Australian Railway Historical Society Victorian Division Inc.


PO Box 748, Williamstown, Vic, 3016

Railway History in Victoria 1950 - now

This page covers Railway History in Victoria from 1950 through to the present day. See also:

Railway History in Victoria 1839 - 1900; and

Railway History in Victoria 1900 - 1950.

Railway History 1950 - 1975

1950 - Operation Phoenix. As noted above, the demands of World War 2 left the Victorian railways with a major backlog in maintenance and an additional urgent need for new locomotives to make up for the lack of production in the 1930's Following the report by John Elliot in 1949 a major rehabilitation program was planned involving an expenditure of 80,000,000 pounds over a period of 10 years. This included the purchase of additional locomotives, steam, diesel and electric; the provision of additional a new range of diesel railcars; new suburban electric rolling stock; additional freight rolling stock; and various improvements to track and signalling. Many of the following points were a part of Operation Phoenix. Whilst Operation Phoenix achieved a great deal, major expenditure on steam locomotives at a time of transition to diesel power meant that many steam locomotives were rendered surplus before they had reached the end of their economic life. In addition funding to complete some projects was not forthcoming.

1950/54 - Resulting from a lack of US Dollar exchange funds and a Federal Government Policy favouring contracting overseas construction projects within the British Empire, orders were placed for the construction of additional locomotives of new designs with British manufacturers. In 1950 an additional 50 N Class, of an improved design, were delivered from North British Locomotive Works of Glasgow. In addition, between 1950 and 1951three additional N Class were built at Newport, but another 16 planned locomotives were not constructed. In 1951 delivery commenced of 70, R Class express passenger locomotives. The R Class were totally new design by the Victoria Railways designers, working in conjunction with North British. They incorporated all of the design features developed by the Victorian Railways design team over the previous two decades. Delivery of the R Class coincided with the first delivery of the first main line diesels and so the R's saw limited use in their intended role, being largely used on freight services. Finally 60 J Class locomotives were delivered from the Vulcan Foundry in England from 1954. These locomotives were intended as a modernised version of the K Class, but with the capability for conversion to standard gauge. As with the K Class, they could operate on all lines with 50 foot turntables. As noted earlier half were supplied as oil burners. [Examples of N, R and J Classes are to be found in the Railway Museum]

1951 - The Victorian Railways purchased a series of 10 diesel electric shunting locomotives from English Electric. 4 additional locomotives of this type were purchased for the State Electricity Commission and these also ultimately passed to the Victorian Railways. Given the designation F Class these locomotives were based on a successful series of locomotives produced by English Electric for the London Midland Railway in the 1930's.

1952 - With improvement in the Australian economy the availability of US dollars increased and the Victorian Government commenced to take delivery of its first main line diesel locomotives. Designated B Class, these General Motors[EMD] locomotives were manufactured by Clyde Engineering Co of Sydney, under licence, using engines, traction motors and other electrical components imported from the USA. Given the GM series ML2, the B Class were unique in having a full, A7 styled, cab at both ends and were one of very few classes of GM locos of that era with full controls at each end. At the express wish of the Victorian Railways, they were the first GM mail line passenger locomotives to be fitted with the Co- Co wheel arrangement. [The Co-Co wheel arrangement indicates two six wheel bogies with all axles powered by traction motors]. This gave adequate power for express passenger operations at an axle load that was acceptable for most Victorian main lines.

1953 - As part of the total rehabilitation of the Victorian Railways, plans were prepared for the electrification of the main lines to Traralgon, Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo. In the event only the Gippsland Line was electrified, but an order was placed for 25, L Class English Electric main line locomotives. Based on a standard EE design these locomotives also featured streamlined drivers cabs at each end. From their introduction they provided most of the services on the Gippsland line. By the end of 1980's the L Class had reached the end of their economic life and, due to the high capital cost of replacements, the decision was taken to abandon electric traction on the Gippsland line.[ a example of an L Class locomotive is preserved at the Railway Museum.]

1955 - Following on the success of the B Class, the Victorian Railways continued the move to full dieselisation with the purchase of the T Class 875 HP locomotives from Clyde GM. Fitted Bo - Bo [4 wheel bogies with both axles powered by traction motors.] these lightweight locomotives were able to operate on virtually all branches and soon began to replace many of the steam locomotives previously used on these lines. Additional batches of the T Class were ordered with progressive modifications. The original batch had a cab with a low profile. The next order was fitted with a high cab, the next with a low profile nose section. The final orders were fitted with a 950 HP motor and the final batch, had a higher axle load and were geared for continuous low speed operation. These locomotives were specifically intended for heavy shunting duties and were classified as H Class soon after their delivery.[ Various examples of the different batches of the T Class are preserved by a number of groups.

