John Benn was built as an 0-4-0T in Belgium in 1886 by Société Anonyme Usines Métallurgiques du Hainaut - Locomotives Couillet. This locomotive builder is normally known by the abbreviated name Couillet. Although not well known in Australia, in Europe Couillet was a significant builder of steam locomotives of many different gauges and sizes over a long period of time.

As built the locomotive weighed approximately seven tons. It has the Couillet builder's number 861. It was built for Decauville & Cie. of Paris, suppliers of portable and industrial railway equipment, and has their serial number of 43 of 1886.

The locomotive was supplied new by Decauville to the Metropolitan Gas Company Ltd, Melbourne, for use at their gasworks in West Melbourne, where it was named John Benn, after the Company’s chairman. Another locomotive of the same type was supplied in 1889 (Couillet builder's number 986, Decauville serial number 90). It was named Carbon.

Whilst Carbon remains as built, No.861 John Benn was heavily rebuilt, and while mechanically still basically an 1886 Belgian locomotive, its frames were extended, and a new smokebox, cab, and saddle tank fitted.

It is now a 2-4-2ST with the character of an American narrow gauge locomotive of the early 1880s. However it still has the Walschaert valve-gear it was fitted with when new. Walschaert valve gear was a Belgian invention, and was hardly used at all in English speaking countries until the twentieth century.

Since its rebuild John Benn has been renamed J.C. Rees. Both J.C. Rees and Carbon are privately owned, and are leased to the Puffing Billy Railway.

 

 

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J.C.Rees the locomotive formerly known as John Benn at Wright station in the Wright Forest, on 26 August 2007, on the Gasworks Trifecta Part 3.

The locomotive formerly known as John Benn at Wright station in the Wright Forest, on 26 August 2007, on the Gasworks Trifecta Part 3.

J.C. Rees, formelry known as John Benn crosses Bridge 8 - the big Wright bridge, on 26 August 2007, on the Gasworks Trifecta Part 3.

J.C.Rees the locomotive formerly known as John Benn at Wright station in the Wright Forest, on 26 August 2007, on the Gasworks Trifecta Part 3.

The former John Benn between Fielder and Gembrook, on 26 August 2007, on the Gasworks Trifecta Part 3.

Close up of the former John Benn between Fielder and Gembrook, on 26 August 2007.

The former John Benn at Cockatoo, 14 April 2012


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All photographs Copyright Frank Stamford who may be contacted by email at: frank.stamford@bigpond.com

Last updated: 2 April 2016