Victorian Railways X class (diesel)

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Victorian Railways X class
X43 in V/Line Freight livery in Mildura in 1996
Type and origin
Power type Diesel-electric
Builder Clyde Engineering
Granville (1&2)
Rosewater (3)
Serial number 66-484 to 66-489
70-700 to 70-707
75-792 to 75-801
Build date 1966-76
Total produced 24
Rebuilder South Dynon Locomotive Depot
Rebuild date 2002-04
Number rebuilt 6
UIC classification Co-Co
Gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in),
1,600 mm (5 ft 3 in)
Length 18.53 metres (60 ft 10 in)
Locomotive weight 114 t (112 long tons; 126 short tons) (1)
116 t (114 long tons; 128 short tons) (2&3)
Fuel type Diesel
Prime mover Electro-Motive Diesel 16-567E (1)
Electro-Motive Diesel 16-645E (2 & 3)
Engine type V16
Aspiration Roots Blower
Generator Electro-Motive Diesel D 32B-D 14 (1&2)
Electro-Motive Diesel AR10-E1-D14 (3)
Traction motors Electro-Motive Diesel D77
Cylinders 16
Cylinder size (?)
Performance figures
Maximum speed 133 km/h (83 mph)
Operator(s) Victorian Railways
Number in class 24
Number(s) X31-X54
Preserved X31
Current owner Aurizon
Pacific National
Disposition 19 in service, 1 preserved, 3 stored, 1 scrapped

The X class are a class of mainline diesel locomotives built by Clyde Engineering, Granville and Rosewater for the Victorian Railways between 1966 and 1976.


Freight Australia liveried X31 at Grovedale in April 2007
Pacific National liveried X41 at Seymour in November 2007

In preparation for the opening of the standard gauge line between Albury and Melbourne, the Victorian Railways had purchased a further eight S class locomotives, with the last of these entering service in 1961. But from that date traffic had increased, with a 20% increase in train miles being run by the end of the financial year by the middle of 1965, so the fleet was being stretched beyond reasonable capabilities.[1]

Standard gauge trains at the time were typically rostered for a single 1,800 hp engine, and when these were lacking a pair of T class 950 hp engines were coupled and used in lieu. This strategy could only ever be temporary, because the T class was restricted to 60 mph instead of 70 mph, and the two engines added considerable weight over a single larger engine.[2]

So, on 23 July 1965, the Chief Mechancial Engineer, Mr. Galletly, wrote that there was a need for an additional six 1,800 hp engines, which would allow the T class to be shifted back to lower speed and branch duties. The plan at the time was to allocate two of the new engines to the Standard Gauge run, and the other four to Broad Gauge.[3]

Tenders for contract 62902 were closed at 11am September 1st 1965, with reviews completed nine days later. Three offers had been received, from English Electric, A. Goninan and Clyde Engineering. The latter of these provided earlier and faster deliveries of the new fleet, and was cheaper overall because the new engines would share many components with the Victorian Railways' existing S class, and to a lesser extent B class locomotives.[4]

First Series - X31 to X36[edit]

Clyde developed a drawing more-or-less like an extended version of a low-nose T class engine. After the tender had been won, three variants were made involving the battery box placement and other changes, and the final approved design was signed off as general arrangement drawing 2409983C.

The first batch of six were built by Clyde Engineering, Granville in 1966 with mostly the same mechanicals as the S class but with a hood type of body. These were called the Model G16C and through the 16-567E engine, the locomotives could generate 1,810 hp for traction. The new body style allowed maintenance of engine components without disassembling the entire body, in an era when streamlining was less important and dieselisation had reached the freight roster. All six engines had entered service over the second half of 1966.

The class was delivered on standard gauge from Clyde, running their trial trips in New South Wales then making trips to Victoria via the Albury route. When delivered the plan was to transfer four of the engines to broad gauge on a rotating roster, but locomotive X31 had manufacturing issues relating to its new design of pneumatically operated Automatic Staff Exchanging equipment so it spent the first 20 years or so on the North East standard gauge line to Albury. The problem was fixed in the mid-1980s at Newport workshops, though by that time automatic staff exchange equipment had been rendered mostly obsolete by non-token safeworking systems.

