New South Wales C38 class locomotive

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New South Wales C38 Class
3801 on a Newcastle Flyer charter in October 2005
Type and origin
Power typeSteam
BuilderClyde Engineering (5)
Eveleigh Railway Workshops (13)
Cardiff Locomotive Workshops (12)
Build dateJanuary 1943 – November 1949
 • Whyte4-6-2
Gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Driver dia.5 ft 9 in (1,753 mm)
Wheelbase65 ft 7+18 in (19.99 m)
Length76 ft 5 in (23.29 m)
Total weight201 long tons
(204 tonnes; 225 short tons) when in steam
Fuel typeCoal
Fuel capacity14 long tons
(14.225 tonnes; 15.680 short tons)
Water cap.8,100 imp gal
(37,000 L; 9,700 US gal)
 • Firegrate area
47 sq ft (4.4 m2)
Boiler pressure245 psi (1.69 MPa)
Heating surface3,367.79 sq ft (312.878 m2)
 • Tubes142 tubes, 2+14 in (57.1 mm) dia each
 • Flues36 flues, 2+14 in (57.1 mm) dia each
Superheater36 element
CylindersTwo, outside
Cylinder size21.5 in × 26 in
(550 mm × 660 mm)
Valve gearWalschaerts
Performance figures
Tractive effort36,273 lbf (161.35 kN)
OperatorsNew South Wales Government Railways
Number in class30
LocaleNew South Wales, Australia
First run22 January 1943
Last run29 December 1970
Preserved3801, 3803, 3813, 3820, 3830
Disposition5 preserved, 25 scrapped

The C38 class (occasionally known as the 38 class and nicknamed "Pacifics" by some railwaymen) was a class of steam locomotive built for the New South Wales Government Railways in Australia.

Constructed between January 1943 and November 1949, the 30 locomotives in the class were designed to haul express passenger services throughout New South Wales. They were the only New South Wales locomotives to use the popular Pacific 4-6-2 wheel arrangement and were the last steam locomotives in the state to be built for passenger train operation, all subsequent deliveries being specifically for freight haulage.[1]


C.38 Class Locomotive Cab Controls

The 38 class were first conceived in the 1930s when the NSWGR established there was a need for a locomotive to eliminate the complications of double heading on a number of fast intrastate passenger trains.[2]

The design was influenced by the fashion for streamlining at the time, including elements of the class J locomotives of the Norfolk and Western Railway and of some of the streamlined versions of the PRR K4 locomotives in the United States. The design team was headed by Harold Young, the Principal Design Engineer (later Chief Mechanical Engineer) of the NSWGR.[3] The conditions of trackwork with frequent sharp curvature to be traversed at high speed would require six-coupled driving wheels in a 'Pacific' 4-6-2 configuration. Maintenance requirements suggested a two-cylinder simple steam locomotive.

The design was carried out by the NSWGR Locomotive Section of the Design Office and incorporated the latest developments in locomotive design from Australia and overseas. The incorporation of as many Australian manufactured components as possible was a requirement at the design stage.[3]

Similarly to the earlier D57 class (which had some input from Young), the massively proportioned locomotive incorporated a cast steel chassis. The design also sported cast Boxpok coupled wheels for better rotational balance, and a Delta trailing truck.[3]


In May 1939, an order for five 38 class locomotives was placed with Clyde Engineering.[4] They suffered many delays during construction, mostly due to resource shortages caused by World War II and the Great Depression. The first five locomotives, built by Clyde Engineering, had a semi-streamlined boiler casing. However with this design, the firemen could not maintain steam in the 245 psi boiler – the highest boiler pressure of any engine in Australia. In early trials on the Southern line, 3801, the class leader, was allocated two firemen. The fault was located when it was found that the shape of the blast pipe prevented steam from the cylinders from passing optimally into the petticoat pipe below the chimney, through which it was ejected to the atmosphere. In turn, this reduced the suction of hot gases through the boiler tubes, making it more demanding to fire. Soon the blast pipe was adjusted, and the C38 class became noted for the clean "bark" of its exhaust.[3]

As the last of the five initial locomotives were leaving the shop in 1945, a decision was made to purchase more. This order of 25 locomotives were built at the New South Wales Government Railways' Eveleigh Railway Workshops (13, even-numbered) and Cardiff Locomotive Workshops (12, odd-numbered); all were non-streamlined for quicker maintenance.[3][5][6]

The locomotives built by Clyde Engineering were delivered in wartime grey. After the war, all were repainted green, as the 25 unstreamlined locomotives had been from new. In the 1950s, all except 3813 were painted black. 3801 and 3830 had their green livery restored due to pressure from heritage groups in the 1960s.[5][7]

Among the services they initially hauled were the Central West Express, Newcastle Flyer, Melbourne Limited Express, Riverina Express and South Coast Daylight Express as well as the overnight mail trains. Because of their axle load, they were confined to operating between Sydney and the following extremities of operation: Port Kembla (Coniston), Albury, Dubbo and Maitland, although they worked the North Coast passenger trains to Brisbane until track problems surfaced.[6]

Following the arrival of the 42, 43 and 44 class diesel locomotives in the 1950s, these began to take over some express services, but the 38 class continued to haul many passenger and freight trains. Even after the electrification of the Main Western line to Lithgow in 1957 and the Main North line to Gosford in January 1960, using 46 class electric locomotives, the 38s still operated the Central West Express between Lithgow and Orange into the 1960s and the Newcastle Flyer between Gosford and Newcastle until December 1970.[8]

The 38 class briefly returned to the former Melbourne Limited Express route in April 1962, when 3830 and 3813 hauled the inaugural standard gauge Spirit of Progress from Albury to Sydney. The first 38 class locomotive was withdrawn in 1961 with the last withdrawn in December 1970.[5][7]

