Victorian Railways X class

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Victorian Railways X Class
VR Newport Workshops photograph of X 28, 1929. The locomotive has not yet been fitted with lamps and cab windows.
Type and origin
Power type steam
Builder Newport Workshops
Configuration 2-8-2
Gauge 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)
Driver diameter 5 feet 1 58 inches (1,565 mm)
Length 77 feet 4 12 inches (23.584 m)
Axle load 19.25 long tons (19.56 t; 21.56 short tons)
Weight on drivers 74.25 long tons (75.44 t; 83.16 short tons) (roadworthy)
Locomotive and tender
combined weight
181.1 long tons (184.0 t; 202.8 short tons)
Tender capacity 9 long tons (9.1 t; 10 short tons) coal, 8,600 imp gal (39,000 L; 10,300 US gal) water
Boiler pressure 205 psi (1,413 kPa)
Firegrate area 42 sq ft (3.9 m2)
Heating surface:
– Total
3,107 sq ft (289 m2)
Cylinders 2
Cylinder size 22 in × 28 in (559 mm × 711 mm)
Performance figures
Tractive effort 39,360 lbf (175.1 kN) (w/o booster),48,360 lbf (215.1 kN) (with booster) at 85% boiler pressure
Number in class 29

The X class was a mainline goods locomotive of the 2-8-2 'Mikado' type that ran on the Victorian Railways between 1929 and 1961. They were the most powerful goods locomotive on the VR until the advent of diesel-electric traction, and operated over the key Bendigo, Wodonga, and Gippsland mainlines.


The X class was a development of the earlier C class 2-8-0 goods locomotive, designed to be gauge convertible from 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)to 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge in the event of the Victorian Railways network being converted to standard gauge. (The C class, with a narrow firebox between the frames, could not be easily converted.)

The 2-8-2 layout of the X class allowed a wide, deep firebox and large, free steaming boiler. This improved on some key shortcomings of the C class, which were regarded as poor steaming and featured a very long 9 ft 7 in (2,921 mm) manually stoked firebox that was difficult to fire and prone to clinkering.[1] The X class was also equipped with a much larger capacity tender of similar design to the S class Pacific introduced in 1928, enabling through runs from Melbourne to Bendigo without intermediate stops to restock the tender.[2]

All but two of the X class (X 35 & 36) featured a Franklin Booster engine on the trailing truck axle, which allowed an additional 9,000 lbf (40 kN) tractive effort at starting and low speeds to increase the hauling power of the locomotive. X 35 eventually gained the booster engine that had been originally fitted to light Mikado N 110 in 1927.[3]


The success of the original eleven locomotives delivered in 1929 led to a further eight X class locomotives being built in 1937-38, a further six built in 1942-43,[4] with a final four X class delivered by 1947.

Regular service[edit]

With their relatively heavy axle load, the X class was initially confined to the Bendigo and Wodonga lines, with the occasional journey on the Ballarat or Geelong lines. In later years after they were allowed to cross the viaduct between Spencer Street Station and Flinders Street Station, they worked goods trains of over 1,000 tons between Morwell and Melbourne, and even worked the South Gippsland line as far as Korumburra.[5]

Even in its original form, the X class locomotive was a marked improvement on the C class in terms of performance. Comparative tests between prototype X 27 and C class locomotive C 18 revealed that the X developed an indicated horsepower output of 1,220 horsepower (910 kW) between 30 and 36 mph (48 and 58 km/h), compared with 950 hp (708 kW) at 21 miles per hour (34 km/h) for the C.[6] With a revised boiler design and other changes later increasing performance, the X class was renowned for its ability to be driven extremely hard.[7] As with the C class, it was also occasionally pressed into mainline passenger service on key intercity routes, particularly during Christmas and Easter peak times.[5]

Design improvements[edit]

X 39, built new in 1938 with visible design changes including Modified Front End 'flowerpot' funnel, smoke deflectors, and Belpaire firebox with combustion chamber. The tender is believed to be a former S class 4-6-2 tender.[8]

The X class, in common with all broad gauge VR steam locomotives built from 1907 onwards, underwent design modifications to the smokebox draughting and blastpipe dimensions referred to as 'Modified Front End', as well as other improvements such as the fitting of smoke deflectors, Automatic Staff Exchange apparatus and cross-compound air compressors. The copper firebox round-top boilers the original eleven locomotives were built with, prone to priming if too much water was carried,[5] were replaced with all-steel boilers featuring Belpaire pattern fireboxes. The new boiler design also featured combustion chambers and thermic syphons to increase power and efficiency.[9] The VR was so satisfied with the performance of the revised X class all-steel boiler design, a shortened barrel version was considered during the design phase of the R class 4-6-4 express passenger locomotives of 1951.[10]

In July 1938, X 39 became the first VR locomotive to be equipped with A6-ET brake equipment, a feature subsequently incorporated into all new VR steam locomotives.[8]

Experimental use of Pulverised Brown Coal[edit]

In 1949, X 32 was fitted with German 'Stug' (Studiengesellschaft) equipment and a specially modified tender for the burning of Pulverised Brown Coal (PBC). The trial was successful and the locomotive was considerably more powerful as a result of the conversion,[5] gaining a reputation for both speed and dependability. On one occasion, X 32 hauled a 621-long-ton (631 t) load between Seymour and Melbourne in 105 minutes, where the working timetable for a full 650-long-ton (660 t; 730-short-ton) load allowed 147 minutes.[11] On 4 April 1951 it replaced a defective S class locomotive in hauling the Spirit of Progress from Wallan to Melbourne, taking 43 minutes to cover the same distance the S class-hauled train would normally cover in 40 minutes, despite having to start the train from standstill and running with a lower permissible maximum speed.[12]

