The 32 Class

The 32 Class – A Short Background

The 4-6-0 express passenger locomotives known as the “P Class” were first introduced to the rails of the New South Wales Government Railways (NSWGR) in February 1892. While officially designated as the P Class (renumbered to become the 32 class in 1924), the original delivery of 50 locomotives from Beyer, Peacock and Company were known to the running and shed staff as “Manchester Engines” or “English Express Engines”. By 1911, 191 P Class were in service (106 built by Beyer Peacock, 20 by Baldwin Locomotive Works, 45 by Clyde Engineering and a further 20 built by the NSWGR at their Eveleigh workshop). The final P Class locomotive to enter service was fitted with a superheater, which was successful, resulting in the rest of the class being similarly fitted when the locomotives underwent boiler renewal between 1914 and 1939.

3237 storming southbound through Nubba, on the NSW Main South, on June Long Weekend 2008.
3237 storming southbound through Nubba, on the NSW Main South, on June Long Weekend 2008.

After their introduction, the P Class replaced many older locomotives on mainline express passenger running, sometimes (although not always) removing the need for double heading. After their introduction, the class was predominantly rostered Southern and Northern mail trains and express services. Eventually, the class would work the full length of the line from Sydney to Albury, following the strengthening of the viaduct at Wagga Wagga in 1901.

Their whole life, the 32 Class locomotives were regarded as reliable, fast runners by both management and crews, able to build up and keep a good head of steam when required. It would be the 32 class called upon to haul the 1901 Royal Train, when the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York visited for the opening of the first Commonwealth Parliament. So good at maintaining speed were the 32 class, that they occasionally were the brunt of criticism in newspapers for occasionally running passenger trains “too fast for passenger comfort”, in the Illawarra area, to the south of Sydney.

The 32 Class were fully withdrawn by 1971, having had the honour of being written into the history books as hauling the last steam hauled regular passenger service. Four 32 Class are currently preserved in NSW. 3203 and 3214 are preserved and on static display at the New South Wales Rail Transport Museum, Thirlmere. 3237 was operationally restored by the Lachlan Valley Railway (Cowra), while 3265 is operationally preserved by The Powerhouse Museum (Sydney).

Photos of 3237

3265 “Hunter”

3265 on steaming trial at Central Station. 3265 would later steam to Penrith and back under her own power for her first mainline run since returning to service.
3265 on steaming trial at Central Station. 3265 would later steam to Penrith and back under her own power for her first mainline run since returning to service.

3265 was one of 106 “P Class” 4-6-0 locomotives built in Manchester, England, by Beyer, Peacock and Company for the (then) NSWGR. Restored to full running order by The Powerhouse Museum and returned to service in September 2009, the locomotive originally entered service with the NSWGR in January 1902. 3265 would operate on the NSWGR system for 66 years until being withdrawn in 1968. Interestingly, it is the only locomotive in preservation that has retained its original low frame.

During the immediate post-war period, 3265 was Sydney based, operating out of Enfield and Eveleigh depots, although it would later tour country depots around NSW, for almost 20 years. Locations visited were as far away from each other (and Sydney) as Bathurst, Junee and Broadmeadow. When the locomotive was finally retired, it was placed under the care of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (today known as Powerhouse Museum). For the first 20 years of its retirement, 3265 was in the care of the New South Wales Rail Transport Museum (NSWRTM), before moving to the Large Erecting Shed at Eveleigh in 1988.

The 32 class were also associated with The Newcastle Express passenger trains, from 1929 until 1934 when they were replaced with the larger and faster 36 Class locomotives. This is from where 3265 draws it’s distinction from the other members of the class, as during 1933, four 32 class locomotives were painted in an attractive maroon livery, and given names based on the rivers that the express trains encountered between Newcastle and Sydney. 3201 (Wyong), 3265 (Hunter), 3277 (Hawkesbury) and 3298 (Parramatta) only saw service on the express trains for another year, before being replaced by the 36 class. Following the introduction of the 36 Class to Newcastle Express working, 3265 gave up her nameplates, which were passed on to 3608; however the name had already stuck, the nameplates being returned to 3265 in 2009 during restoration to service.

Photos of 3265


Locomotives: A Guide by Gifford H. Eardley
Flyer by The New South Wales Rail Transport Museum
Steam Team breathes life into an old boiler (SMH 19/9/09)

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