1956 - By the early 1950's many of the Tait suburban carriages had been in service for over forty years and some of the swing door carriages dated from still earlier. With the intention of replacing many of these vehicles, the all metal, Harris Trains sets were imported from the United Kingdom. These sets provided improved standards of travel, but the rapid growth of metropolitan Melbourne and the increase in the frequency of services to the outer limits of the suburban services meant that few of the older vehicles were withdrawn from service.

1957 - When the need arose for additional main line diesel locomotives, Victorian Railways again approached Clyde General Motors and purchased a batch of 10 A7 locomotives. Classified as S Class, these locomotives were similar to the NSW 42/ 421 classes and the second series CR GM Class. The first four locomotives took the numbers and names of the steam S Class. The other locomotives were named after other notable figures in Victorian history. Their success meant that an additional 8 locomotives were purchased by 1968. Two S Class were destroyed in the Southern Aurora collision in 1969, but a number remain in service, largely in secondary roles. Several are earmarked for preservation.

1959 - For much of the steam era, shunting in station yards and short haul branch work, had been carried out by older locomotives, which had been supplanted by more modern equipment. With the phasing out of steam operation, the Victorian Railways sought to find a diesel locomotive that would fill this need. The F Class were based on a 1930's design and were too slow and ungainly for branch work. So in 1959 the W Class Diesel Hydraulic locomotives were purchased from Tullochs of Rhodes in NSW. The W class were not a success with unreliable motors and transmission systems. They were soon relegated to a few major country yards where they could cope with the loads and receive specialised care. In addition three light shunting locomotives were built at the Newport Workshops for specialised purposes. The single V Class for shunting a carriage washing facility and the two M Class for shunting at Newport Workshops.

1962 - This year saw the first direct linking of Melbourne and Sydney by rail with the opening of the Standard Gauge line from Albury to Melbourne. Launched under the slogan 'Its Thru in 62', this link saw the beginning of a rapid increase in freight traffic between the two state capitals and the introduction of a new luxury train, the 'Southern Aurora'. In addition the 'Spirit of Progress' and the 'Intercapital Daylight' were extended to operate between Melbourne and Sydney on the standard gauge.

1963 - The search for a suitable shunting locomotive was solved when the Victorian Railways turned to Clyde GM. A 600hp power unit was mounted on bogies reconditioned from scrapped suburban motor carriages, to produce a unit which had both sufficient power, flexibility and speed to carry out all but the heaviest yard shunting, operate on the lightest of branches and sidings; and if required, could be used for transfer work and short distance mainline services. Classified as Y Class. These locomotives came to be seen all over the system.

1966 - The unprecedented growth in freight traffic on the Standard Gauge line and the phasing out of most of the steam fleet saw the Victorian Railways experiencing on going shortages of diesel motive power. To meet this need, the first of the X Class Diesels were purchased from Clyde GM. While these locomotives were internally similar to the S class, they adopted the unstreamlined hood design, which provided for greater ease of maintenance. The success of the X class saw additional units delivered in 1970. These later X Class saw an increase in horsepower to 2000hp. Two of the locomotives were nominally regarded as replacements for two of the S class that were written off in the 'Southern Aurora' accident in 1969. Finally ten additional X class were delivered in 1975, which featured improved electrical equipment and a modified cab design. The X Class continue to give good service and currently a number have been fitted with 3000hp engine units rendered surplus by an engine upgrade to the G Class diesels. These modified X Class locomotives are currently being classified XR.

1969 - The 'Southern Aurora' and a freight train involved in a head on collision at Violet Town

1971 - While the Harris cars delivered from 1956 were intended to replace a significant number of the elderly Tait cars, continued growth of Melbourne's population meant that many of these cars continued in service alongside the Harris Cars. This growth also meant that some sets of the even older swing door cars remained in service. Experiments with several longer bodied Harris trailer cars led to the introduction of the Hitachi Electric Trains in 1971. The popular name of these cars came from the use of Hitachi electrical equipment in these cars. In fact, these cars were built by, Martin and King, while Newport Workshops built 50 of the trailer cars, with the electrical equipment being supplied by Commonwealth Engineering to Hitachi designs. These cars had longer bodies but retained the traditional configuration of Motor cars, Trailer cars and Driver trailer cars which allowed the operation of trains in two, three, four and seven car configurations. Following a major industrial dispute, related to driver safety in the Driver trailer cars, the driver compartments of the trailer cars were closed off and they continued in service as Trailer cars. With the introduction of new car designs in the 21st Century the Hitachi cars are beginning to be phased out of service.