Otherwise, they hauled passenger and freight services throughout Victoria.[5] On the broad gauge the engines fell into line with the ten broad gauge S Class locomotives, with typical assignments being the Adelaide "Jets", and associated passenger working like the Overland and Vinelander. However, it was rare for them to venture out to Gippsland until the late 1970s, and the Bendigo line was near-exclusively run with B Class engines for sake of operational simplicity.

As had been specified in the original tender documents, the engines were set up with a single set of controls intended to have the long end leading, and this was called the No.1 end.[6] If the short end were to lead, then the driver would have had the speedo and brake valves behind him, and he may not have been able to properly see all signals.

X 33 was involved in a very serious head on collision near Broadford loop only a few months after delivery, on Jan. 5 1967. It was rebuilt by Clyde. However, X35 suffered much further when it fell off a bridge near Glenorchy in 1971, following a high-speed crash with a loaded gravel truck. The frame was permanently warped making it "almost impossible" to properly align the engine and generator units. Not much later it was involved in a side-swipe that gouged a side of the body.

Second Series - X37 to X44[edit]

Only a few years after the delivery of X36, a further traffic increase meant additional engines were needed. Clyde was the only company to submit a tender for the contract (63420) by the closing date of 30th April 1969.[7]

The tender was essentially for an upgraded version of the X Class, this time with at least 2,000 hp and, for the first time, crew comfort was taken into consideration with a maximum noise specification applied to the new design. The new engines were priced at a little under $300,000.

Shortly before the contract closed, two of the S class fleet were destroyed in the Southern Aurora crash. The Railways spoke to Clyde about rebuilding those two engines from scratch, and the cost for rebuilding each would have been around $377,000 each - considerably more than the new order for X engines. So the contract for six additional engines was extended to eight instead. Paperwork shows X37 and X38 as rebuilds, but this was only for accounting purposes and no recycled components were included in those or other engines when first delivered.[8]

The final production engine was fitted with the newly developed EMD 16-645E engine in place of the 16-567 (same shell but with larger pistons and other components), called the G26C design and rated at 2,200 hp. Externally the engines were similar to their predecessors but the larger engine spun at a higher rate (900 rpm versus the original 835 rpm), so larger radiator grilles were provided for heat dissipation. However, the radiator elements themselves were identical to the first order. The eight new engines were delivered across 1969–1970, and as before, the class was built in Clyde, tested around Sydney then delivered to Melbourne.

Third Series - X45 to X54[edit]

A third tender was released, ending 20th February 1974, for an additional eight or ten locomotives, this time rated for 2,200hp. The specifications were similar to the as-delivered X37-X44, but with upgraded braking equipment. The reasoning for the order was that, as well as traffic increases (now up to 13.5 million train miles per year), the earlier diesel-electric locomotives were coming due for major overhauls, with no spare motive power to fill the gaps in the rosters (with all steam long-since gone).

Two offers were received for contract 64002 - one from ComEng, offering the standard ALCO locomotive constructed in their Goninan plant with the engine block imported from the USA, and Clyde Engineering offered more-or-less a repeat of the previous order for X locomotives, but this time constructed at the then-under-construction Rosewater plant in South Australia. The offers were designed for an order of either eight or ten locomotives.

Aside from the standard purchase order, the tendering companies were requested to offer alternative payment plans, including the rather novel option of leasing the locomotives for 25 years from the manufacturer, rather than outright purchase. This and other options ended up being more expensive than the traditional model (with payments during construction).

ALCO's offer totalled about $3.75 million AUD against Clyde's $3.95 million AUD, but this offer was rejected on grounds of much higher maintenance and running costs (based on NSW and SA experiences with ALCO engines), expecting between double and triple the cost per locomotive mile, as well as the need to purchase a separate set of spares for a new ALCO fleet at around $400,000.

The final agreement with Clyde was made out at a little under $4,000,000 for ten locomotives, plus another $50,000 for spare parts.

