Motive Power Renaissance

It is that many operators in NSW (and indeed, Australia in general) use locomotives well past their use-by dates on day to day freight running.

When the NSW Railways only had one operator in the form of The New South Wales Government Railway (later the NSW State Rail Authority), things were fairly predictable. New locomotives would be ordered as finances and traffic permitted, with older locomotives that reached their end of economical service life withdrawn from service and disposed of, either to heritage organisations or scrap metal dealers.

Fast forward to 2012, a time when previously withdrawn locomotives well past the end of their service life continue to operate in daily service across the state. Locomotives earmarked for heritage service can be seen turning a wheel with heritage operators to earn their keep. Modern motive power is often expensive and requires a long wait for construction and testing prior to acceptance. Thus, these stalwart survivors continue to soldier on, with their new owners intent on running them until they come to a stand for the final time… then fall apart!

Given the initial expense and long process involved in the purchase of new locomotives and rolling stock, many private operators are forced to purchase motive power and rolling stock from other operators, or instead lease the required assets from one of the leasing companies (although these assets are usually in high demand and of the same vintage as purchasing second, third or fourth hand locomotives!). Finally, the only other way to enter the market is to acquire an existing operator (as Coote Industrial did when they bought South Spur Rail Services in 2007).

It has come to the stage that regular photographers in the Sydney area regard these rolling museum pieces as a poorly kept secret. Sometimes, these locomotives are so often seen that it can be easy to take their continuing presence for granted. Here, I plan to detail some of the classes used by the various operators, and where such locomotives can be regularly seen today – if not for the benefit of visitors without the curse of familiarity, thento wake up those who might think to take a second look at these veterans of the NSW metals.

The private market was flooded with old locomotives when the (then) State Rail Authority conducted an auction of withdrawn locomotives at Cardiff in 1994. With locomotives from the 44, 48, 45, 49 and 442 classes (among other examples) going under the hammer en masse, there was plenty of opportunity for interested parties to purchase those locomotives still in reasonable running condition at prices comparable to those being paid by the scrap metal dealers.

It is in this way that operators such as Austrac and CFCLA first got their foot in the door of the Australian market. Both companies would ensure their new purchases were fit for traffic, prior to making them available for lease service. Austrac would later move into direct competition with FreightCorp and National Rail for traffic within NSW, opening the door for other operators to begin entering the market.

Not all of the locomotives in private service today were obtained at the auction – indeed, the balance of these older locomotives are not from NSW at all, instead having been purchased from government railways in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia.

Please note, I have only included operational locomotives in this selection. Likewise, I have only included locomotives that regularly operate in NSW. Obviously in a post-privatisation world, locomotive deployments are more fluid than previously, so some more recent arrivals may be omitted, and others may have already departed for duties in other states.

As for defining exactly what is a heritage locomotive, I will be focusing here on locomotives withdrawn by their original owner, only to re-enter service with private owners.

GM1 Class (1951)

Southern Shorthaul Railroad – GM10.

First introduced by the Commonwealth Railways in 1951, only two such members of the class survive in commercial ownership – with only one locomotive still operational and in regular service.

GM10 forms part of the fleet of Sydney based Southern Shorthaul Railroad, and is often used for infrastructure and work trains in the greater Sydney area. More recently, SSR have entered into a contract with Centennial Coal for the haulage of export coal from Newstan (near Fassifern). Until new AC  traction motive power is accepted, loaded coal trains are banked out of Newstan Colliery using the older locomotives in the SSR fleet – including GM10. This is possibly one of the best ways to experience the distinctive “bark” of an older EMD engine at its best.

When GM10 is engaged in bank engine duties, it is recommended to situate oneself along the line between Fassifern and Broadmeadow Yard and wait for the coal train to pass. The bank engines detach at Broadmeadow Yard and return light engine to the mine to await the return of the coal train.

B Class (1952)

Southern Shorthaul Railroad – B61 and B65.

