General Electric power is not a new concept in Australia, although it was only with the demise of the ALCo brand that really allowed GE products to take their market share. Today, the two main manufacturers of locomotives in Australia are Downer EDI Rail and UGL Rail, with the latter producing GE products for the Australian market. The most well known GE product in Australia would arguably be the NR Class, built for the National Rail Corporation in the 1990’s. Entering into a deregulated industry, UGL Rail have been busy producing locomotives for various companies, including Pacific National, QRNational, CFCL Australia, Genesee & Wyoming Australia, Centennial Coal and Xstrata. Given the continued demand for new motive power over the next decade, it is likely that more examples are yet to be built.
Various – L80T (1960)
The first members of this class of shunting units were built by A. Goninan and Co, ordered by BHP Newcastle. Based on a standard General Electric design (modified suitably for local conditons), the first five units were built to an exceptionally narrow profile for use on BHP’s 915mm gauge system. Further units would be ordered by BHP, for use on their standard gauge network, resulting in an all-diesel operation by the mid 1960’s with a class of 22 units. The final unit was delivered with a full width body (now standard for the class), which pleased the crews as it gave them more room and better visibility around wagons when propelling, so all units save for six were rebuilt with the new body size and profile (the six “original” locomotives were retained for the 915mm system, however none survived into preservation).
It was not just BHP Newcastle that expressed interest in these units, with John Lysaght at Port Kembla ordering one, Blue Circle Cement ordering two, and Sulphide Corporation ordering one. The closure of the BHP Steelworks in 1999 made the original 22 class members redundant, with many scrapped or preserved, although a number passed to other commercial operators. Today, Manildra Group own three of the units (two as backup shunters at their Manildra and Gunnedah plants, and one at Bomaderry), with Junee Rail Workshops owning two to use within the workshops.
Australian National – EL Class (1990)
It was considered quite an unusual move for Australian National when they placed an order for fourteen General Electric EL Class units with A. Goninan & Co. in 1990. The class were specifically designed and geared with fast freight and passenger services in mind. When Australian National was broken up in 1997, with most of the motive power passing to National Rail Corporation or Australian Southern Railroad, the EL Class remained in the ownership of the Commonwealth Government. They would spend a number of years in storage following an initial period of lease to ASR, until the class were sold to Chicago Freight Car Leasing Australia in 1998. CFCLA’s first move was to have the locomotives overhauled to regear them for freight service, reducing their top speed but increasing their tractive effort. As the units emerged from overhaul (at the A Goninan and Co plant at Bassendean), they were painted in CFCLA’s corporate silver and blue livery, and named after racehorses as part of CFCLA’s “Australian Horsepower” tagline. Initially leased to Australian Southern Railroad, the units have gone on to work for most of the operators in Australia hauling all different kinds of freight.
All surviving members of the class are in service with various operators around the country today (except for EL59, which was scrapped by AN after sustaining collision damage in 1997). They are popular with crews, and are (at the time of writing) in use with operators as varied as El Zorro, Pacific National and Independent Railways of Australia, on freight tasks ranging from coal work, to export grain and regional container freight.
(Photo Coming Soon)
Queensland Rail – 2800 Class (1995)
Although Queensland Rail was known for a large fleet dominated by Clyde/GM type locomotives, the 2800 Class were the second lot of GE locomotives ordered from Goninan in 1995. Confined to the narrow gauge QR system in Queensland, one locomotive (2819) was trialled on standard gauge services with QRNationals Interail division in 2006, with specially built bogies for this unit. The experiment would ultimately turn out to be a failure due mostly to restrictions on the unit when operating within NSW, with the unit first relocated to Melbourne to Perth operations, and now reclassified as “PA2819” and back on narrow gauge in Western Australia.
The experiment would be revisited in 2011, with two units transferred to Sydney to be regauged at UGL’s Chullora workshops, being 2801 and 2815. Emerging with a number of modifications, the locomotives were destined for the North Coast Line to replace the mix of 421, 423 and 6000 Class on the Duralie to Stratford coal trains. The 6000 Class (see below) had initially been trialled on these trains in an attempt to reduce noise pollution.