During the contract negotiation stage, the VR was pushed by the AFULE to develop a new locomotive cab design intended only for single-end running; attempts to fit the previous X order with bidirectional running proved to be failures on account of driver discomfort. The new cab design allowed only for short-end-leading operation on the mainline, and to improve visibility the short-end nose was cut down to an angled profile similar to the last orders of the T class locomotive. Additionally, the engines were fitted with the upgraded AR10 alternator.

The ten new engines were delivered through 1975 on the broad gauge via the Main Western Line.[9][10] When the first, X45, arrived in Melbourne, it was named Edgar H. Brownbill.

This series of engines were normally used on the interstate runs, where multiple engines were required so back-to-back formations overcame the single-end handicaps. In addition, about half the class spent extended periods on standard gauge, and they were the first Victorian Railways class of engine allowed to run in revenue service from Albury to Sydney.

Modifications to the class[edit]

Following the 1969 Southern Aurora crash, the class were fitted with vigilance control systems. These engines could be identified by dimples on the cab roof. Around the same time the engine exhaust arrangement was modified.

In the early 1980s they began working interstate to Adelaide and Sydney.[11] Engines involved with interstate traffic were fitted with radios, and these engines had their builders plates removed and the cabside space utilised for "radio equipped" stickers.

V/Line era[edit]

The class was gradually repainted from 1983 as the V/Line logo and colour scheme was introduced.

During the following decade, air-conditioning units for the driver cabins were added to some engines, above the long-end nose and next to the cab end.

August 1994 saw X35 withdrawn following a major engine failure, and stored at Dynon.

In 1995 V/Line was split into two entities, V/Line Passenger and V/line Freight, with the freight side of the business taking the entire X fleet.

V/Line Freight, Freight Victoria, Freight Australia era (1995-2004)[edit]

V/Line Freight operated rather smoothly from 1995 to May 1999 when the entire business was sold off to a private entity, Freight Victoria. By this stage only engines 33, 34, 36, 38, 43, 45 and 49 had been repainted in the Freight Victoria colour scheme (a slight modification on the previous V/line design), so X47 became the first to wear the green and yellow Freight Victoria colours in that month.[12] Within a year the business had been renamed Freight Australia, and the logos on engines were modified to reflect this.[13]

X35 was purchased by the Seymour Rail Heritage Centre in 1998 for preservation, but transferred back to Freight Australia a few years later, for rebuilding as XR551. The condition of the transfer was that when X31 was to be retired, it would pass to Seymour for preservation.

Between 2001 and 2005 Freight Australia rebuilt six locomotives, fitting them with refurbished engines from G class locomotives, enlarged radiators, and modified cabs. These locomotives have subsequently been renumbered as the XR class.

Pacific National era[edit]

In 2004 Freight Australia was sold to Pacific National. All but two of the X fleet passed to Pacific National with the business in August 2004, these going to CRT Group and in June 2005 to QR National.[14][15]

X36 had been planned for conversion to XR556, but this was cancelled when it was realised that the XR program wasn't much cheaper than simply buying new engines (the same as the B-to-A program in the mid-1980s). As a result, this and the remaining 1st- and 2nd-series X fleet saw reduced use and many class members were stored at Dynon.

Mid-2008 saw a number of 3rd-series engines transferred to New South Wales for coal traffic, stabled at Werris Creek. X36 went along as well, but was of limited value and was scrapped in May 2015.

X31 was finally withdrawn from revenue services in 2009, and per the agreement laid out earlier, in January 2010 X31 was transferred to the Seymour Railway Heritage Centre. It has been returned to service and been hired to El Zorro. The class are now employed hauling freight services in New South Wales and Victoria.[16][17][18][19]

In 2015 five engines - X45, X46, X47, X51 and X52 - were sold to Ettamogah Rail Hub.

