Victorian Railways History 1900 – 1924

This page covers Railway History in Victoria from 1900 through to 1924. See also:

Victorian Railways History 1900 – 1924

1900 – As the recovery from the 1890’s depression begins to take effect the Victorian Railways commence to expand once more. In addition to the four narrow gauge lines a small amount of extension is made to existing lines and the construction of new locomotives is resumed. Some, such as the AA Class are enlargements of the Speight group of standard 1880’s locomotives. These were built by the Phoenix Foundry. But a number of pattern locomotives are also obtained from the Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia. These include the V Class Goods locomotive of 1900 and the narrow gauge NA Class tank locomotives. Additional locomotives of each class were built in Victoria. The V Class by Phoenix and the NA Class by the Victorian Railway’s Newport Workshops. A number of these two classes of locomotives were built as compounds, [ ie. The steam passed through two sets of cylinders to obtain maximum expansion from the steam, before it was exhausted to the atmosphere] but were later converted to simple expansion. These locomotives marked an important change in construction ideas and a break away from following purely English design concepts.

1900 – Newport Workshops undertakes the rebuild of the M Class group of suburban tank locomotives, dating from 1878.

1901 – The first complete Royal Train was assembled from special purpose vehicles for the visit of the Duke and Duchess of York.

1903 – April 6th The Victorian Railways return to administration by three Commissioners. Thomas Tait is appointed as the Chairman of Commissioners. Tait had been Assistant General Manager of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Thomas Tait also introduced the brown [Canadian Red] livery for locomotives

1902 – The first DD locomotive is constructed at Newport Workshops. Additional locomotives, were constructed in 1903/4, by both Newport and Phoenix Foundry. Ultimately, the Government decided that the Railway Workshops could construct these locomotives at lower cost. From then, until the end of World War 2, the majority of locomotives for the Victorian Railways were constructed in their own workshops. While this marked a ‘coming of age’ for the workshops, it also spelt the end of locomotive construction by the Phoenix Foundry. The first DD locomotives were very English in appearance, with a narrow cab and low footplates, but by 1904 the design had been modified to include a wide, all metal cab and raised footplates. These changes are usually attributed to Thomas Tait. The DD locomotives were also the first to use the flat topped, Belpaire fire box boiler in Victoria. While the DD locomotives were intended for secondary duties, they introduced a new style of locomotive design to Victoria. Ultimately 263 locomotives of this class were constructed. [Examples of derivatives of the DD Class, D1, D2, D3 and D4 tank locomotives can be found in the Railway Museum.]

1906/1912 – Over these years a new fleet of passenger rolling stock is produced. Classed E Class, these vehicles retain the side corridor, compartment design was retained, but the carriages were wider, higher and of similar length to the 1893 carriages. Supported on six wheel bogies, and with a American style of curved end clerestory roof and larger windows, these carriages had a superior layout of the end vestibules. They marked a new era in comfort of long distance travel. Concurrent with their construction, similar style vehicles were constructed as VR/ SAR joint stock vehicles, including sleeping cars. Two parlour cars, with an open observation platform at one end were also constructed for the Sydney Express. [one of these parlour cars, ‘Yarra’ is retained by the Museum, but is maintained in running order by the Seymour Heritage Rail Centre.] A State Car, of similar style was also constructed, and has been used on most Royal Trains since its construction. This car is also held at SHRC along with a running set of E Class carriages. Some were also constructed as combined passenger/mail sorting cars, but were later converted to passenger/ guards vans.

1906 – May 7th Victorian Railways electric street tramway service between St Kilda Station and Middle Brighton commences. This service is extended to Brighton Beach on 22nd December.

1907 – A2 Locomotive introduced. This was a larger express passenger development of the DD Class. The initial locomotives were fitted with Stephenson’s valve gear and were not superheated. From 1916 the design was modified to include superheating and Walscherts valve gear. These locomotives were the mainstay of passenger workings until the 1950’s. they also saw frequent use goods services.[ an example of each type of A2 locomotive can be found in the Railway Museum]

1907 – Thomas Tait engages Charles Mertz to report on the possibility of electrifying the Melbourne Suburban Rail system. This report was presented in 1908, but not acted on due to its cost.

1908 – The DDE tank locomotives were introduced, being a tank version of the DD class. They had sufficient range to operate the longest suburban services and sufficient power to deal with the steeper grades of the outer eastern suburbs.

1911 – Mertz is invited to present a revised plan, which is approved in 1912

1911/1914 – A shorter version of the E Class carriages, classified W Class, are produced. The style and interior layout was virtually the same but the shorter carriages were carried on 4 wheel bogies. From 1924/1925, additional W class carriages were built but with a curved ended elliptical roof

1912 – The first internal combustion powered railcars are introduced. These ‘McKeen Cars’ were largely unsuccessful due to mechanical failures.

1913 – Newport Power Station is commenced and the construction of a fleet of electric powered trains is commenced. These carriages were of similar outline to the country passenger cars, but had sliding doors to each bay of seats, to allow speedy loading and unloading. In addition, many of the newer suburban passenger carriages of the Speight period were lengthened and strengthened for electric propulsion, but retained their swing doors. These vehicles, which became popularly known as ‘Red rattlers’, were a part of the Melbourne suburban scene until the 1980’s [a swing door motor car is preserved in the museum and operating examples of swing door and Tait cars are preserved by ‘Elecrail Victoria’]

1913 – A steam powered railcar with a Kerr Stuart power unit and a body built by the Newport workshops entered service.

1918 – C Class heavy goods locomotive introduced. At the time of their introduction they were the largest locomotive in Australia. [a C Class is included in the Museum collection.]

1919 – May 28th The first suburban electric passenger service in Australia commenced operation from Essendon to Sandringham. By 1930 all of the then suburban system had been converted to electric operation.

1919 – Alfred Ernest Smith is appointed as Chief Mechanical Engineer. Smith had risen through the ranks of the Victorian Railways and had been closely associated with the design of the DD, A2 and C Class locomotives.

1919 – Harold Clapp is appointed as Chairman of the Victorian Railways Commissioners. A position he retains until 1939.

1919/20 – A series of light weight, high capacity excursion carriages classed BPL were constructed. Using an open saloon design, they were based on the suburban Tait carriages, including the use of sliding doors. Many were built on the under frames of older vehicles and some were fitted with outward swinging doors. A small number were fitted with a guards compartment and were classified BCPL. Some survived in service until the 1980’s. A few have found preservation on tourist railways.

1922 – The first K Class locomotives are produced for use on heavily graded light lines. [a K Class is included in the Museum collection.]

1922 – The first of a series of rail motors based on AEC truck chassis are introduced. These vehicles were only single ended and had to be turned on a turntable. The last continued in service until the 1950’s.

1923 – The first steeple cab suburban electric goods locomotives are obtained. These were followed in 1928 by similar locomotives but with a box cab They were later Classified as E class.

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