Victorian Railways History 1950 – 1974

This page covers Railway History in Victoria from 1950 through to 1974. See also:

Victorian Railways History 1950 – 1974

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.

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