Following the success of the GM1 class with CR, the Victorian Railways introduced their own version with dual cabs in 1952. Aside from the extra cab, the B Class differed from the GM1 class in that all three axles on each bogie were powered (the GM1 class had an A1A-A1A wheel arrangement compared to the Co-Co B Class).

While two of the class survive with CFCL Australia in Victorian service (although at least one has seen service in NSW, B76), the two operational class members in NSW are B61 (painted in the SSR livery) and B65 (painted in a one-off “Auscision Models” livery), both owned by SSR. The two units alternate between infrastructure train duties in the greater Sydney area and coal train bank engine duties at Newstan (see above).

The B Class in particular have recently seen service in Western NSW operating railset trains in the Parkes area for ARTC.

GM12 Class (1955)

Southern Shorthaul Railroad – GM22 and GM27.

These two GM Class entered private service with (the now defunct) Great Northern Rail Services following their purchase from Australian National. The two GM’s then passed into CFCLA ownership after the eventual demise of Great Northern. CFCLA eventually sold the locomotives to SSR in 2011 following a long period of lease to Patrick Portlink. The two locomotives joined the SSR infrastructure train fleet, being used around the greater Sydney metropolitan area. The two GM Class are often used on bank engine duties out of Newstan (see above).

T Class (1955)

Southern Shorthaul Railroad – T363 and T381.

CFCL Australia – T387*.

Engenco – T383.

Southern Shorthaul Railroad own and operate two T Class locomotives as part of their fleet, with one of them (T363) the only commercially owned “high nose” T Class. Both locomotives are painted in their distinctive black and yellow colour scheme, and are often used on infrastructure and work train duties for RailCorp, ARTC and private operators.

CFCL Australia have a single T Class in NSW, that being T387. At the time of writing, this unit is on hire to El Zorro for use on their north-western grain train. Often seen as a trailing unit running between Newcastle and Werris Creek, the locomotive is kept on the train to allow the train to operate on lighter lines where mainline motive power is not permitted to treat.

The final T Class regularly seen in NSW is T383. A former Rail Technical Services lease unit, the locomotive passed into the hands of Engenco after they acquired the controlling share of Coote Industrial in 2011. Wearing the attractive Coote Industrial green/yellow livery, the unit was often seen in the company of fellow Clyde/EMD branchliner 4908 (see below) shunting Broken Hill yard whilst on hire to South Spur Rail Services. Late in 2011, the unit wandered –  sighted around the Sydney area working P&OTA trip freights before being transferred to the Newcastle area.

*CFCLA includes a number of other T Class in their fleet, however these locomotives are captive to Victorian broad gauge working, so are not included here. Likewise, Pacific National own and operate T Class locomotives, but not regularly in NSW.

42 Class (1956)

Lachlan Valley Railway – 4204.

The 42 Class were introduced by the NSWGR in 1956 following the success of the GM Class for Commonwealth Railways. A small class of only six units, two have survived into preservation. 4204 saw initial service with LVR on tourist trains on the Demondrille to Blayney line (based in Cowra), prior to being withdrawn for a full restoration to service. Returning to service in 2010, the locomotive saw extensive use supporting LVR’s operational steam fleet on tours around NSW before settling into lease service with SSR in late 2011.

Until early 2012, the locomotive was a regular fixture on infrastructure trains for RailCorp and ARTC, including a visit to Victoria with B65 in August 2011. Early in 2012, the locomotive was reallocated to Newstan for coal train bank engine duties (see above), and at the time of writing, this is where it has remained.

44 Class (1957)

Independent Rail – 4458, 4461, 4463, 4483, 4488, 4497 and 4498.

Qube Logistics – 4471 and 4477.

Lachlan Alco Group – 4464, 4473 and 4486.

Originally numbering a class of one hundred, the 44 Class have settled into private ownership far more readily than some of their more modern counterparts. CFCL Australia originally purchased four units at the Cardiff auction (4468, 4471, 4477 and 4483). Of those four, 4468 was withdrawn and placed in storage at Lithgow before being sold to ARHS ACT in Canberra for preservation. 4471 and 4477 were sold to P&O Trans Australia during 2009, while 4483 (also withdrawn) was sold to Independent Rail in 2010.