2800 Class Gallery (Coming Soon).
National Rail Corporation – NR Class (1996)
The NR Class would have to be one of the most widely recognised locomotives in Australia, given their interstate status. Purchased by the (then) newly formed National Rail Corporation, the class originally numbered 120 locomotives (although this has since been reduced to 119, with NR33 scrapped after a level crossing accident in 2006). Ordered specifically for interstate container and steel freight, they are also the primary motive power for Great Southern Rail’s luxury passenger trains, and they also see work as hauling trip trains, as shunters (if only as a matter of convenience) and on bulk limestone trains to Port Kembla. All of the locomotives passed into Pacific National ownership after the takeover of National Rail Corp in 2001.
Today, the NR Class continue to dominate interstate freight haulage, although the oldest class members are now nearing sixteen years of age. Although this doesn’t seem very old compared to other units still operating, the NR Class have lead a very intensive service life, and already Pacific National are looking at their options to reduce their reliance on the class by exploring the benefits of AC traction (already used on interstate freight by their competitors, SCT and QRNational).
CFCL Australia – GL Class (2003)
The GL Class project was a venture by Chicago Freight Car Leasing Australia to rebuild 12 former FreightCorp/SRA 442 Class locomotives into 3000hp locomotives suitable for modern day lease service. Rebuilt at Goninans Broadmeadow workshop between 2002 and 2004, the frames, bogies and fuel tanks from their predecessors were used, with the cabs completely rebuilt to the new “safety cab” design (similar to that found on the NR Class). The class has seen use on of range of duties, from local and domestic coal working with Pacific National, regional freight with Patrick PortLink to export grain with GrainCorp (and later El Zorro). Perhaps the most notable recent development with the class was the long-term lease of GL111 and GL112 to Freightliner in 2010, which saw the units repainted into Freightliners attractive green and yellow scheme.
QRNational – 5000 Class (2005)
The twelve members of 5000 Class were ordered by QRNational from United Group (formerly Goninans), entering service in mid 2005. Ordered as part of a push to enter the lucrative Hunter Valley export coal market (previously dominated by Pacific National with their inherited fleet of 81, 82 and 90 class locomotives), the 5000 Class were the heaviest locomotives in the country outside the Pilbara region, weighing in at least ten tonnes heavier than their competitors 90 Class locomotives. This additional weight meant that they could be used in pairs hauling the new QHAH 120t gross coal hoppers. They now work alongside the newer 5020 Class (see below), with QRNational having steadily eroded PN’s dominance in the Hunter Valley coal market since 2005.
With the privatisation of QRNational in 2010, in 2011 the 5000 Class have began to receive the new corporate QRN logo to replace the old “QR” National logo that they entered service with.
Pacific National – 92 Class (2008)
The fifteen 92 Class were the first order constructed of UGL’s new “C44aci” model in 2008. Designed and built to operate for Pacific National on both interstate freight and heavy coal haulage, the class were quickly pushed into service in PN’s coal division to combat a locomotive shortage. Aside from being used to test the usefulness of GE locomotives compared to their more expensive EMD counterparts on bulk coal and interstate freight services (including a test to see if the class were suitable for use to Inner Harbour to supplement the 82 Class), the 92 Class appear captive to Hunter Valley coal for the time being.
QRNational – 6000 Class (2009)
The twelve members of the 6000 Class were ordered to operate QRNationals interstate freight trains between Brisbane and Melbourne, and between Melbourne and Perth, which (at the time) were the domain of older (and weaker) G, CLF, CLP and X Classes, as well as hired motive power from CFCLA. Despite being ordered before than the Pacific National 92 Class, the 6000 Class were delayed until after the delivery of the 92 Class (PN, see above) and QRNationals AC Class (built for their ARG subsidiary in WA). While the majority of the class entered service in the Melbourne to Perth corridor (given that the EMD LDP Class lease units had already been deployed on East Coast operations), later deliveries remained in the Newcastle area to supplement the 5000 Class on heavy coal haulage until the majority of the 5020 Class were delivered. 6011 was trialled on the Duralie to Stratford coal shuttle service in an effort to increase crew comfort and reduce noise pollution for nearby residents, although the service is to be operated by two members of the 2800 Class (see above). A handful of the class have also been allocated to Western Australian operations, where they are reclassified as the ACA Class, retaining their original numbers.