1972 - The Bland Report recommended major changes to the structure and operations of the Victorian Railways. This included replacement of the Railway Commissioners with the Victorian Railways Board and the closure of a significant number of unprofitable branch lines. Associated with this was a significant reduction in the number of employees. A.G.[Bill] Gibbs was appointed the first chairman of the Board.

1971/1981 - After many years of discussion and debate the Melbourne Underground Loop was constructed. Under the auspices of the Melbourne Underground Loop Authority [MURLA] the loop was constructed with minimal disruption to the existing suburban train systems. The Loop resulted in three additional stations serving the CBD and considerably eased pressure on Flinders Street Station and increased the capacity of the suburban system. One side effect of the opening of the Loop was the final withdrawal of the Tait wooden-bodied cars, for wooden-bodied cars were not permitted to operate in the Loop in normal service.

Railway History 1975 - now

1976 - The name Victorian Railways was replaced by Vicrail

1976 - Regional Freight Centres were established and this in turn triggered the closure of numerous country branch lines as the Vicrail ceased to handle less than car load lots [LCL]

1977 - As through freight on the main interstate corridors continued to grow, it be came evident that through working of freight services would soon follow. The C Class Diesels, supplied by Clyde GM, were specifically designed to meet this purpose and to remove the need for using multiple locomotive groups on individual trains. With 3000hp, the C Class marked a considerable increase in motive power for the Victorian Railways. They were fitted with sufficient fuel capacity to complete a round trip to Adelaide without refuelling. Mechanically similar to the West Australian Railways, L class, several of which had operated in Victoria on hire, the C Class were distinguished by a unique cab design. Unfortunately, concerns were raised about the weight of the C Class and limits were placed on their speed and they were only permitted to operate with partially full fuel tanks. In spite of this the C Class fulfilled a useful role in interstate freight service and some continue to operate today. C501 has been restored by the Seymour Railway Heritage Centre and can be seen in freight service for Pacific National.

1978 - Lonie Report recommended the abolition of all country passenger services except for the Geelong/Melbourne corridor. The State Government in response to the report set out to revitalize passenger services. Over the following years, but the report possibly contributed to the loss by the Liberal Government in 1982.

1980 - Alan Reiher was appointed Chairman of the Victorian Railways Board, replacing Bill Gibbs who had retired. Alan Reiher had previously been the head of the Public Transport Commission of NSW.

1981 - In the same year as the last of the Hitachi cars were delivered, an order was placed for a new design of Suburban trains. These cars were built by Commonwealth Engineering at Dandenong and the popular name came from the Comeng logo that was displayed inside the cars. These cars marked a return to British electrical equipment which was supplied by General Electric. These cars introduced air-conditioning, carpeted floors and vandal resistant fabric covered seat cushions to suburban commuter services. The delivery of these cars saw the final withdrawal of the last of the wooden body Tait cars in 1984. It had originally been intended to refurbish all of the Harris cars to the same a similar standard, but the cost of the refurbishment, coupled to the need to completely gut the cars for asbestos insulation removal made this impractical. Only 16 cars were thus treated, but saw little service due to industrial problems. As noted elsewhere 61 cars were converted for locomotive hauled outer commuter service. [Examples of the unmodified and modified Harris Cars can be found in the Railway Museum] Apart from a few individual cars damaged by fire or by accidents, all of the Comeng fleet continue in service.

1982 - Through running of locomotives into Victoria commences. While train crews continued to change at the borders, this facilitated the operation of Superfreighter services between states.

1983 - In an additional administrative reorganisation, the Victorian Railways Board was replaced by two bodies. The Metropolitan Transit Authority, and the State Transit Authority. These two bodies traded as the MET and V/Line respectively and were responsible to the Director General of Transport. This position was held by Alan Reiher.

