National Rail NR class

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National Rail NR class
NR29 in Pacific National livery hauling the Indian Pacific in January 2008
Type and origin
Power type Diesel-electric
Builder A Goninan & Co
Broadmeadow: NR1-NR60
Bassendean: NR61-NR120
Model Cv40-9i
Build date 1996-1998
Total produced 120
Rebuild date NR 3 June 2006 later renumbered NR121
Number rebuilt 1
 • UIC Co-Co
Gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Length 22 m (72 ft 2 in)
Fuel type Diesel
Engine type General Electric 7FDL-16
Generator General Electric GMG196
Traction motors General Electric 5GE793A1
Cylinders 16
Performance figures
Maximum speed 115 km/h (71 mph)
Power output 3,000 kW (4,000 hp)
Operators National Rail pacific national
Number in class 120
Numbers NR1-NR121
Official name national rail NR class
First run 18 September 1996
Current owner Pacific National
Disposition 118 in service, 1 scrapped, 1 under rebuild

The NR class are a class of Australian diesel locomotive built by A Goninan & Co for National Rail between 1996 and 1998. They are currently operated by Pacific National. The QR National 5000 (and 5020) class locomotives, and all the C44aci model locomotives build by UGL Rail at Broadmeadow adopted the design from the NR Class, but with a variety of features to set them apart from each other and the NR Class locomotives.


Indigenous liveried NR52 at Corio in September 2006
NR28 in Indian Pacific blue livery in June 2006
NR16 in Pacific National livery hauling The Overland through Geelong in November 2008
Trailerail liveried NR53 at Southern Cross station in May 2007
The Ghan liveried NR75 Steve Irwin in October 2003
NR18 in Indian Pacific yellow livery in Stratton in November 2014
NR4 at Newport heading to Dynon.

Upon commencing operations in April 1993 the National Rail inherited a diverse collection of rolling stock to operate interstate freight operations in Australia.[1] The fleet included locomotives of mixed age and power leased from FreightCorp, V/Line and Australian National.

In September 1995 A Goninan & Co were awarded a contract for 120 locomotives from National Rail which were built at their Broadmeadow (NR1-NR60) and Bassendean (NR61-NR120) factories.[2][3] The frames were built at Hexham and the bogies at Goninan's Landsdowne Engineering subsidiary in Taree.[2][3]

The first locomotive to be completed was NR61 which performed its first trial on 18 September 1996 between Midland and Jumpakine.[4] The first Broadmeadow built unit first ran on 23 September 1996.[4] The first units were delivered without National Rail branding or logos, but later units were delivered in full livery. Testing of the units was carried out on the NSW Main Northern line between Werris Creek and Maitland using ballast wagons and 442 class locomotives in dynamic braking mode as dynamic loads.[5] Each locomotive was required to accumulate 10,000 km of trouble free running before acceptance.[2] In February 1998 Broadmeadow delivered the last NR class.

As part of its contract, A Goninan & Co was required to maintain the fleet. A depot was built alongside the Newport to Sunshine railway in the western Melbourne suburb of Spotswood for this.[2][3]

Into service[edit]

With the arrival of the class, National Rail was able to return leased units to their owners, including 422, 80, 81, and 82 class locomotives to FreightCorp, and 442s and 48s class locomotives to Silverton Rail.

The V/Line C class (which were owned by National Rail) and relatively new EL class were withdrawn.[2][6] Once all 120 units were delivered, National Rail retained the AN, BL and DL class locomotives, along with thirteen 81 class and several hired G class. The new locomotives were placed on time sensitive trains first.[2]

When first delivered, the NR class were banned from running in New South Wales by the Environment Protection Authority due to excessive noise when under dynamic braking but the ban was lifted after further testing. The class could also not lead on the Victorian standard gauge network due to the lack of suitable radio equipment. In later years NR76 to NR98 were provided with V/Line Section Authority System equipment to work the Western standard gauge line, while NR1 to NR13 and NR61 to NR72 were fitted with V/Line radios to operate on the Victorian North East line.[2]

Great Southern Rail contracted National Rail to haul its services, the first train running with NR77 on 1 November 1997. All were included in the sale of National Rail to Pacific National in February 2002.


NR3 was involved in an accident at Robertson that killed two crew members, it was rebuilt as NR121.

In June 2006 NR33 was involved in level crossing incident, being the third locomotive on a Melbourne to Adelaide freight service, behind DL40 and NR52. It was subsequently written off and scrapped.[7]

On 30 January 2009 train 5PS6 derailed on a washaway near Golden Ridge, just east of Kalgoorlie in Western Australia. Locomotives NR35 and NR51 finished up on their sides, badly damaged, and spent several years out of service before the decision was made to repair them. <>

On 3 April 2016 NR8 was involved in a fire at Cardiff NSW. The locomotive was rebuilt during 2016. NRs 48 and 81 had suffered similar fires several years earlier, both also being repaired but without the Pacific National signage on their hood sides.

