Since the introduction of the LDP Class to, they have been a staple of the QRNational freight trains running between Brisbane and Melbourne. Running in pairs, the LDP Class dominate the running of the MB7/BM7 freight services, with the occasional G, CLP, X, 421 or 422 class along for the ride (usually being transferred to or from maintenance, or swapping the shunt locomotive at a particular location).
However, a new TOC waiver published by RailCorp in June 2010 lays down new rules for the operation of AC locomotives like the LDP (and SCT) classes. Among other specifications, it includes a line that AC type locomotives may not be powering in a consist that includes older DC drive locomotives. This means that when there is a shortage of an LDP Class, another locomotive class cannot just “step in”.
As QRNational has nine LDP Class on long-term lease from Downer EDI’s leasing division – Locomotive Demand Power (hence the name of the class), which is normally enough to run their four weekly services in each direction – usually with two LDP Class per train, this allows for units to be maintained without leaving a deficit.
Recently, QRNational began running services in each direction five days a week, leaving Melbourne and Acacia Ridge on Saturdays, Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. This had stretched the LDP class fleet somewhat, and led to the re-introduction of G Class on selected east coast trains (since the introduction of the LDP Class, G Class were placed on east-west running with the operational CLF and CLP class). The QRN X Class were also used on occasion to supplement the LDP Class during this period.
Since the start of June, a number of LDP Class have been introduced on QRNationals east-west services, to supplement the 6000 Class being used on those trains (currently the 6000 class are used with the G/CLF/CLP class). This is due to the LDP Class having inline fuelling, avoiding the train having to stop for fuel on the busy Adelaide to Perth line.
With the LDP Class unable to operate in multiple with the older locomotives within the RailCorp area, this has led to a return of pre-LDP Class operation to a number of QRNational services between Melbourne and Brisbane. This would indicate a return of the G and CLP class to east coast workings, possibly using the X and CLF class to supplement them.
Previously, the two QRNational X Class were regulars on the Yennora to Glenlee shunt, usually in conjunction with one of the two QRNational owned 422 Class. With the change in motive power to Melbourne – Brisbane trains, the X Class are often used as bank engines on these trains, resulting in the transfer of 2202 from Melbourne, on hire from ARG to be used on Yennora to Glenlee shunts.
The result of all this motive power change was evident in the first week of June. Wednesday June 2nd saw G534 and CLP11 work 3MB7 north to Brisbane, returning as train 5BM7 on Friday, June 4th. G534 returned north on the following Sunday with 7MB7, departing Glenlee for Brisbane behind G534, G516, X54 and LDP001, the LDP being dead attached. X54 was put onto the train in Sydney, to assist with the load to Brisbane, as per the new TOC waiver, the LDP could not operate through the RailCorp area (although it may have been used north of Broadmeadow as ARTC have not issued a similar TOC waiver). 1251 on Friday, June 4th, was operated by 2202 and X54, returning as 2152 to Yennora following 5MB7. 2152 did not run on the following Sunday, instead light engines 2202 and 42206 returned to Yennora light engine to collect 1253.
Hopefully the variety will remain for a while, with the newer 6000 Class being introduced to coal haulage in the Hunter Valley, it would seem that, for now, QRNational variety has returned to east coast working.