locomotive No. 1 - the first steam locomotive in New South Wales’, 2nd International & 13th National Engineering Heritage Conference, Sydney 21st - 23rd September 2005.

‘Railway accident’, Sydney Morning Herald, 16 July 1858, pp. 2, 4.

‘Sydney railway engines’, Sydney Morning Herald, 28 February 1855, p. 4.

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No. 1 locomotive and 3rd class carriage on display outside Central Station, Sydney, for the centenary of New South Wales railways in 1955. Photo: Ern McQuillan, Wikimedia Commons. No known copyright restrictions.


Cab of Locomotive No. 1, Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, 4 August 2018.

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