Queensland Railways 0-4-4-0/0-6-6-0 Double Fairlies

These ungainly locomotives were possibly the most unsuccessful locomotives in Australian railway history.

These articulated locomotives were the first of this unique design to come to Australia. Patented by Robert Fairlie, the Double Fairlie arrangement allowed for a flexible form of ‘double’ engine which in theory would provide more power over steep and winding terrain. The engine was powered by two boilers, which were fed by one common central firebox. The symmetrical layout gave the engines an unusual “coming or going” appearance.

The Queensland Railway ordered three engines from the firm of James Cross, who were based in St Helens, England. They were delivered completely-knocked down in late 1867. One engine had been fully assembled by December of that year, and ran a short trial at Ipswich. Problems were immediately apparent – it was difficult to maintain steam pressure, while the engine spread the rails through some curvesdue to its weight. QR engineers subsequently discovered that while the weight of the engine was claimed to be 30 tonnes, it actually weighed 36 tonnes! QR engineers also believed that the steaming efficiency of the engine could have been improved by fitting a divider in the middle of the firebox, thus giving each boiler an even amount of fire.

The locomotive ran another trial the following month, this time on the main line through the Little Liverpool Range where again the engine lost steam, ran out of water, threw numerous curves out of true and finally derailed after only 30+ kilometres of running. As result the engine was shipped to James Cross, along with the two unassembled engines.

One would have thought that QR would have learned a lesson about Double Fairlie locomotives, but in 1876 a demonstration 0-4-4-0 built by Vulcan Foundry arrived and started trials on the Toowoomba Range. Being a little more successful than the 0-6-6-0, the 0-4-4-0 was purchased and giving the name Governor Cairns


The engine was out of service by 1879 due to flexible steam pipes fractures caused by the sharp curves of the area in which it was operating. However in 1880, the locomotive was repaired and forwarded to Brisbane where it worked metal trains over the Ipswich line. The engine continued to give trouble, and as boiler repairs were necessary, the engine was written off in 1892, and was sold for scrap in 1902.

The following books were consulted in the preparation of this entry:

Leon Oberg, “Locomotives of Australia – 1850s – 1990s”, Kangaroo Press, Kenthurst, NSW 1996, page 27

Jim Turner, “Early Australian Steam Locomotives – 1855 to 1895”, Kangaroo Press, East Roseville, NSW 1998, page 56


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