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75 years ago last week, 3804 was sent on a trial run to Brisbane and return to investigate the feasibility of the use of C38 Class locomotives in “materially reducing the present running times between Sydney and Brisbane”. The then five-month old locomotive operated military special No. N33 to South Brisbane on 18th July 1944, returning with No. N38 on 20th July.

The test train consisted of 3804, Dynamometer Car DMC1902, 7x FS cars and track recording vehicle AK417, a total load of 332 tons. The 1973km round trip was an unforgiving one, encompassing gradients of up to 1-in-40, 514 curves of 15 chain radius or less, 69 electric staff stations and multiple speed restrictions en route necessitated by repairs and underbridges.

The quick acceleration of the C38s proved a significant advantage in recovering from these multiple obstacles, being well in excess of that available from the C36, C35 and C32 Class locomotives largely in use on the Brisbane Express at the time. In total, 3804’s total running time was 15:50 on the Down, and 16:05 on the Up, consuming an average of 33,540 gallons of water and 18.5 tons of coal each way.

Sadly it would all prove for naught, as the C38s made only a “brief and unhappy appearance on the North Coast line to South Brisbane” in 1948. The heavier locomotives ultimately proved too much for the fragile track curves (having an unfortunate tendency to straighten them), and the numerous speed restrictions prevented the full benefit of the C38s’ extra speed from being enjoyed on the Brisbane Express.

Thomas Glastonbury


Caption for the image is as follows:


Still in works grey, a pristine 3804 backs down onto the platform at South Brisbane before departing with N38 special on 20 July 1944.