On 21 April 2016, 3MP5 a Melbourne to Perth intermodal freighter derailed near Rawlinna in Western Australia. The two locomotives, NR34 and NR50, were badly damaged, but NR34 has been rebuilt and returned to service in late 2016. NR50 has been rebuilt with its last photographed sighting being at Millswood, South Australia on August 24, 2017 <>


The NR Class introduced many new features. These were the first locomotives in Australia to have "variable horsepower"[citation needed] , which meant that the power output of the engine had three different settings, making the NR class the most fuel-efficient locomotives in Australia. They have GE 7FDL-16 engines, with power levels of 2,850 hp (2,130 kW), 3,560 hp (2,650 kW) or 4,020 hp (3,000 kW), mass of 132 t (130 long tons; 146 short tons), a Co-Co wheel arrangement and a maximum speed of 115 km/h (71 mph).[citation needed]

The NR Class cab was designed taking into consideration the results of an extended consultative process with the end users. This has resulted in a cab that has been well accepted. The layout of the control stand evolved from a British Rail Class 60 cab, and is substantially different from the more common AAR type I (stand) and Type II (desk) cabs.[8]

The design is a long hood unit locomotive, with only one cab but two separate sets of controls, which allow it be driven either "A" or "B" end leading. This locomotive had to pass all tests, such as being able to shunt if required, drive "long end leading" if needed, and allow drivers to do checks on fuel, brakes, and sand. Despite the twin controls, operation of the class "B" end leading is avoided, with single NR classes being turned on turntables to ensure they face the correct way.[2]

In 2013 UGL Rail, Spotswood fitted NR17 with ECP/WDP braking systems for use on quarry traffic in New South Wales. It has been reclassified as NRE17.[9]


The class were delivered painted in the orange and grey National Rail livery, with a few exceptions that were delivered in special customer liveries or that of National Rail business units:[10][11]

  • NR30 & NR52 depicting Aboriginal artworks
  • NR53 - NR55 in green Trailerail livery
  • NR56 & NR57 in blue & white Seatrain livery
  • NR58 - NR60 in grey & white Steelink livery

Many locomotives have been named, the first being done on delivery.[2] They were done at operational convenience rather than in groups of numbers. Names include cities and suburbs served by National Rail, in addition to their depots and maintenance centres. The special livered locomotives were given related names. It had been intended to name all locomotives, but by February 2000 only 70 had been named, a number not much larger today.[2][12][13]

With Pacific National ownership further changes were made, the Pacific National decals placed over the side air deflectors replacing the National Rail signage. From 2006 the National Rail diamonds on the side and ends of the locomotives were removed or painted over. Most have now been repainted into Pacific National livery.[13]

Some have been repainted into special liveries:[13]

  • NR74, NR75 & NR109 in red The Ghan livery
  • NR25, 26, 27 & 28 in blue & yellow Indian Pacific livery. NR26 has been recently painted into the Mark 4 livery with white text on the side.
  • NR84 & NR85 in 2008 in the ill-fated green & white The Southern Spirit livery
  • NR16 in 2009 in a promotional Rail Safety livery[14]

There was a proposal in 2011 to repaint some locomotives into new passenger liveries, with two locomotives each for the Indian Pacific, the Ghan and the Overland.[15] NR18 was repainted in 2011 using a yellow and grey variant of the Southern Spirit's green and white livery, and it was scheduled to be followed by NR76 in a new Ghan livery before the program was put on indefinite hold. The Ghan scheme was likely a further palette swap to red and orange, and marketing materials from the era imply that the Overland scheme might have been a blue version.[16][17][18]

Model railways[edit]

Models of the NR Class locomotive have been available since June 2000. Austrains used the engine as a way to open up the then-modern era as a practical option for modelling Australian railways, and to date it is one of the highest-selling models in the Australian model railway market. The units initially retailed at $229 each with minor increases to cover copyrighted logos.[19] Austrains was not able to obtain permission to recreate the Indigenous liveries as applied to NR30 and NR52, so in the second run they released the two engines with their respective short-lived grey and black schemes, to provide an undercoat base and allow customers to apply those liveries themselves, either with paint or decals.[20][21]

The model was significantly re-engineered following the sixth run, and re-released in September 2009 at a new retail price of $275 per unit. Engines of runs seven and above include speaker enclosures within the chassis, working marker and ditch lights (with a manual switch under the fuel tank) and a modified coupler attachment system with the coupler box opening filled in. Austrains was also involved in the production of non-motored NR class models in N scale, sold to guests on Great Southern Rail's services as souvenirs.