Hunter Valley Railway Trust (HVRT) purchased a number of 44 Class at the auction (4458, 4461, 4463, 4472, 4488, 4497 and 4498), although the majority of these were then leased to (then) Lachlan Valley Rail Freight for use on their services between Minto, Cooks River, Sandgate and Port Botany. Independent Rail (as LVRF came to be known) eventually purchased the balance of the class from HVRT in 2010 (HVRT retained 4472).

With the arrival of the MZ Class in 2006, the 44 Class were relegated to lesser duties, often being used in conjunction with the 47 Class (see below) to operate container trip freights between Minto and Cooks River, as well as between Cooks River and Port Botany. Whenever insufficient motive power is available, it has become common once more to see the 44 class used on the mainline freight trains to Dubbo, Kelso (Bathurst) and Sandgate. 4461, 4463 and 4498 are painted in an all-over red scheme with white trim, while 4458, 4488 and 4497 have been repainted into the IRA silver scheme. 4483 is on blocks at Minto, and remains in the SSR scheme it wore while owned by CFCLA. With the construction of a run-around at Minto, it is not uncommon to see back to back 44 Class working the container trip from Minto to Cooks River.

Qube Logistics have not (yet) repainted their two 44 Class locomotives, both of which retain the CFCLA livery they were purchased in (although the CFCLA logos have been removed). These two locomotives are captive to the two container trip trains that shuttle back and forth between Yennora and Port Botany, often in the company of a 48 or 830 Class unit (see below).

A further three 44 Class are owned by the Lachlan Alco Group, and are on lease to 3801ltd. 3801ltd use these three locomotives to operate infrastructure trains for RailCorp, although the class have also been seen hauling the RailCorp/ARTC AK Cars and the occasional 3801ltd heritage tour train.

S Class (1957)

Southern Shorthaul Railroad – S317.

Although there are plenty of examples of these handsome Clyde/EMD units operating in Victoria, only one such example remains in service in NSW. S317 was the last of an eighteen strong class ordered by the Victorian Railways from Clyde Engineering, entering service in 1957. S317 was used by SSR for infrastructure work for quite some time before being reallocated as a bank engine for Newstan coal working early in 2012.

48 Class (1959)

Authors note: The 48 Class are tricky, because the earlier members of the class were withdrawn by their original owners, although the later series continued in service right up until their sale to Toll in 2002. Below, I will focus on the operational members of the first series (i.e. 4801 to 4845), as these were the units withdrawn and disposed of in the 1990’s.As before, locomotives in storage are omitted.

Engenco – 4811 (48s36), 4815 (48s34), 4829 (48s33) and 4843 (48s35).

Junee Railway Workshops – 4814, 4816 and 4836

RailCorp – 4819 and 4827

Goodwin Alco – 4833

Eventually numbering 165, the 48 class were purchased by the NSWGR in an effort to dieselise the various branch lines around the state. In modern times, with demand for branch line locos slowly diminishing as lines are either closed or re-laid to accommodate heavier motive power, these locomotives have found plenty of use as shunters as well as being used on trip and infrastructure trains in the Sydney metropolitan area.

The three Engenco units listed above are all nominally available for hire to other operators. 48s34 and 48s36 are on hire to El Zorro for use on their grain trains within NSW. Both are painted in the modern Silverton yellow/blue livery, and are often found as trailing units on El Zorro’s N/W rake. 48s33 still wears the older Silverton yellow colour scheme (badly faded), while 48s34 is painted in the Coote Industrial Greentrains livery. Both are on hire to Southern Shorthaul Railroad for use on infrastructure train duties, as well as coal train bank engine work.

