Editors note: This article originally appeared on Trackside in 2012. It is presented here in mostly original form although with more recent updates to the operational 47 Class included as of September 2020.
The 47 Class – Problem Children
The final bastion of steam in NSW would be the Hunter Valley coalfields. With increasing tonnages of coal to be transported, the NSWGR required a class of branchline locomotives capable of treading lightly on some of the more unfriendly colliery branch lines in the region. While modern coal trains are hauled by the heaviest power in the state, this was not always the case, with lightly laid track and short trains calling for a different approach.
June 2012 is already shaping up to be an interesting month – firstly the Premier of NSW announces a day return service between Bathurst and Sydney, CFCLA recommissions lease unit 44209 on a series of corporate trains and Qube announces a takeover of Independent Railways of Australia.
44209 was previously painted in the R&H Transport scheme of red and white. The unit had seen service with Patrick Portlink, P&O Trans Australia and El Zorro in the twelve months before it’s withdrawl. The unit suffered a seized traction motor while in use on El Zorro Victorian grain trains in late 2011, and was eventually towed to Goulburn for repair work. While at Goulburn, the locomotive was repainted into the CFCLA livery, although it remained on transfer bogies while work was undertaken to the traction motors. One can only wonder if it will join stable-mate 44208 on hire to Qube, or if the unit will return to El Zorro (or perhaps another operator entirely).
Qube Logistics also announced the takeover of Macarthur Intermodal Shipping Terminal Pty Ltd (MIST), which owns and operates Independent Railways of Australia (IRA) for container trains between Minto (where the MIST freight terminal is located) and Cooks River/Port Botany, as well as regional rail services between Cooks River and Narrabri, Dubbo and Bathurst. This is potentially damning news for IRA’s fleet of 44 Class locomotives, most of which are out of service at any given time due to mechanical problems, brought on by their age and a lack of appropriate spare parts. This news is also potentially worrying for fans of the operators imported Danish “MZIII” 14 Class locomotives, which have also been plagued with failures in recent months. It may be that Qube (who operate their own 44 Class, ex CFCLA rental units 4471 and 4477) use IRA’s 44 Class as a source of spare parts, and set aside the 14 Class indefinitely.