6000 Class Photo Gallery (Coming Soon).
Xstrata Coal – XRN Class (2010)
In attempt to break the duopoly that Pacific National and QRNational had on the Hunter Valley coal market, Xstrata Coal signed an agreement with Freightliner to operate a number of export coal rakes using locomotives and wagons purchased by Xstrata from UGL at Broadmeadow (with the wagons being delivered by Bradken Rail). A total of twenty XRN Class have been built, and they operate overflow services to various Xstrata mines. It is expected that as contracts between Xstrata and Pacific National expire, they will be replaced by Freightliner operated trains using the XRN Class locomotives and Xstrata owned wagons.
QRNational – 5020 Class (2010)
A development of the C44aci model (92, 6000, XRN classes), the nineteen strong 5020 Class were ordered by QRNational to supplement their existing fleet of 5000 Class locomotives. Designated as C44acHi (the additional “H” standing for “Heavy”, given the units weigh in at 180t), the class combined the AC traction of the C44aci models with the heavier 5000 class bogies. The first few units were unusually constructed at UGL’s Chullora workshop, with the final units constructed at the Broadmeadow plant. The units can typically be found working in pairs, or in tandem with the older 5000 Class units. Another advantage that the 5020 Class have over their older brethren is that they can be used with the new ECP (Electronically Controlled Pneumatic) brake fitted wagons (QHBH 120t gross hoppers).
QRNational – ACB Class (2011)
Initially ordered as an additional six AC Class units, the class were reclassified as the ACB Class prior to testing due to a number of upgrades and modifications when compared to the original eight AC Class units. Constructed at the UGL plant at Chullora (Sydney), the units were forwarded to Western Australia on QRNational interstate freight services dead attached. The photograph above was captured when the units operated their first test run from Chullora to Penrith and back with SSR’s 4904 along as insurance.
ACB Class Photo Gallery (Coming Soon).
Centennial Coal – CEY Class (2012)
Following the trend set by Whitehaven Coal and Xstrata in 2010, Centennial Coal placed an order for seven CEY Class locomotives for delivery in early 2012. Centennial Coal currently have contracts with Pacific National and Southern Shorthaul Railroad, the latter operating all the services from the Newstan Coal Loader (on the NSW Central Coast), as well as overflow rakes to/from Centennials other mines (located in the Western Coalfields). Painted in a modified version of the SSR livery, with green replacing the black, the class entered service on a dedicated Lidsdale rake in January 2012.
CEY Class Photo Gallery (Coming Soon).
CFCL Australia – CF Class (2012)
That CFCL Australia have been interested in purchasing new mainline AC-drive UGL/GE products for years has not been a well kept secret in the industry, although exactly when the units were to be delivered was a matter of intense speculation, with the order continually being pushed back due to an overwhelming volume of locomotives ordered in recent years. Designed as the CF Class, and numbered in the 4400 series, the class is destined for hire to Pacific National for heavy coal service, although at the time of writing, the class are also being used for crew training for interstate services on the East Coast.
Pacific National – 93 Class (2012)
The 93 Class locomotives are another variant of the popular C44aci design for Pacific National’s Intermodal division. 9301 to 9306 entered service in the third quarter of 2012, dedicated to East Coast intermodal traffic, primarily being used on -BM4 and -MB4 superfreighters with inline fuelling. A further three units are on order for delivery in early 2013. The delivery of the class will free up a number of intermodal locomotives for transfer to the Bulk division, most notably the AN Class.
93 Class Photo Gallery (Coming Soon).
6020 Class Photo – Coming Soon.
QRNational – 6020 Class (2012)
QRNational began receiving their first 6020 class locomotives in August 2012, with the class destined to replace older locomotives on their interstate traffic. With more and more 6000 Class locomotives being reclassified as the ACA 6000 Class and deployed on Western Australian duties, QRNational’s intermodal division continues to use older locomotives including the CLF/P, X, 422 and 421 classes.
6020 Class Photo Gallery (Coming Soon).