Junee Railway Workshops own the three former Austrac units, with all three units still wearing the distinctive maroon and grey livery of the now defunct operator. At the time of writing, 4814 is on hire to P&O Trans Australia for use on Yennora to Port Botany trip trains, although it has also made various trips around the state as additional motive power on their regional container freight. 4816 and 4836 are on hire to El Zorro, currently being used as branchline power for lightly laid lines, such as The Rock to Boree Creek.

RailCorp maintain a fleet of two 48 Class for use on metropolitan workings, including the transfer of XPT carriages and XP power cars between Meeks Rd and Chullora. Fitted with exhaust scrubbers, they are suitable for use in the city underground, typically dropping or collecting rails for trackwork, as well as working the AK track recording cars when required.

Goodwin Alco owned 4833 is on hire to 3801ltd – it is often used as the shunter at the UGL Rail facility in Broadmeadow, although it has also been used on RailCorp infrastructure trains (typically with members of the 44 class, see above).

830 Class (1959)

Junee Railway Workshops – 852

Engenco – 857 (48s31), 864, 869, 872

While the majority of the class still in commercial service are in South Australia with Genesee & Wyoming Australia, four of the class are in NSW, on hire to various operators. 48s31 is a former Silverton unit, and wears the Silverton livery of yellow and blue. This locomotive is on hire to RailCorp for use on infrastructure trains. The remaining three units have all been painted in the Coote Industrial scheme, and are often found working alongside 4471, 4477 and 4814 (see above) on the P&O Trans Australia Yennora to Port Botany container trip trains, although they are occasionally used as additional motive power on P&O’s regional container freight trains.

852 has had an interesting life in privatisation – 852 was the sole ALCo locomotive in the entirely EMD fleet of ARG NSW when operating the Manildra Group contract. 852 was often used with hired 48 Class (4814, 4816 and/or 4836) to negotiate the line between Junee and Narranderra with Manildra Group flour trains. When ARG lost the contract to Pacific National in 2008, their fleet of L and 422 class were transferred back to Western Australia, with the exception of 852 which was sold to Junee Railway Workshops. 852 went into the workshops for overhaul, finally emerging with a new JRW corporate scheme in February 2012. 852 is to be leased to El Zorro for standard gauge work in NSW and Victoria.

850 Class (1959)

Pacific National – D19, D27, D28, D29 and D30.

Purchased for the (then) Australian Iron & Steel railways at Port Kembla, the 850 Class have been a victim of the gradual loss of work in the Port Kembla area. While it is far easier to track down their more modern cousins (the 1000 Class), the 850 class remain a comparative rarity when photographing the publically accessible sections of the BlueScope Port Kembla rail network (managed by Pacific National). Possibly the best place to witness these gutsy veterans is at Cringila and Lysaghts stations, both of which are accessible by CityRail train from Wollongong or Port Kembla (public parking is available at Cringila Station). It is quite common to see the 1000 Class passing these stations on shunting turns, although it is not unheard of for the 850 class to pass by, typically moving from one section of the works to another, or to and from their maintenance depot.

49 Class (1960)

Southern Shorthaul Railroad – 4904, 4910 and 4917.

Manildra Group – 4907 (MM01) and 4913 (MM02).

Engenco – 4908.

3801ltd – 4918.

These lightweight branchline units have been one of the greatest beneficiaries of the post-privatisation era. The first two units to pass into private ownership were 4907 and 4913, being sold to Manildra Group for use as shunters at Manildra and Gunnedah respectively. As part of their overhaul to make them fit for service, the front hood of the units was lowered to permit Driver Only Operation (DOO).

CFCL Australia obtained three of the class as part of their acquisition of the former Great Northern assets and renumbered them as KL80, KL81 and KL82, repainting the units into their corporate colour scheme and making the units available for lease service. The three locomotives spent a fair amount of time on hire to Southern Shorthaul Railroad for infrastructure work, and were eventually sold to SSR in 2011. All three units were cycled through Goulburn Railway Workshops to be repainted into the SSR livery and renumbered back to their original classifications. They are once more engaged in operations across the state on infrastructure train working, although they have seen use as Newstan bank engines early in 2012.

