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G Class steam locomotive G1, National Railway Museum, Port Adelaide, 18 January 2017.

Commonwealth Railways GM1 Class diesel locomotive GM2, National Railway Museum, Port Adelaide, 18 January 2017.

National Railway Museum

David Matheson

 11 October 2021

The National Railway Museum in Port Adelaide has a collection of steam and diesel locomotives, historic rolling stock and other displays. The majority of exhibits are from the former South Australian Railways and Commonwealth Railways, but private railway operators are also represented. The museum is open daily.


Some exhibits of particular interest at the National Railway Museum are:

  • South Australian Railways 500 Class 4-8-4 steam locomotive No. 504. William Webb was an American railway administrator who became Commissioner of South Australian Railways in 1922 and introduced several ‘big engine’ classes. The big engines were the largest locomotives operating in Australia when they were introduced, and included the 500 Class, 600 Class and 700 Class, each of which had ten members introduced to service in 1926. They were designed by South Australian Railways Chief Mechanical Engineer, Fred Shea, and built by Armstrong Whitworth & Company at Newcastle upon Tyne in England. No. 504 entered service on 18 October 1926. The 500 Class were used for freight and passenger service, and were regularly allocated to head The Overland express passenger train between Adelaide and Tailem Bend.

  • Commonwealth Railways G class 4-6-0 steam locomotive No. 1. G1 was the class leader of the Commonwealth Railways G Class, which were mainly used on the Trans-Australian Railway between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie. It commenced service on 2 March 1914. The G Class were based on the successful New South Wales P Class (C32 Class from 1924) locomotives. From the completion of the Trans-Australian Railway in 1917, the G Class were used on the Transcontinental Express, but in later years were relegated to goods trains, mixed trains and shunting work.

  • South Australian Railways 400 Class 4-8-2+2-8-4 steam locomotive No. 409 entered service on 6 September 1954, becoming the second last steam locomotive to begin service with South Australian Railways. To fulfil the need for more locomotive power following the Second World War, ten Beyer-Garratt locomotives were ordered from Beyer, Peacock and Company of Manchester, United Kingdom, who sublet the work to Societe Franco-Belge de Materiel des Chemins-de-Fer, of Raismes in France. Built for narrow gauge freight service, they were mainly used on the Broken Hill line between Port Pirie and Cockburn, on the New South Wales border. Impending dieselisation resulted in them having short working lives.

  • Silverton Tramway Company Y Class 2-6-0 steam locomotive No. 12. The Silverton Tramway Company operated a railway between the New South Wales city of Broken Hill and the New South Wales/South Australia border. Its main purpose was for carrying ore from the mines at Broken Hill to the smelters at Port Pirie in South Australia. The line had a length of 56 km. At the border, South Australian Railways locomotives hauled the trains to Port Pirie. Y12 was one of 19 Y Class engines ordered by the Silverton Tramway Company and entered service in 1893. They were identical to the Y Class locomotives in service with South Australian Railways. On 1 January 1915 a picnic train departed Broken Hill’s Sulphide Street station for Silverton, hauled by Y12. Two men started shooting at the train in a series of incidents that came to be known as the Battle of Broken Hill.

  • South Australian Railways 900 Class A1A-A1A diesel-electric locomotive No. 900 Lady Norrie. This locomotive became the first mainline diesel-electric locomotive to enter service on the Australian mainland when it was officially launched on 10 September 1951. It was built at Adelaide’s Islington Workshops using engines and electrical equipment supplied by English Electric. The 900 Class operated goods and passenger trains on main lines throughout South Australia. They remained in service until 1985.

  • South Australian Railways 930 Class Co-Co diesel-electric locomotive No. 930. Commencing service on 20 December 1955, No. 930 was the first locomotive in Australia to have an Alco engine. Hundreds more would follow. The first six members of the 930 Class had a single cab but subsequent orders had a cab at each end, with a total of 37 entering service following manufacture by A E Goodwin in Sydney. Their arrival assisted in the dieselisation of the Adelaide to Tailem Bend line, and they subsequently operated further east. They later came under the ownership of Australian National and operated to Broken Hill, Port Augusta and Whyalla.

  • South Australian Railways Rx Class 4-6-0 steam locomotive No. 93. The R Class locomotives commenced service in 1886 for mixed traffic on broad gauge lines. From 1899 to 1913, the R Class engines were fitted with larger and higher pressure Belpaire boilers and reclassified as the Rx Class. Orders were placed for a further 54 new Rx Class engines, bringing the total to 84, making them the most numerous broad gauge steam engines in South Australia. The R Class engines were very successful and worked a range of traffic on the main lines until displaced by larger engines in the 1920s. They continued to operate on branch lines, local and shunting services. No. 93 entered service on 29 March 1886 and was withdrawn in 1966.