In August 1970, 3801 hauled the Western Endeavour to Perth following the conversion to standard gauge of the Sydney–Perth rail corridor with 3813 assisting as far as Port Pirie. In April 1988, 3801 again operated to Perth during the Australian Bicentenary.[6][9]

Locomotive 3801 featured in an evocative 1974 short film, A Steam Train Passes, which won many awards and is generally regarded as Australia's finest railway film.[10]


Streamlined 3805
Locomotive Builder Builder's No Built In Service Withdrawn
3801 Clyde Engineering 463 Dec 1942 22 Jan 1943 19 Oct 1965
3802 Clyde Engineering 464 Mar 1943 8 Apr 1943 31 Jan 1967
3803 Clyde Engineering 465 Aug 1943 9 Sep 1943 29 Feb 1968
3804 Clyde Engineering 466 Jan 1944 10 Feb 1944 29 Oct 1965
3805 Clyde Engineering 467 Feb 1945 2 Mar 1945 Dec 1961
Non streamlined 3820
3830 at Sydney
Non streamlined
Locomotive Builder Builder's No Built Withdrawn
3806 Eveleigh Railway Workshops 158 1945 1967
3807 Cardiff Locomotive Workshops 159 1946 28 Sep 1968
3808 Eveleigh Railway Workshops 160 1946 1968
3809 Cardiff Locomotive Workshops 161 1946 1969
3810 Eveleigh Railway Workshops 162 1946 1969
3811 Cardiff Locomotive Workshops 163 1946 1969
3812 Eveleigh Railway Workshops 164 1946 1965
3813 Cardiff Locomotive Workshops 165 1946 12 Sep 1970
3814 Eveleigh Railway Workshops 166 1946 1966
3815 Cardiff Locomotive Workshops 167 1947 1967
3816 Eveleigh Railway Workshops 168 1947 1966
3817 Cardiff Locomotive Workshops 169 1947 1963
3818 Eveleigh Railway Workshops 170 1947 1968
3819 Cardiff Locomotive Workshops 171 1947 1963
3820 Eveleigh Railway Workshops 172 1947 29 Dec 1970
3821 Cardiff Locomotive Workshops 173 1948 1962
3822 Eveleigh Railway Workshops 174 1947 1970
3823 Cardiff Locomotive Workshops 175 1948 1967
3824 Eveleigh Railway Workshops 176 1948 1969
3825 Cardiff Locomotive Workshops 177 1948 1969
3826 Eveleigh Railway Workshops 178 1948 1961
3827 Cardiff Locomotive Workshops 179 1948 1970
3828 Eveleigh Railway Workshops 180 1949 1969
3829 Cardiff Locomotive Workshops 181 1949 1966
3830 Eveleigh Railway Workshops 182 1949 1967


5 of the 38 class locomotives survive-3801, 3803, 3813, 3820 and 3830. 3813 is in pieces at Dorrigo after an overhaul in 1972 by the former NSW Rail Transport Museum was forced to be stopped by the then commissioner of the Public Transport Commission, Philip Shirley who ordered that the locomotive's parts be transferred to the scrapyard. The NSWRTM managed a reprive and the parts were sent to be stored in many locations. Components such as the wheels, cab and smokebox were stored in S trucks at Thirlmere, the frame and tender at Clyde and the boiler at Castle Hill until they were donated to the Dorrigo Steam Railway & Museum. Over time all were donated to the Dorrigo museum and put in storage there.[11]

Preserved C38 class locomotives
No. Description Manufacturer Year Organisation Location Status Ref
3801 4-6-2 express passenger Clyde Engineering 1943 Transport Heritage NSW Thirlmere Operational NSW Heritage Register Locomotive, Steam 3801
3813 4-6-2 express passenger Cardiff Locomotive Workshops 1946 Dorrigo Steam Railway & Museum Dorrigo Dismantled
3820 4-6-2 express passenger Eveleigh Railway Workshops 1947 Transport Heritage NSW Thirlmere Static exhibit NSW Heritage Register Locomotive, Steam 3820
3830 4-6-2 express passenger Eveleigh Railway Workshops 1949 Powerhouse Museum Thirlmere Stored Powerhouse Museum Locomotive 3830


  1. ^ "Some Notes on the C38 Class 4-6-2 Locomotive" Young, Harold Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin December 2003 pp443-463
  2. ^ The C38 Class, John. B. Thompson pp3 'Why the 38's'
  3. ^ a b c d e Leon., Oberg (2010). Locomotives of Australia 1850s–2010 (5th ed.). Kenthurst, N.S.W.: Rosenberg Publishing Pty ltd. ISBN 9781921719011. OCLC 631100395.
  4. ^ "The 38 Class Part 3" Roundhouse July 1981 page 22
  5. ^ a b c Flyer. Sydney: New South Wales Rail Transport Museum. 1970. pp. 35–40. ISBN 0-909862-16-8.
  6. ^ a b c Grunbach, Alex (1989). A Compendium of New South Wales Steam Locomotives. Sydney: Australian Railway Historical Society, NSW Division. pp. 210–229. ISBN 0-909650-27-6.
  7. ^ a b Oberg, Leon (1984). Locomotives of Australia 1850's – 1980s. Frenchs Forest: Reed Books. pp. 168–170. ISBN 0-730100-05-7.
  8. ^ Preston, Ron G (1992). 3801 A Legend in Steam. 3801 Limited. ISBN 0-646-11931-1.
  9. ^ "3801 West" Railway Digest July 1988 page 250
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 15 January 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ "Preserved Steam Locomotives Down Under – 3813".

External links[edit]

Media related to New South Wales C38 class locomotives at Wikimedia Commons