4908 was owned by 3801ltd along with 4918 before being sold to Coote Industrial in 2008. 4918 towed the loco to Braemar for repaint and overhaul. 4908 was initially transferred to Victoria for use with South Spur Rail Services, although it has now found a home at Broken Hill shunting ore wagons. Now owned by Engenco, the unit remains on hire to SSRS.

3801ltd own 4918, with the unit fully restored to the original NSWGR colour scheme it was introduced in. Although the locomotive is normally kept for the operation of 3801ltd’s tourist train – The Cockatoo Run, it is occasionally used on RailCorp infrastructure train duties. At other times, the unit is pressed into service as the UGL Broadmeadow shunter, as well as being used as motive power on the RailCorp/ARTC owned AK Track Recording cars, often in company with fellow branchliner 4833.

Additionally, the bogies from 4901, 4902, 4905, 4909, 4912 and 4914 were used in the conversion of six narrow gauge 1502 Class locomotives to the 423 Class. The locomotives (now without their bogies) were later scrapped at Casino.

45 Class (1962)

Goodwin Alco – 4501.

Pacific National – 4503.

Engenco – 4532/3532 (45s1).

Unlike a lot of other classes mentioned here, the 45 Class did not transfer well into private ownership, with only two members of the class currently in service with commercial operators. Goodwin Alco (owners of 4833, see above) own the class leader, which is on lease to 3801ltd. 3801ltd in turn use this unit quite often on RailCorp infrastructure trains during periods of trackwork, typically alongside the Lachlan Alco 44 Class (see above).

Former operator Patrick PortLink (a division of Asciano) owned and operated two of the class (the other unit being 4514, stored at Werris Creek). When PPL ceased rail operations in NSW in mid 2010, the two 45 class were transferred to Pacific National, with 4503 allocated to Rural and Bulk operations as part of the Manildra Group contract, specifically the transfer of grain from various loading sites around Western NSW to the plant at Manildra.

The other operational member of the class is 45s1, formerly 3532. This is a former Silverton unit, placed into storage for a few years before being ressurrected by new owners Engenco. Painted in a modified Silverton livery (with the logos painted out), the unit is on hire to El Zorro for use on their North-West grain service.

600 Class (1965)

Engenco – 602, 603 and 607.

Despite looking rather unloved, the three 600 Class owned by Engenco all see regular use on mainline freight and infrastructure train duties. The three are on lease to P&O Trans Australia, and can be seen on a variety of traffic around NSW. All three members of the class still wear a very faded Australian National colour scheme.

J Class (1966)

Specialised Container Transport – J102 and J103.

Originally introduced as shunters by the Western Australian Government Railways in 1966, these two locomotives were purchased by Great Northern during 1995. When CFCL Australia took ownership of the class in 2002 following the collapse of GNL, the locomotives were placed on long term lease to SSR and were painted in the distinctive SSR livery. J102 and 103 changed hands again in 2009 when the pair were sold to SCT for use as their Goobang Junction shunters.

The two locomotives still wear their SSR colours, although they are now captive to the Parkes area, used to shunt the SCT terminal at Goobang Junction. Perhaps the best time to see them in action is shortly after an SCT train has arrived, or in the lead up to an SCT trains departure. While shunting the terminal, it is fairly easy to see them from the nearby road.

421 Class (1966)

QRNational – 42103, 42105, 42106, 42107 and 42109.

Introduced by the NSWGR in 1966, these streamlined units were essentially an improved upon 42 Class. Five of the class were sold to the Northern Rivers Railroad (a private operator based at Casino) for use on their Ritz Rail passenger train, as well as contract freight services for FreightCorp to Murwillumbah. The class passed into the hands of QRNational when they purchased NRR in 2002, which saw the class redeployed on coal working between Newstan and Vales Point Power Station, as well as between Duralie and Stratford washery. Soon replaced by the 423 Class, the units became regular shunters and trip train pilots for QRNational’s intermodal division.

