New South Wales Government Steam Tram No. 47

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NSW 47

Photo: Jim Dignan

Although steam-powered trams were once a reasonably common sight on Britain’s roads, they would have borne only a superficial resemblance to NSW Government number 47, even though it was built in the Beyer Peacock works in Gorton, Manchester, in 1885. This is because it was destined for export and as it was expected to be pulling much heavier loads it was much larger than those built for the home market. With 30 inch driving wheels and weighing almost 16 tons it was a true giant of a tram engine, though it did boast a number of features in common with other road-going locomotives including the fully enclosed wheels and a mechanism – in this case a “Wilkinson Patent” exhaust superheater – that was designed to reduce the amount of smoke emitted.

It was shipped out to Australia in April 1885 so that it could be assessed by the New South Wales Government Tramways for possible use on the Redfern Station route in Sydney, but because it proved unsatisfactory in operation – running short of steam despite being heavy on fuel – it lost out to a rival design (the Baldwin steam tram). “John Bull”, as it was then known, was then employed for a time on certain railway and colliery construction projects on the New South Wales railways’ Wollongong-Clifton line between 1887 and 1888.  Once again, however, it proved a disappointment in service as it was found to be under-powered, resulting in its rejection and despatch for Britain.

What happened to it next is a bit of a mystery since the next time it was heard of was when it resurfaced again in 1890 back at the Beyer Peacock works in Manchester. The company’s records intriguingly indicate that it was ‘salvaged’ in 1890, which suggests a narrow escape from a watery grave, but beyond this there are no details of its return journey.


Type of tram
Steam tram
Seating capacity
Date built
Date entered service
on trial basis in Sydney in 1885; then used on certain railway and construction projects on New South Wales railways in the Wollongong district
Manufacturer of body
Beyer, Peacock & Co
Manufacturer of truck
4’ 8½”

Removal of wheel skirts and conversion from double-ended controls to single-ended in 1890 together with the fitting of railway-style buffers and couplings. New steam brake added in 1915. Re-boilered (but to the original design) in 1930. Fitted with a new superheater in 1958.

Withdrawn from service

1888(?) in Australia
1959 Beyer Peacock, Gorton, Manchester

Subsequent history Britain in 1890 and converted into a works shunter known as Beyer Peacock number 2

Restoration history

Renovated by Beyer, Peacock; re-equipped with wheel flanges and re-tyred. It arrived at Crich in May 1962.
July 2009 – damaged suspension unit repaired prior to temporary loan of steam tram to the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry.

Current status
Conserved; on display.
Current location
Exhibition Hall
  • 1885 – 1886Operational on original tramway in Australia
  • 1886 – 1887Operational on a different tramway in Australia
  • 1887 – 1890Whereabouts unknown
  • 1890Converted to railway-style works shunter
  • 1890 – 1959Operational as a works shunter
  • 1959 – 1962In storage
  • 1962 – 1966Operational at Crich
  • 1966 – 1971On display
  • 1971 – 1978In storage
  • 1978 – 1985Operational at Crich
  • 1985Operational at Blackpool
  • 1985 – 1989Operational at Crich
  • 1989 –On display

Crich Tramway Village is a brand name for the National Tramway Museum (Accredited with Arts Council England), solely owned and operated by The Tramway Museum Society, incorporated in England with liability by guarantee (no. 744229). Registered charity number 313615. Our ICO number is Z6700136.