Status table[edit]

Locomotive Entered service Current status Name Owner(s)
First Order
X31 15 Aug 1966 In Service VR (Built), VicRail (1976), V/Line (1983), V/Line Freight (1995), FV/FA (1999/2000), PN (2004), SRHC (2005)
X32 8 Sep 1966 Rebuilt - XR555 (2004) VR (Built), VicRail (1976), V/Line (1983), V/Line Freight (1995), FV/FA (1999/2000)
X33 24 Sep 1966 Rebuilt - XR553 (2004) VR (Built), VicRail (1976), V/Line (1983), V/Line Freight (1995), FV/FA (1999/2000)
X34 5 Oct 1966 Rebuilt - XR554 (2004) VR (Built), VicRail (1976), V/Line (1983), V/Line Freight (1995), FV/FA (1999/2000)
X35 4 Nov 1966 Rebuilt - XR551 (2004) VR (Built), VicRail (1976), V/Line (1983), V/Line Freight (1995), SRHC (1998), FA (2001)
X36 15 Nov 1966 Scrapped - 2015 VR (Built), VicRail (1976), V/Line (1983), V/Line Freight (1995), FV/FA (1999/2000), PN (2004)
Locomotive Entered service Current status Name Owner(s)
Second Order
X37 9 Apr 1970 Stored VR (Built), VicRail (1976), V/Line (1983), V/Line Freight (1995), FV/FA (1999/2000), PN (2004)
X38 8 May 1970 Rebuilt - XR550 (Dec. 2001) VR (Built), VicRail (1976), V/Line (1983), V/Line Freight (1995), FV/FA (1999/2000)
X39 28 May 1970 In Service VR (Built), VicRail (1976), V/Line (1983), V/Line Freight (1995), FV/FA (1999/2000), PN (2004)
X40 26 Jun 1970 Rebuilt - XR552 (2004) VR (Built), VicRail (1976), V/Line (1983), V/Line Freight (1995), FV/FA (1999/2000)
X41 9 Jul 1970 In Service VR (Built), VicRail (1976), V/Line (1983), V/Line Freight (1995), FV/FA (1999/2000), PN (2004)
X42 7 Aug 1970 In Service VR (Built), VicRail (1976), V/Line (1983), V/Line Freight (1995), FV/FA (1999/2000), PN (2004)
X43 20 August 1970 In Service Sir Noel Bamford VR (Built), VicRail (1976), V/Line (1983), V/Line Freight (1995), FV/FA (1999/2000), PN (2004)
X44 11 Sep 1970 In Service VR (Built), VicRail (1976), V/Line (1983), V/Line Freight (1995), FV/FA (1999/2000), PN (2004)
Locomotive Entered service Current status Name Owner(s)
Third Order
X45 11 Nov 1975 Stored Edgar H. Brownbill VR (Built), VicRail (1976), V/Line (1983), V/Line Freight (1995), FV/FA (1999/2000), PN (2004), Ettamogah Rail Hub (2015)
X46 4 Dec 1975 Stored VR (Built), VicRail (1976), V/Line (1983), V/Line Freight (1995), FV/FA (1999/2000), PN (2004), Ettamogah Rail Hub (2015)
X47 24 Dec 1975 Stored VR (Built), VicRail (1976), V/Line (1983), V/Line Freight (1995), FV/FA (1999/2000), PN (2004), Ettamogah Rail Hub (2015)
X48 24 Jan 1976 Stored VR (Built), VicRail (1976), V/Line (1983), V/Line Freight (1995), FV/FA (1999/2000), PN (2004)
X49 18 Feb 1976 Stored VR (Built), VicRail (1976), V/Line (1983), V/Line Freight (1995), FV/FA (1999/2000), PN (2004)
X50 12 Mar 1976 Stored VR (Built), VicRail (1976), V/Line (1983), V/Line Freight (1995), FV/FA (1999/2000), PN (2004)
X51 1 Apr 1976 Stored VR (Built), VicRail (1976), V/Line (1983), V/Line Freight (1995), FV/FA (1999/2000), PN (2004), Ettamogah Rail Hub (2015)
X52 22 Apr 1976 Stored VR (Built), VicRail (1976), V/Line (1983), V/Line Freight (1995), FV/FA (1999/2000), PN (2004), Ettamogah Rail Hub (2015)
X53 19 May 1976 In Service VR (Built), VicRail (1976), V/Line (1983), V/Line Freight (1995), FV/FA (1999/2000), QR National/Aurizon (2004)
X54 10 Jun 1976 In Service VR (Built), VicRail (1976), V/Line (1983), V/Line Freight (1995), FV/FA (1999/2000), QR National/Aurizon (2004)

Model Railways[edit]

HO scale[edit]

In the 1980s, Samhongsa/PSM released unnumbered but otherwise fully painted VR Blue/Gold, and V/line orange and grey brass models of the 2nd and 3rd series X locomotives.