It is hard to pinpoint the exact location of the 421 Class at any given time. The class are typically used as shunters in Melbourne, Brisbane, Casino, and Yennora. The class are also often used as additional motive power on East Coast services between Melbourne and Brisbane, especially when the class are transferred to/from Melbourne for maintenance.

Whenever a member of the class is in Sydney, the best time to see them is working 2152/1253 trip freight between Glenlee and Yennora.

442 Class (1971)

Qube Logistics – 44202.

Southern Shorthaul Railroad – 44204 and 44206.

CFCL Australia – 44208 and 44209.

Engenco – 44220 (442s1) and 44223 (442s5).

While a number of the 442 Class were converted into GL Class by UGL/CFCLA in 2003, a number of original units survive in commercial operation today. Qube Logistics obtained 44202 (formerly known as 442s4) as part of their purchase of South Spur Rail Services from Coote Industrial. Repainted into the Qube livery, this unit (along with Engenco units 442s1 and 442s5) is used on a variety of SSRS and P&OTA freight trains around the state, from trip train working in the Sydney metro area to mainline container, grain, coal and ore traffic.

During 2011, Southern Shorthaul Railroad purchased 44204 and 44206 from CFCL Australia. These two locomotives are currently dedicated to coal traffic, although the delivery of the CEY Class will likely return them to infrastructure train work. 44204 wears a one-off blue colour scheme, while 44206 wears a modified version of the Freight Australia scheme (having been hired to the now defunct operator while still owned by CFCLA).

44208 is owned by CFCL Australia, although is currently on hire to P&O Trans Australia for use on their mainline freight traffic alongside 44202, 442s1 and 442s5 (see above). Until recently, 44208 was the only member of the class to wear the CFCLA livery (JL406 had worn the CFCLA livery previously, prior to being used as part of the GL Class rebuilding program).

44209 was, until recently, on lease to El Zorro for use on standard gauge grain services in Victoria. Disliked by the crews due to a poor reliability, the locomotive finally gave up in late 2011, and had to be returned to Goulburn for repairs. While at Goulburn, the locomotive was repainted from the red/white R&H Transport scheme (also worn by 4717, see below) into an updated version of the CFCLA livery. At the time of writing, the locomotive has not gone out on hire to anyone, to the best of the authors knowledge.

47 Class (1972)

Lachlan Valley Railway – 4701, 4702, 4703, 4708 and 4716.

Independent Rail – 4717.

Despite their poor reliability curtailing their career with the NSW Government Railways, the 47 Class have had a remarkable “second wind” in private service. Only one of the class is actually owned by a commercial operator (4717), with the remaining operational members of the class owned by Lachlan Valley Railway and made available for lease service.

Independent Rail make use of their own 4717, as well as LVR’s 4703 on trip train duties between Minto and Cooks River, as well as between Cooks River and Port Botany. Motive power shortages in recent months have also seen both members of the class allocated to mainline freight duties, often to the west and north of the state. 4717 wears the livery of R&H Transport, while 4703 wears a once-off green and silver livery. Both are typically targets of graffiti vandals, so often it can be hard to determine exactly what colour scheme they are painted in!

Southern Shorthaul Railroad have leased 4701, 4702 and 4716 from LVR for use on infrastructure work in the Sydney metropolitan area, with 4701 repainted from a fading “SRA Candy” colour scheme to SSR corporate colours during 2011. 4708 was formerly used by IRA until it was returned to LVR in 2011 for complete overhaul. The unit is currently under overhaul in Cootamundra, with the unit tipped to join the other 47 Class in service with SSR.

Hopefully this has given some insight into where the various working museum pieces are, and what this new era of privatisation has meant for some old favourites. As is standard for this brave new world, the duties of these old beasts can vary week to week, and even the owners and colour schemes have been known to change at the drop of a hat, so the information as written might be rendered invalid within the space of a week. I hope to address this issue with “updates” in the future, but if you know something I don’t, please feel free to leave a comment below!


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