Austrains was sold to SDS Models in 2015, and the new owners announced that some older models would be re-released under the "Austrains Neo" brand. One of those releases included the NR class, using the most recent tooling but without the motor fitted, to keep the price down to $165 per unit and to allow modellers to run trains with more than one or two engines on the front, at a reasonable price. Early 2017 saw the announcement of a new run of powered units, ranging from $275 to $395 each.[22]

Also in 2015, Auscision Models announced their intent to release a run of NR class locomotives, starting the design from scratch. These models are expected sometime during 2017.[23]

HO scale models
Run Primer National Rail NR Seatrain NR Steelink NR Trailerail NR Indigenous Base Pacific National The Ghan Indian Pacific Southern Spirit Other
Austrains 1st Run[24] 4, 33, 82, 119 & Unnumbered 56 & 57 58, 59 & 60 53, 54 & 55
Austrains 2nd Run[25] 23, 41, 69, 95 & Unnumbered 56 & 57 53 & 54 30 (grey)
52 (black)
Austrains 3rd Run[26] 17, 50, 75, 108 & Unnumbered 59 & 60 54 & 55
Austrains 4th Run[27] 1, 48 & 120 29 (no stars);
103 (blue cab)
74 "Port Pirie", 75 & 109 (Mk1)
Austrains 5th Run[28] 8 "City of Goulburn", 29 "Kwinana" & 73 "Maribyrnong" (no stars) 74 "Port Pirie", 75 & 109 "Sandfly II" (Mk1)
Austrains 6th Run[29] 62 "Kwinana" (accidentally)[30] 74 "Port Pirie", 75 & 109 "Sandfly II" (Mk1) 25 & 28 (Mk1)
Austrains 7th Run[31] 6, 36, 78 & 90 56 & 57 58, 59 & 60 53, 54 & 55 8 & 29 (no stars);
32 & 52 (4 stars)
74 "Port Pirie", 75 & 109 "Sandfly II" (Mk1)[32] 26 & 27 (Mk1)
Austrains 8th Run[33] 1 & 54 (4 stars) 84 & 85
Austrains 9th Run[34] 9, 81 & 102 (5 stars) 74 (Mk1) 26 (Mk1);
18 (Mk2)
Austrains Neo Unpowered[35] 11 & 13 1, 2, 5, 7, 12, 17, 21, 36, 37 & 66;
6 & 117 (with Pacific National logo);
40 (with The Ghan sign);
61 (partial paint)
56 59;
60 (with orange cab logo);
58 (with Pacific National logo)
54 (with Pacific National logo)
8 (no stars);
103 (blue cab);
34 & 71 (4 stars);
48 & 80 (5 stars)
74 & 75 (Mk2) 18 (Mk2) 84 & 85
Austrains Neo Powered[36] 19, 46, 83 & 118 57 58 55 30 (grey);
52 (black)
8 & 29 (no stars);
14 & 112 (4 stars);
43 & 94 (5 stars);
103 (blue cab);
77 (proposed Patriot)
74 & 109 (Mk1);
74, 75 & 109 (Mk2);
109 (Proposed Mk3)
26 & 27 (Mk1);
25 & 27 (Mk3);
26 (Mk4)
76 (Overland Proposed - blue variant of Southern Spirit)
Auscision Models[37] 10 & 117 56 & 57 58 & 59 53 & 55 30 (grey)
52 (black)
24 (may not be produced);
73 (no stars);
41 & 110 (4 stars);
103 (blue cab)
74 & 109 (Mk1);
75 & 109 (Mk2)
26 & 27 (Mk1);
18 (Mk2);
25 & 28 (Mk3)
84 & 85

In more recent times, Frateschi has released rough approximations of the NR class in Ghan and Indian Pacific liveries, as part of cheap starter sets including three passenger or freight carriages. These tend to retail for around $300.[38][39][40]


  1. ^ "Background - Organisation of Australia's Railways". Retrieved 2008-11-10.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Antony Fitzgerald (April 2000). "The Dash 9 in Australia: National Rail's NR class". Australian Model Railway Magazine. pp. 27–30.
  3. ^ a b c "National Rail Loco Contract Signed" Railway Digest October 1995 page 6
  4. ^ a b "First Perth-Built NR Class Commence Trials Ahead of NSW Units" Railway Digest October 1996 page 6
  5. ^ "NR Class Testing" Railway Digest November 1996 page 4
  6. ^ "The NR class locomotives & National Rail's motive power fleet" Railway Digest April 1998 page 16
  7. ^ "NR33 Under the Torch". Railpage Australia Forums (Locomotives and Rolling Stock). Retrieved 2008-11-10.
  8. ^ Hussey, F. (2005). How the NR Class got their cabs: in The NR Class - a Loco for Australia. Railway Digest, 43(9), 29.
  9. ^ NRE class Railpage
  10. ^ Railway Digest November 1997 page 43
  11. ^ "Indigenous Design Loco Colours Unveiled" Railway Digest December 1997 page 8
  12. ^ NR Class Railpage
  13. ^ a b c NR Class Vicsig
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  • Avery, Rod (2006). Freight Across the Nation: The Australian Superfreighter Experience. Brisbane: Copyright Publishing Co. ISBN 1876344474.
  • Oberg, Leon (2010). Locomotives of Australia 1854–2010 (5th ed.). Dural, NSW: Rosenberg Publishing. ISBN 978-1921719011.

External links[edit]