As early as July 1951 the Victorian Minister for Transport announced that the remaining 28 X class locomotives were to be converted to PBC operation.[13] Victorian Railways went as far as placing tenders for the construction of a further 15 new brown-coal fired X class locomotives. However, the successful introduction of mainline diesel-electric locomotives, coupled with a drop in the price of oil against the high cost of installing storage and transport facilities for PBC, saw the discontinuation of the experiment and the additional X class order cancelled.[7] X 32 was taken out of service in 1956 pending repairs, but was instead scrapped in 1957.[14]


The rapid dieselisation and electrification of Victorian Railways' mainline operations in the 1950s meant that the X class was rendered obsolete as the new B, L and S classes quickly proved their superiority. The X class locomotives were relegated to short-hop transfer goods haulage, a role that as mainline goods locomotives they were unsuitable for.[7] In 1957 X 43 became the first of the class to be scrapped, and the remainder of the class was rapidly withdrawn during the next four years.


X 36, as preserved in the Australian Railway Historical Society museum at North Williamstown

Efforts by railway enthusiasts to save the last remaining X class locomotive from being scrapped led to the establishment of a railway museum and the preservation of examples of many other VR locomotive classes.

By November 1960, just two X class locomotives remained in service[8] when X 29 was withdrawn and quickly cut up for scrap shortly afterwards. Members of the Australian Railway Historical Society, aware that the X class was about to vanish just as the S class 4-6-2 had six years earlier, approached the Victorian Railway Commissioners suggesting that last remaining X class locomotive X 36 and an example of each of the various other classes still in existence be preserved in a railway museum.[15] They received the support of the Commissioners, who provided locomotives, land, and tracks for the establishment of the museum, as well as the support of companies and individuals who donated time, labour, materials and finance to complete the project.

X 36, withdrawn in May 1961 after 741,609 miles (1,193,504 km) of service,[9] is today preserved alongside dozens of other former VR locomotives and rolling stock at the ARHS North Williamstown Railway Museum.

In April 2006 the boiler from scrapped locomotive X 30, obtained by CSR Limited in 1959 to provide steam for Australia's first particle board factory in Oberon, New South Wales, was finally retired from service after 47 years service and allocated to a preservation group.[7][16]


  • Pearce et al. (1980). North Williamstown Railway Museum. Melbourne: ARHS. ISBN 0-85849-018-8. 
  • Carlisle, R.M.; Abbott, R.L. (1985). Hudson Power. Melbourne: ARHS. ISBN 0-85849-028-5. 


  1. ^ "C class steam locomotives". Retrieved 2008-04-27. 
  2. ^ "RAILWAYS ADMINISTRATION. Plans for New Locomotives.". The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956) (Melbourne, Vic.: National Library of Australia). 13 July 1928. p. 13. Retrieved 3 January 2013. 
  3. ^ Sargent et al. (2004). Locomotive Profile Victorian Railways "X" Class "Mikado" 2-8-2 Heavy Goods Locomotive. Train Hobby Publications. p. 2. ISBN 1-876249-89-7. 
  4. ^ "X class diagram". Retrieved 2008-04-27. 
  5. ^ a b c d George, Ron (November–December 1991). "The VR X class 2-8-2 Mikado". Australian Model Engineering (39): pp. 9–10. 
  6. ^ Victorian Railways (c. 1929). "Comparative tests of "x" & "c" class engines". State Library of Victoria. Retrieved 5 January 2013. 
  7. ^ a b c d Oberg, Leon (2007). Locomotives of Australia 1854-2007. Rosenberg Publishing. p. 206. ISBN 1-877058-54-8. 
  8. ^ a b c "X class steam locomotives". Retrieved 2008-04-27. 
  9. ^ a b Pearce et al. (1980). North Williamstown Railway Museum. Melbourne: AHRS. p. 12. ISBN 0-85849-018-8. 
  10. ^ Carlisle, R M & Abbott, R L (1985). Hudson Power. ARHS. pp. 28–29. ISBN 0-85849-028-5. 
  11. ^ "RELIABLE X 32.". Healesville Guardian (Lilydale, Vic. : 1942 - 1954) (Lilydale, Vic.: National Library of Australia). 2 February 1952. p. 3. Retrieved 11 November 2012. 
  12. ^ "'X32' TO THE RESCUE!.". The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956) (Melbourne, Vic.: National Library of Australia). 5 April 1951. p. 1. Retrieved 11 November 2012. 
  13. ^ "More Railway Engines.". Morwell Advertiser (Morwell, Vic. : 1888 - 1954) (Morwell, Vic.: National Library of Australia). 12 July 1951. p. 5. Retrieved 11 November 2012. 
  14. ^ Pulverised Brown Coal Fuel for Steam Locomotives Buckland, John L. Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin, July, 1972 pp145-161
  15. ^ "ARHS Railway Museum: About us". Australian Railway Historical Society. Retrieved 2008-04-27. 
  16. ^ "Oberon Council: Engineering services: Logging Road Infrastructure Study". Retrieved 2008-08-24. 

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