Walkers-built loco is centrepiece of Anzac re-enactment

MEET the little Maryborough steam engine that could.

Created in 1956, this BB18 1/4 coal-fired steam locomotive holds a special place in the hearts of hundreds of thousands of Queenslanders.

The engine rolled off the Walkers Ltd factory floor almost 60 years ago.

And over the years, it has ferried countless Queenslanders from home to work and back again.

These days the BB18-class loco leads a more leisurely life, as it is brought out for special occasions and greeted at railway stations large and small with pomp and ceremony.

The locomotive might be approaching retirement age - albeit at a snail's pace - but Queensland Rail has no intention of putting it out to pasture any time soon.

The engine, the centrepiece of the 100th anniversary re-enactment of the First World War Gallipoli landing troop train, is testament to the industrious abilities of the countless Maryborough workers who put their blood, sweat and tears into producing trains and ships that would be used across Australia and the globe.

QR heritage operations manager Kristine Clarke said the factory was known for its impressive workmanship and the longevity of the BB18 was testament to that.

"It was massive," she said of the production line where her charge was born.

"Walkers was a huge operation.

"They had a massive workforce - they would have been working on several locomotives.

"There would have been a huge production line going."

The engineering firm began life in 1867 as an offshoot of a factory in country Victoria.

From the 1800s to the 1960s, the factory turned out sugar mill components as well as locomotives, barges and boats.

"They built a lot of (Bathurst class) corvettes and other different ships for the war," Ms Clarke said.

In 1980, Evans Deakins Industries bought the Maryborough business and it became Downer Rail following a takeover in 2001.

While the place of the BB18's birth has changed over the years, there's one thing Ms Clarke is certain of. "It's never been out of service," she said.

"I think it will be on track for many years to come."

The train is scheduled to arrive in Maryborough about 4.35pm on Thursday and depart at 8.20am on Friday.

Engine driver Paul Ryan from Nambour in the BB18-class locomotive.
Engine driver Paul Ryan from Nambour in the BB18-class locomotive. Alistair Brightman