The most numerous class of locomotives ever to work on the South Australian Railways (SAR) was the Y class, with 129 representatives. From their introduction the Y class worked all trains on the Great Northern Division until the Commonwealth Railways (CR) takeover of its operation in 1926. They were superseded on the Terowie to Quorn line by the T class in 1918.

These robust little engines were built by Beyer Peacock as a logical improvement on their previous smaller engines. The design proved popular, and was nicknamed the 'colonial mogul' as the engine was supplied to many narrow gauge railways throughout the British Empire of the day. They worked on various railways in all states of Australia, except Victoria. For use on the SAR many engines were also built locally—two at the Adelaide Locomotive Works, and eighty-five by James Martin and Co. at Gawler.

From 1904 until 1928 fifty-eight of the Martin-built engines were rebuilt as Yx engines, principally by the fitting of larger, higher pressure boilers with Belpaire fireboxes. Some of the rebuilt engines were employed between Quorn and Port Augusta and were allowed a 25% increase in loading. By devious means a number of rebuilt engines returned to Quorn in 1948 as shunting engines to relieve the mainline engines of this task. These engines were part of a group transferred to the CR for use on the North Australia Railway during World War II (1939-45). The engines were later purchased by the CR and four were used for shunting at Quorn and Port Augusta. They were designated by the CR as NFB class 47, 49, 51 and 89—formerly SAR Yx126, 132, 160 and 154 respectively. They saw only intermittent use in their last role and were all out of service by 1958.

A Y class locomotive in front of an engine running shed on the Great Northern Railway. Photograph courtesy of the State Library of South Australia. SLSA: B 55492
Yx127 storms out of Solomontown, Port Pirie with an eastbound freight, April 1937 (Photo: John Buckland)
Yx162 hauling a down goods train at Hynam in south-east SA, ca. 1934. Photograph by J.F.T. Grimwade, John Buckland Collection. National Library of Australia: 5979508

Technical specifications

Y class

Wheel arrangement 2-6-0
Weight 47 tons 15 cwt 48.5 t
Length 39 ft 3 in 11.96 m
Tractive effort 13,300 lbs 59.2 kN
Boiler pressure 145 psi 1000 kPa
Driving wheels 3 ft 3 in 990 mm
Cylinders 14½ x 20 in 370 x 510 mm
Valve gear Stephenson
Grate area 13.67 ft² 1.27 m²
Coal capacity 4 ton 10 cwt 4.6 t
Water capacity 2600 gal 7300 L

Yx class

Wheel arrangement 2-6-0
Weight 49 tons 19 cwt 50.7 t
Length 39 ft 3 in 11.96 m
Tractive effort 17,000 lbs 75.6 kN
Boiler pressure 185 psi 1276 kPa
Driving wheels 3 ft 3 in 990 mm
Cylinders 14½ x 20 in 370 x 510 mm
Valve gear Stephenson
Grate area 13.67 ft² 1.27 m²
Coal capacity 4 ton 10 cwt 4.6 t
Water capacity 2600 gal 7300 L

Representatives in the Pichi Richi Railway collection

Yx141

By the time the Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society was founded the only examples of the Y and Yx classes left were preserved at various locations. One such place was Port Lincoln, where a rebuilt Y class, Yx141, was quietly rusting away in a children's playground. The Port Lincoln Council was kind enough to agree to exchange Yx141 for a suitable replacement locomotive. Eventually NC2, a small diesel hydraulic locomotive in derelict condition, was purchased from AN and transported to Quorn. There it was renovated, painted and rendered child-proof, before being taken to Port Lincoln and swapped for Yx141.

Y141 was built by James Martin & Co. and entered service on 15 December 1892 on the Northern Division. In 1911 it was involved in a fatal accident caused by flooding near Brachina. After being rebuilt as a Yx it re-entered service in 1923, and four years later it was transferred to the Port Lincoln Division where it spent the rest of its working life.

Builder James Martin and Co.
Entered service 15 December 1892
Builder’s number 43
Withdrawn from service 23 August 1963
Distance travelled in service  
Acquired by PRRPS 1983
Notes Rebuilt as Yx class 26 July 1923
Transferred to Port Lincoln 30 July 1927
To Hermitage Park playground (Port Lincoln) 7 October 1963
PRRPS operational status Undergoing restoration
Yx141 on display at a playground in Port Lincoln in 1973 before returning to Quorn in 1983 (Photo: Jeremy Browne)