In more recent times, Austrains released the first ready-to-run plastic model of the X Class diesel locomotive in 2004,[20] with ten models of the second and third-series locomotives across three liveries. 2005 saw an unannounced expansion of the range at the Box Hill model railway exhibition in March, with four Freight Australia locomotives released.[21] In 2007[22] the design was reworked to give smaller pilot holes for the coupler pockets, metal handrails and other details in better quality, with later releases in 2009[23] and 2010.[24] 2014 saw the release of Trainbuilder's[25][26] brass locomotives, and 2015 will see Auscision's release of plastic 1st-series engines.[27][28]

Years provided below are approximate.

Locomotive Austrains Austrains (upgraded) Auscision Trainbuilder
X31 VR Blue (1980-1985), V/Line Orange, Freight Australia VR Blue
X32 VR Blue (1970-1980), V/Line Orange VR Blue, V/Line Orange
X33 VR Blue (1970-1980), V/Line Freight VR Blue
X34 VR Blue (1980-1985), V/Line Freight VR Blue, V/Line Orange
X35 VR Blue (1966-1970), V/Line Orange VR Blue
X36 VR Blue (1966-1970), V/Line Orange, Freight Australia VR Blue
X37 VR Blue VR Blue
X38 V/Line Freight V/Line Freight, VR Blue
X39 VR Blue VR Blue
X40 VR Blue VR Blue
X42 Freight Australia Freight Australia
X43 V/Line Orange VR Blue, V/Line Orange
X44 VR Blue, Freight Australia VR Blue, V/Line Orange, Freight Australia V/Line Orange
X45 Edgar Brownbill VR Blue, V/Line Freight V/Line Freight
X46 VR Blue, Freight Australia VR Blue, Freight Australia
X47 VR Blue
X48 VR Blue VR Blue
X49 V/Line Orange V/Line Orange
X50 VR Blue, V/Line Orange
X51 VR Blue VR Blue
X52 V/Line Orange V/Line Orange
X53 Freight Australia Freight Australia, QR National (300pcs)
X54 V/Line Orange V/Line Orange, Freight Australia, QR National (300pcs) VR Blue
X55 Vicrail "Teacup" (fictional livery, 5pcs)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Newsrail June 2015 (Vol. 43, Issue 6)pp167-175
  2. ^ Newsrail June 2015 (Vol. 43, Issue 6)pp167-175
  3. ^ Newsrail June 2015 (Vol. 43, Issue 6)pp167-175
  4. ^ Newsrail June 2015 (Vol. 43, Issue 6)pp167-175
  5. ^ X class diesel electric locomotives Mark Bau - X Class locomotives
  6. ^ Newsrail June 2015 (Vol. 43, Issue 6)pp167-175
  7. ^ Newsrail June 2015 (Vol. 43, Issue 6)pp167-175
  8. ^
  9. ^ Railmac Publications (1992). Australian Fleetbooks: V/Line locomotives. Kitchner Press. ISBN 0-949817-76-7. 
  10. ^ Oberg, Leon (1984). Locomotives of Australia 1850's - 1980's. Frenchs Forest: Reed Books. p. 257. ISBN 0-730100-05-7. 
  11. ^ Railway Digest December 1984 page 422
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ Peter Attenborough (February 2006). "Colin Rees Transport (CRT)". Australian Model Railway Magazine 22 (256): 37. 
  15. ^ QR National/Interail Trackside
  16. ^ X Class (X31 - X36) Railpage
  17. ^ X Class (X37 - X44) Railpage
  18. ^ X Class (X45 - X54) Railpage
  19. ^ X Class Vicsig
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^