Victorian Railways History 1925 – 1949

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

Railway History 1925 – 1949

1925 – Following an agreement, that all new designs of locomotives should be suitable for gauge conversion, by the Australian Railways Commissioners Conference in 1923, a new design of light lines goods locomotives, the N Class, were introduced. These locomotives introduced a trailing truck supporting a wide firebox to Victoria. This allowed the locomotives to use lower quality coal, but their greater length made them too long for some branch line turntables. [an N Class is included in the Museum collection.]

1925 – Four double ended Leyland rail motors are obtained

1926 – Two Garratt type locomotives are obtained from Beyer Peacock for use on two of the narrow gauge lines, Colac to Crowes and Moe to Walhalla. Classified G Class, G42 now operates on the Puffing Billy line.

1923/1928 – Under a Commonwealth agreement a number of lines are extended into New South Wales. The Moama to Deniliquin line is purchased in 1923. In 1926 a branch from Barnes to Balranald is constructed. 1925 Kerang to Murrabit constructed and in 1928 extended to Stony Crossing.

<> 1928 – The S Class, 3 cylinder express passenger locomotives are introduced. These locomotives were A. E. Smith’s crowning achievement and used bar frames and Gresley conjugated motion to drive the valve of the inside cylinder. Smith retired in this year.

1928 – Additional suburban electric goods locomotives are constructed, but with a box cab design. These were later classified E Class and were popularly known at ‘Butter Boxes’.

1928 – A series of petrol-electric railmotors are introduced. These were regarded as successful and continued in service well into the 1980’s. In 1951, the original Winton petrol engines were replaced by General Motors diesels and the railmotors became generally known as DERM’s. While no DERM is on display in the Museum, several are preserved on tourist railways and one is allocated to the Railway Museum for eventual display.

1929 – The X Class Heavy Goods Locomotives were introduced, Designed by A.E. Smiths design team and commenced in the year of his retirement, they were both an adaptation of the C Class to meet the requirement for gauge conversion and a goods equivalent of the S Class.

1929 – The final modification of the DD class, the D3 were produced. With an improved, superheated boiler these largely overcame the steaming problems of the earlier variations. Many of the earlier locomotives were converted to D3. As already noted, one D3 is preserved in the Railway Museum.

1929/1935 – The Great Depression produces a virtual halt in railway development. During this period no new locomotives or carriages were constructed. During the remainder of the 1930’s no new locomotives were built and the only new passenger carriages were for the ‘Spirit of Progress’.

1934 – Experiments into modified front end drafting by Edgar Brownbill results in modifications being made to many classes of locomotives. These relatively low cost modifications, resulted in considerably improved performance and deferred the construction of new locomotives until World War 2.

1935 – Carriage 36AE is fitted with air-conditioning to become the first air-conditioned carriage in Australia.

1937 – November 23rd S Class locomotives, newly streamlined, with an enlarged tenders on six wheel bogies, begin hauling an all steel bodied, fully air-conditioned train, between Melbourne and Albury. Named the ‘Spirit Of Progress’, this new train was a landmark in the development of the Victorian Railways passenger services. While the interior arrangement of the train retained the traditional compartment arrangement, the location of the end vestibules and toilets differed to earlier designs. The interior styling was based on art nouveau designs used in American carriages of the period, but were carried out using Australian timbers.

1939/1945 – World War 2 has a significant impact on the Victorian Railways. In addition to vastly increased traffic, resulting from the need to move men and munitions to the war zones, a significant proportion of the capacity of Newport Workshops was diverted to the production of war materials ranging from aircraft fuselages, to armoured fighting vehicles, and tug boat hulls. Newport Workshops were also made an assembly point for the ill-fated Australian Standard Garratt [an example of this type of locomotive is preserved in the Railway Museum]. To meet the demands of wartime traffic an additional batch, of the 1922 designed, K Class light goods locomotives were constructed. However, much of the locomotive stock was severely run down and much routine maintenance was deferred.

1941 – H220 introduced to service. Originally conceived as a passenger locomotive to haul the ‘Overland’ express on the Victorian portion of the journey to Adelaide. The 4-8-4 wheel arrangement copied the latest locomotive practice in the USA, but use of three cylinders, with the valve of the centre cylinder driven by a conjugated lever motion based on European practice. The locomotive incorporated the modified front end designs developed in the mid 1930’s and was unusual in having twin funnels. Initially these were placed side by side across the smoke box, but were later arranged longitudinally. Due to weight restrictions on several bridges on the Western Line, which could not be upgraded during the war time emergency, H220 never entered regular service in its planned role, spending all of its service life on the North East line hauling express freight trains. On the few occasions it was used on ‘The Spirit Of Progress’, H220 was easily ably to maintain the schedule in spite of a 100kph [60mph] speed limit. Although the frames for two additional H Class were constructed, the locomotives were never completed. [H220 is preserved in the Railway Museum]

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

1942/47 – Newport Workshop produced 10 additional locomotives of the X and were produced. N Class

1948/51 – In response to the desire to reduce the number of un-economical mixed train services on lines where there was light traffic, to improve the standard of service provided, and in response to the uncertainties of coal supplies in the post war period; a significant number of additional railcars were purchased from Walkers of Wigan, England. Known as Walker Rail Cars these articulated, lightweight vehicles revolutionised many country services. These railcars came in three sizes and horsepower ratings [102hp, 153hp and 280 hp]. While their lightweight design often produced rather spirited riding and the standard of interior fittings left much to be desired by current standards, the success of these units saw them continue in service to the 1970’s. [examples of Walker Rail Cars form part of the Museum Collection.

1949 – In 1949, prolonged industrial troubles in the coal mining industry caused the Victorian railways to launch a major program of conversion of locomotives to use oil as a fuel. All of the C Class, the four S Class and 60 of the A2 Class, being converted. In addition, half of the order for the new J Class locomotives were built new as oil burners, as were an overseas order for additional N Class. The search for an additional fuel also saw X32 being converted to burn Pulverised Brown Coal. This equipment was later fitted to one of the new R Class [R707]. However, the difficulty of handling this fuel, the costs of providing bulk handling facilities, and the difficulties of training firemen to operate a limited number of locomotives, saw these experiments abandoned, in spite of encouraging results with this fuel.

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