This page covers Railway History in Victoria from 1975 through to 1999. See also:
- Victorian Railways History 1839 – 1899
- Victorian Railways History 1900 – 1924
- Victorian Railways History 1925 – 1949
- Victorian Railways History 1950 – 1974
- Victorian Railways History 2000 – 2014
Victorian Railways History 1975 – 1999
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.