Victorian Railways B class (diesel)

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Victorian Railways B Class
B74 hauling the 70th anniversary Spirit of Progress in November 2007
Type and origin
Power type Diesel-electric
Builder Clyde Engineering, Granville
Model Electro Motive Diesel ML2
Build date 1952/53
Total produced 26
Rebuilder Clyde Engineering, Rosewater
Rebuild date 1984/85
Number rebuilt 11
UIC classification Co-Co
Gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge,
1,600 mm (5 ft 3 in)
Length 18.70 m (61 ft 4 in)
Locomotive weight 114 t (112 long tons; 126 short tons)
Fuel type Diesel
Prime mover Electro-Motive Diesel 16-567BC
Engine RPM range 950rpm max
Engine type V16 diesel engine
Aspiration Supercharged (Roots Blown)
Displacement Total: 9072ci
Generator Electro-Motive Diesel D12
Traction motors Electro-Motive Diesel D27
Head end power Nil
Cylinders 16
Cylinder size 567ci per cylinder
Transmission Diesel electric
Multiple working Capable of Multi unit
Performance figures
Maximum speed 133 km/h (83 mph)
Power output 1,120 kW (1,500 hp)
Tractive effort Starting: 267 kN (60,000 lbf)
Continuous: 178 kN (40,000 lbf) at 18 km/h (11.2 mph)
Locomotive brake A7EL - Dynamic Brake
Train brakes A7EL
Operator(s) Victorian Railways (Vline), West Coast Railway, CFCLA, SSR, CRL,
Number in class 26
Number(s) B60-B85
First run 14 July 1952
Preserved B72, B74, B83
Current owner Chicago Freight Car Leasing Australia
Southern Shorthaul Railroad
Disposition 8 in service, 3 preserved, 9 stored, 6 scrapped

The B class are a class of diesel locomotives built by Clyde Engineering, Granville for the Victorian Railways in 1952/53.


The B class were the first mainline diesel locomotives built for the Victorian Railways. The design was based on the successful Electro-Motive Diesel F-unit locomotives with the distinctive bulldog nose. They were unusual in having a streamlined drivers cab at each end. In the 1980s some were rebuilt as the V/Line A class.


After World War II the Victorian Railways was run down from years of Depression-era underinvestment and wartime overutilisation.[1] Chief Mechanical Engineer Ahlston traveled the world studying railway rehabilitation. Britain leaned towards steam locomotives, while France was moving towards main line electrification. The United States was more divided, with General Motors' Electro-Motive Division at La Grange, Illinois was turning out modern E and F-units diesels.[2] However the EMD units axle load was too heavy for the Victorian tracks, and the Commonwealth Government would not allow the use of foreign currency to purchase United States diesels. As a result the £80 million Operation Phoenix featured steam locomotives and electrification of the Gippsland line, either locally built or imported from the United Kingdom.[2]

To achieve a lighter axle load a six axles / six motor Co-Co wheel arrangement was required, with the head of Electro-Motive Diesel, and by 1949 Dick Dilworth was convinced that lighter axle load locomotives would be popular in Australian and other foreign countries. Frank Shea of Clyde Engineering had also negotiated with EMD to build the new locomotive locally, in order to overcome the foreign exchange restrictions.[2] The order was placed in 1951 and the first locomotive was delivered on 14 July 1952.[3]

Into service[edit]

The 26 members of the class operated on broad gauge lines throughout Victoria, working the majority of the important passenger trains, as well as fast freights. Many timetables were accelerated, and steam locomotives began to be scrapped in large numbers.[2]

Demise, reactivation and preservation[edit]

As part of the 1980s New Deal plan to reinvigorate country passenger services, it was decided to rebuild the B class with new traction equipment as the A class. The rebuild contract was let in January 1983 to Clyde Engineering, Rosewater, with the first unit entering service in May 1984. The project was abandoned in mid 1985 after rising costs due to structural fatigue, with the eleventh and final rebuild delivered in August 1985.[4]

At the same time newer high power locomotives had been delivered, including the N class passenger units and the more numerous G class freight locomotives. The B class gradually retired by V/Line from 1982 with some scrapped. Six were purchased by West Coast Railway in the early 1990s for use on their Melbourne to Warrnambool passenger service.[5]