1984 - A Class and P Class Conversions Under the re-organisation of passenger services, announced in 1983, services were to be provided by fixed sets of steel, air-conditioned cars. To provide motive power for these services two classes of older locomotives were to be upgraded to operate these services. The ageing B Class were to be rebuilt with 2500hp engines for the Interurban services. These rebuilds, were undertaken by Clyde Engineering, at their South Australian plant. In order to accommodate the lager engine units, the roofline of the locomotives was raised and modified, but the original cabs were retained. The rebuilt locomotives were classified A, but retained their original numbers. In practice it was found that the cost of conversion was almost equivalent to a new locomotive and so the program was suspended after the eleventh conversion was completed. With the arrival of new locomotives[ N Class] the A Class were no longer exclusively used in passenger service, some ultimately passing to Freight Australia. For shorter distance commuter services a number of the first series T Class were selected for rebuilding. In their original form the flat top T Class were not noted for their good riding at speed and limited visibility. When rebuilt as P Class, by Martin and King at Somerton, a raised cab and modified front end gave them a similar appearance to the final group of T class, riding problems were overcome and the locomotives were equipped to provide 'head end power to single set of H cars. The original concept had been for the P Class loco to be permanently couples to one end of a car set and operate in a 'push/pull' mode. Safety concerns and union objections saw this idea dropped. However, where traffic required two H car sets to be coupled, a second P Class will be attached to the rear of the train to provide power for the second set of cars.

1984 - N Class and H Class Carriage Sets The decision to drastically re-organise country passenger services came shortly after the Granville Disaster in NSW and a similar accident at Laverton, which fortunately involved far fewer casualties. Both however pointed to the need to rapidly withdraw all wooden body passenger rolling stock. This set V/Line the problem of obtaining additional steel body, air-conditioned passenger stock with minimum delay. For longer distance, Interurban services, designs of the 1950's Z Cars were modified to include a fully welded structure, retention toilets and improved modern air-conditioning units. To provide power for these facilities the initial cars were fitted with an underfloor diesel motor and alternator set. As locomotives with 'head end' power became available, these cars were modified to use this power source, or to switch between either. The most recent modification allows for this and for the car set to use only as many power generation sets as the conditions demand. These new cars were given a classification N. As they usually operate in fixed sets they are also referred to as N Sets. Over subsequent years, older S and Z Cars were brought up to these standards. Some of these cars had operated on the standard gauge until the withdrawal of locomotive hauled passenger trains between Melbourne and Sydney. For many years the shorter distance commuter services, outside the electrified area, had used antiquated high capacity wooden stock and a collection of ageing railcars. To replace these a number of the newer suburban Harris trailer cars were totally rebuilt to provide relatively high density, air-conditioned accommodation, with limited retention toilet facilities. These cars were equipped to operate on 'head end' power only drawn from the locomotive. As with the N Cars, the H Cars were semi-permanently coupled into fixed sets. Both the N sets and H stets, continue to provide service on their intended services.

1984 - While the A Class conversions were seen to be a success, it was recognised that they were a short-term measure. As it became evident that the cost of conversions almost equalled the cost of a new locomotive, orders were placed for totally new passenger power. These were the N Class and deliveries commenced in 1984. Named after various Rural Cities, the N Class were built by Clyde Engineering at Campbellfield, near Melbourne, and incorporated the latest high power output, fuel efficient General Motors engine units, in the same power range as the A Class, coupled with Clyde EMD traction motors that were developed in Australia. Fitted with 'head end' power capability, these locomotives can be found at the head of most of the long distance passenger trains in Victoria. The N Class maintained the Victorian predilection for twin cab locomotives. In the period immediately prior to the conversion of the western line to standard gauge, one or two N Class could often be found operating the Overland to Adelaide. While privatisation of rail services has seen the N class loose this role, they are capable of gauge conversion and have sufficient fuel capacity to operate to Adelaide and return.

1984 - The CANAC report saw the reorganisation of grain transport services in Victoria. The number of receival points was drastically reduced and all non-bogie wagons were withdrawn from service.

1984 - The 1980's saw considerable advances in diesel freight locomotives world wide. Victorian Railways had moved into the 3000hp field with the C Class, but using what was effectively 1960's technology. So, the G Class Locomotives delivered in 1985 marked a major advance in technology. The G Class had a mixed pedigree, being an on run of the Australian National BL class, which in turn had been derived from the NSW 81 Class. All featured a full cab design with driving stations at both ends. All were in the 3000hp range and incorporated the latest in diesel and electrical technology. Both the BL and the G classes had a cleaner appearance to the 81 as the main girder frames were concealed under the exterior cladding. The weight saving meant that with a major track upgrades, the G Class are able to operate over most of the system and this resulted in major changes to the handling of grain and other commodities in most parts of the state. This in turn spelt the end of service many of the lighter line locomotives that had previously handled this traffic. Subsequent to privatisation, the G Class passed to Freight Australia/ Pacific National and have seen service on the main East West and North South freight corridors. Under Freight Australia a program of engine upgrades was commenced, the recycled engines being passed down to X Class locomotives.

1986 - The Southern Aurora and the Spirit of Progress were both withdrawn and replaced the 'Sydney/ Melbourne Express.