  • South Australian Railways 700 Class 2-8-2 steam locomotive No. 702. Along with the 500 and 600 Classes, the 700 Class represented the ‘big engine’ power introduced by South Australian Railways in 1926. Designed by Chief Mechanical Engineer, Fred Shea, ten members of the 700 Class were built in Great Britain by the Armstrong Whitworth Company. Designed for mainline freight service, the 700 Class was able to haul 390 tons (396 tonnes) over Mount Lofty whereas the Rx Class that they replaced could only haul 190 tons (193 tonnes). No. 702 entered service on 20 September 1926 and was withdrawn from service in 1964.

  • Commonwealth Railways NM Class 4-8-0 steam locomotive No. 34. The NM Class was based on the Queensland Railways C17 Class, following the Commonwealth Railways practice of introducing steam locomotives based on designs that had proved successful elsewhere. Built by Thompson and Company of Castlemaine in Victoria, they became the mainstay of locomotive power on the Central Australia Railway between Port Augusta and Alice Springs until dieselisation in the 1950s. NM34 entered service on 2 July 1927 and continued in use at Quorn as a shunter and standby engine until 8 October 1967 when it became the last Commonwealth Railways steam engine in traffic when it operated through Pichi Richi Pass to Peterborough with South Australian Railways engine T199.

  • Commonwealth Railways GM1 Class A1A-A1A diesel-electric locomotive No. 2. The introduction of mainline diesel-electric locomotives in Australia was delayed by the lack of suitable local manufacturers. Eventually the Clyde Engineering Company of Granville in New South Wales obtained a licence to build General Motors Electro-Motive Diesel locomotives. GM2 was the second member of the class and entered service on 17 November 1951, five weeks after class leader, GM1, which has also been preserved. The class were deployed on the Trans-Australian line between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie, and from the middle of 1952 all train services on the line were hauled by diesels. Eleven diesel-electric locomotives had replaced around 50 steam locomotives that were operational on the line.

  • Broken Hill Proprietary Company Bo-Bo electric locomotive No. E1. BHP operated quarry railways at Iron Knob and Iron Monarch, around 70 km south-west of Port Augusta, and at Rapid Bay, about 100 km south of Adelaide. Four electric locomotives were built by the Metropolitan Vickers Electrical Company in England and four similar locomotives were later built in Adelaide. Class leader No. 1 entered service in October 1928 and remained in service until 1968, when it was donated for preservation.

  • South Australian Railways 55 Class Brill Railcar No. 8. Although not the first railcars introduced in South Australia, the introduction of the 55 Class began the widespread replacement of steam-hauled passenger trains on rural branch lines by railcars. A fleet of 12 were ordered from the Brill Car Company in the United States of America. Their original petrol engines were replaced by diesel engines in the 1930s. Most of their service was on rural broad gauge lines, but they later operated in the Adelaide suburban area. No. 8 entered service on 9 June 1934 and was withdrawn in 1968.

  • The Tea and Sugar train provided a supply service for the Trans-Australian Railway, which runs 1691 km between Port Augusta in South Australia and Kalgoorlie in Western Australia. At some stage during the building of the line a brake van was used to transport goods for the construction workers. By 1915 a formal service had begun with a supply van, butcher’s van and fruit and vegetable van. The completion of the line in 1917 enabled the train to commence a regular service along the full length of the line. Various communities were located along the Trans-Australian Railway, hosuing staff required to service the line and the trains, including locomotive crews, operational staff and track maintenance gangs. The Tea and Sugar provided essential services that enabled communities to exist in remote areas with limited natural food sources. The train also included a welfare car, and at Christmas time Santa Claus was a popular passenger for children living along the line. Changing technology eventually saw most of the settlements along the line disappear, although a small number of people have continued to reside at Cook. The Tea and Sugar train ran for the final time in August 1996. On display at the National Railway Museum are several carriages from the Tea and Sugar train: pay car, provisions van, butcher’s van and relay brake van.



Drymalik, C, National Railway Museum: exhibits guide, National Railway Museum, Adelaide, 2015.

Fluck, R, R Sampson & KJ Bird, Steam locomotives and railcars of the South Australian Railways, Mile End Railway Museum, Adelaide, 1986.

Luke, M, Riders of the steel highways: the history of Australia’s Commonwealth Railways 1912–1975, V M & B M Luke, Port Augusta, 1997.

National Railway Museum <>.

Oberg, L, Locomotives of Australia: 1854 to 2007, 5th edn, Rosenberg, Sydney, 2010.


500 Class steam locomotive 504, National Railway Museum, Port Adelaide, 18 January 2017.


900 Class diesel locomotive 900, the first mainline diesel locomotive to operate with South Australian Railways, National Railway Museum, Port Adelaide, Wednesday, 18 January 2017.

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