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Railway Museum home to historic locomotive

diesel relocation
Bundaberg Railway Historical Society members and supporters in front of the suspended DEL1603.

Bundaberg Railway Museum is now home to a DEL1603 locomotive, one of only a handful of the engines still remaining and which played an important role in Queensland rail history.

Bundaberg Railway Museum recently took delivery of the decommissioned 1960s 1600 class diesel-electric locomotive.

The DEL1603 locomotive was built by English Electric in Rocklea Queensland, between 1962 and 1964, along with 17 other locomotives in the 1600 class.

The 1600 class was built for branch line use and were fitted with dual driving stations to enable operation in either direction without having to turn the unit around.

The first engine was numbered 1600 and the last built in the class was DEL1617.

The 1600 class featured a hooded design and a full width cab at one end for the driver.

At the time of their introduction, diesel locomotives in the 1600 class moved freight for approximately half the cost of the older steam engines.

DEL1603 came into service in Queensland in 1963, and was primarily stationed at Alpha, in Queensland's central west region, where it was used for moving freight and passenger trains.

DEL1603 was the fourth engine built in this class but was one of the last in the class put into service after engineers found the first four engines were overweight, requiring modification to the design and construction.

Over its 28-year lifespan the DEL1603 travelled an estimated 1.8 million kilometres.

diesel locomotive
Diesel locomotives 1603 & 1634 south of Mount Morgan in August 1987. Image: @Ellis678 / Wikimedia.

The 1600 class was decommissioned by Queensland Rail in 1991, at which time DEL1603 was selected for preservation, earmarked for the QR Heritage Fleet and moved to Ipswich Rail Workshops.

In 2017 it was donated to Central Queensland University Bundaberg campus, where it was an integral part of the University’s Centre for Railway Engineering Crash Lab.

Following the discontinuation of the course, the locomotive became surplus to requirements, leading to the generous gift of the engine to the Bundaberg Railway Historical Society.

There are five existing 1600 class locomotives remaining, located at railway museums and displays around Queensland.

Locomotive 1604 is at Rosewood Railway Museum, 1613 is in Longreach, 1614 is at Archer Park Museum Rockhampton, and 1616 is at Queensland Pioneer Steam Railway in Swanbank.

DEL1603 is now in its permanent new home at the Bundaberg Railway Museum, where the Bundaberg Railway Historical Society will undertake restoration works and incorporate it into their display.

Visitors to the Bundaberg Railway Museum can see the DEL1603 during museum opening hours, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

The museum welcomes interested volunteers to get involved in the restoration of the DEL1603 and other Bundaberg Railway Historical Society activities.

diesel locomotive
DEL1603 diesel-electric locomotive during its relocation from CQU Bundaberg campus to Bundaberg Railway Museum. Photo: N Harth.

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