1987 - The St Kilda and Port Melbourne Lines were converted to Light Rail [tram] operation. These lines had not been part of the Loop operations and had witnessed falling patronage over the preceding decades.

1991 - Intercapital Daylight withdrawn

1993 - The introduction of high speed rail cars, 'Sprinters' in this year marked a change in V/line Passenger operations. Previously V/Line Pass. Had relied on locomotive hauled sets. The Sprinters were ordered in 1991 and were built by Goninans of Newcastle, but with many components provided by the Bendigo Railway Workshops, who were also responsible for the final fitting out. Sprinters were named after Victorian athletes. This continued a pattern established with the A Class locomotives, named after Victorian footballers, and the N Class, named after Victorian Regional Cities. Several G Class were also named after locations in the wheat belt of the state.

1993/1995 - Under Commonwealth legislation the National Rail Corporation was established and commenced operations through Victoria. Commonwealth funding enabled the link between Melbourne and Adelaide to be converted to standard gauge. The route selected for conversion was the Western Plains line, via Geelong, Gheringhap, Maroona and Ararat. In addition the line from Ararat to Portland, Ararat to Maryborough, and all branches beyond Ararat were also converted, allowing movement of grain to Portland.

1993 - A night XPT service commences between Melbourne and Sydney

1993 - In a response to the reorganisations the two major railway unions, the Australian Railways Union and the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen, joined with the Transport Officers Federation to form the Public Transport Union. This union ultimately changed its name to the Rail Tram and Bus Union in 1998, in response to the privatisation of services.

1993 - V/Line was broken into V/Line Passenger and V/Line Freight

1993 - Passenger services to a number of destinations were cut, to be replaced by buses. These included Sale to Bairnsdale, Seymour to Cobram, Ballarat to Ararat and Dimboola, Ballarat and Mildura, and Geelong to Warrnambool. Of these services, Hoys Roadlines chose to operate a rail service between Melbourne and Shepparton, with a bus connection to Cobram; while The Victorian Railway Company, trading as West Coast Railway, operated the Melbourne to Warrnambool service. West Coast Railway were to operate for ten years and were innovative in introducing a modernised R Class steam locomotive to operate some services.

1994 - Daylight XPT services commence between Melbourne and Sydney

1994 - Victorian PTC relinquishes any links with the operation of interstate services. So XPT services are operated by Countrylink. The Overland was operated by Australian National and from 1997 by Great Southern Railway.

1995 - Suburban trains services extended to Cranbourne.

1996 - V/Line Freight Corporation set up along with the Victorian Rail Track Corporation

1997 - Full privatisation of all Public Transport services. V/Line Passenger was established as a corporation and the Met was broken into two corporate entities, Hillside and Bayside Trains. All were offered for franchise sale following a Transport strike during the 1997 Grand Prix

1997 - Control over all interstate standard gauge lines in Victoria passed to the Australian Rail Track Authority [ARTC]

1998 - V/Line Freight and offered for sale and VicTrack was offered on a 45 year lease to the purchaser. This resulted in the purchase of V/Line Freight by Freight Victoria in early 1999. In order to promote its national focus the company name was changed to Freight Australia.

1999 - Privatisation of rail services completed with the British company, National Express gaining the franchises for V/Line Pass and Bayside Trains. Hillside Trains passed to the French Connex Group. Connex applied their name to Hillside Trains, while Bayside Trains become known as M Train. Both undertook upgrade programs on the Comeng Cars, but to different standards.

2000 - As part of the Linking Victoria initiative, plans were announced for a Regional Fast Rail project. This involves major upgrades of the Melbourne to Traralgon, Geelong, Bendigo and Ballarat trackage, to allow operating speeds of up to 160kmph, and the provision of 38 two-car sets of V'Locity railcars.

2001 - Contract is awarded to rebuild Spencer Street Station. To be known as Southern Cross Station, the structure features a wave style roof.

2002 - National Rail and NSW Freightcorp sold to Pacific National a consortium of Toll Holdings and Patrick Corporation.

2002 - Deliveries commence of two groups of new generation suburban rolling stock. The Connex carriages being supplied by Alstom; while the M Train carriages; were supplied by Seimens.

2002 - Suburban trains services extended to Watergardens at Sydenham.

2002 - National Express abandons its operation of V/line Pass and M Train with a week's notice. Government took over operation of V/Line Pass. While M Train operations were taken over by Connex, in 2004.

2004 - Freight Australia sold to Pacific National

2004 - Trials of V'Locity cars commence.

2004 - West Coast Railway chose not to renew its contract and the service between Melbourne and Warrnambool reverted to V/Line Passenger

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