In May 2004 the Victorian Department of Infrastructure issued an alert on stress cracks on the underframes of the B class locomotives, including the units owned by West Coast Railway. Following West Coast Railway's demise in August 2004 these were sold to Chicago Freight Car Leasing Australia and refurbished with some being resold to Southern Shorthaul Railroad. This saw some converted to standard gauge and their sphere of operation increased to include New South Wales. Seymour Railway Heritage Centre have B74 preserved in operating condition and is the only preserved locomotive in operation.[6][7][8][9]

Fleet summary[edit]

Key: In Service Withdrawn Preserved Converted Scrapped
Number Name In service Out of service Km Current owner Status
B60 Harold W Clapp 14 July 1952 11 February 1983 5,669,690 V/Line Passenger Converted to A60, renamed Sir Harold Clapp
B61 18 August 1952 Southern Shorthaul Railroad In service
B62 8 September 1952 28 October 1983 5,541,730 V/Line Passenger Converted to A62
B63 7 October 1952 5,918,480 El Zorro Stored
B64 27 October 1952 5,989,509 El Zorro Stored, Bendigo
B65 17 November 1952 Southern Shorthaul Railroad In service
B66 8 December 1952 11 May 1984 5,169,500 V/Line Passenger Converted to A66
B67 22 December 1952 18 October 1984 5,217,740 Scrapped April 1988, one nose preserved privately
B68 2 February 1953 19 November 1985 5,217,740 Scrapped April 1988
B69 22 February 1953 May 1984 5,283,950 Scrapped June 1992
B70 23 March 1953 3 June 1984 4,967,250 V/Line Passenger Converted to A70
B71 13 April 1953 July 1984 4,754,520 Pacific National Converted to A71
B72 14 May 1953 1 February 1986 4,754,520 Steamrail Victoria Under restoration
B73 25 May 1953 17 November 1981 4,575,930 Pacific National Converted to A73
B74 J.A. Hearsch 15 June 1953 May 1988 4,754,520 Seymour Railway Heritage Centre Preserved operational, main line registered, name applied after preservation
B75 6 July 1953 October 1992 4,754,520 Southern Shorthaul Railroad Was privately owned for preservation, sold to Southern Shorthaul Railroad in 2011, under overhaul December 2012 Bendigo
B76 27 July 1955 Chicago Freight Car Leasing Australia In service
B77 17 August 1953 17 September 1982 4,808,610 Pacific National Converted to A77
B78 7 September 1953 29 February 1984 4,853,800 Pacific National Converted to A78
B79 28 September 1953 18 June 1984 4,992,440 Pacific National Converted to A79
B80 9 October 1953 4,754,520 Chicago Freight Car Leasing Australia Stored
B81 9 November 1953 15 August 1984 4,944,760 Pacific National Converted to A81
B82 30 November 1953 23 May 1988 Scrapped August 1996
B83 21 December 1953 May 1988 Australian Railway Historical Society Preserved static at North Williamstown Railway Museum
B84 18 January 1954 23 May 1988 Scrapped May 1992
B85 22 February 1954 13 March 1983 4,610,040 Pacific National Converted to A85


  1. ^ "ARHS Railway Museum: History 1950 - 2000". Retrieved 31 December 2006. 
  2. ^ a b c d Lee, Robert (2007). The Railways of Victoria 1854-2004. Melbourne University Publishing Ltd. p. page 211, 212, 216, 218. ISBN 978-0-522-85134-2. 
  3. ^ Railmac Publications (1992). Australian Fleetbooks: V/Line locomotives. Kitchner Press. ISBN 0-949817-76-7. 
  4. ^ Scott Martin & Chris Banger (October 2006). "New Deal for County Passengers - 25 years on". Newsrail (Australian Railway Historical Society (Victorian Division)): page 319. 
  5. ^ Peter Attenborough (February 2004). "West Coast Railway". Australian Model Railway Magazine: pages 32–34. 
  6. ^ B class diesel electric locomotives Mark Bau's VR website
  7. ^ A Class (A60 - A85) Railpage
  8. ^ B Class (B60 - B85) Railpage
  9. ^ B Class Vicsig

Further reading[edit]

  • Peter Bermingham (1982). The ML2 story : the history of the Victorian Railways' famous B Class diesel-electric locomotive. Railway Traction Research Group. ISBN 0-959839-29-1.