Victorian Steam Locomotives
All K, E and D Class info has been sourced from the Victorian Goldfields Railway VGR website.All R and J Class info has been sourced from the 707 Operations website.



The development of the ‘R’ class steam locomotives goes back to January 1943 when a new express passenger locomotive began to take shape on the drawing boards in the design offices of the Victorian Railways Rolling Stock Branch. The R class locomotives were designed as a replacement for the ageing 'A2' class locomotives which had faithfully served the Victorian Railways since their introduction in 1907. Due to the introduction of diesel locomotives in the early 1950's the 'R' class locomotives were to become the last and most modern steam passenger locomotives on the VR.
As the design evolved, many modern features were incorporated, such as:
  • provision of a mechanical stoker which largely eliminated hand firing with the shovel and enabled a much higher power output to be sustained (the only other VR locomotive fitted was the solitary 'H' class No.220 "Heavy Harry" which entered service in 1941 and was withdrawn in 1957)
  • SCOA-P type driving wheels with their unique U shaped spokes were fitted along with SKF type roller bearings to all axles on the locomotive and tender
  • 5” (127mm) steel bar frames were provided instead of the more traditional plate frames which were prone to cracking from fatigue
  • use of thermic syphons in the firebox for improved water evaporation
  • provision for the conversion of the locomotives from 5'3” (1600mm) broad gauge to 4'8½” (1435mm) standard gauge should the need ever arise
  • a new tender design and carried on two bogies of four wheels each and incorporating the stoker coal conveyer screw
It was intended to construct 20 'R' class locomotives at Newport Workshops and a large number of components were ordered. Due however, to a number of factors such as industrial disputes and a huge backlog of repair and maintenance work, it was not practicable to build any locomotives at Newport. Federal Government restrictions on the availability of U.S. dollars meant that diesel electric locomotives could not be purchased from the United States. In September 1949 an order for 50 locomotives placed with the North British Locomotive Company Limited of Glasgow, Scotland. This order was subsequently increased to 70 locomotives when the Newport order was cancelled in January 1950.
The engines were allocated road numbers 700 to 769.
The first engines to be delivered were R702 and R703 which arrived on 31 May 1951 and, following delays caused by repairs and adjustments, R703 became the first R to enter service on June 27 1951. Deliveries continued over the next twenty-one months with the last engine, R769, arriving on February 1953 and entering service on 23 September 1953. Several locomotives were significantly delayed entering service by the need to rectify numerous manufacturing faults and shipping damage.
Some of the 'R' class became better known than other members of the class.
  • R704 gained fame by being displayed in London at the "Festival of Britain" (a festival aimed to raise the nation’s spirits whilst promoting the best in British art, design and industry after the devastation of war and years of austerity) from May to September 1951. This resulted in its entry into service being delayed by six months. The engine was highly polished and detailed with stainless steel boiler bands, chromed number plates, highly polished fittings and gold lining being added to the red band along the engine and tender.
    The locomotive was also selected to be the leading engine on the Royal train which was to have run in February and March 1952 during the planned visit of the then Princess Elizabeth and Prince Phillip, but, due to the death of King George VI, the tour was cancelled. Two years later, the Royal Tour did run but by then the 'B' class diesel-electrics had taken over.
  • R707 was converted to Precipitated Brown Coal (PCB) dust firing, having been in storage at Newport Workshops following delivery due to damage sustained during shipment from Britain in July 1951. It entered service in August 1954 and ran until May 1956 when it was taken out of service with minor damage caused by a derailment. The PCB equipment was removed when the locomotive was repaired and it returned to service as a standard coal burner in May 1957. Although the use of PCB dust burning was a technical success, its use was not economic compared with the operation of the increasing fleet of diesel-electric locomotives.
  • R748 was converted to oil firing in June 1955 following a period of storage at Newport Workshops after it had rolled into the turntable pit at Geelong Locomotive depot in April 1954. The stoker equipment was removed and modifications included the removal of the grates, fitting a brick lined pan in the firebox and the installation of a 2,000 gallon (9080 litre) oil tank removed from one of the scrapped 'S' class locomotives (of Spirit of Progress fame). Following the success of R748 in service, R719 was converted in June 1957 but no more engines were converted because of rising oil prices.
The oil burning locomotives were regarded as the best in the fleet with their high availability and they subsequently recorded the highest mileage of any 'R' class locomotives. They were also highly regarded by their crews because of the absence of dust and cinders swirling around at high speed.
Despite their early and serious "teething" troubles, the R's began to take over the principle express passenger runs with general reductions in overall running times being achieved. But, the reign of the 'R' class was all too brief for in 1952/53, the 'B' class diesel-electrics began to arrive and very quickly took over the duties for which the 'R' class were designed. Consequently, more and more R's were being placed into storage. Many of them were suffering severe boiler damage because of inadequate boiler water treatments being applied, resulting in R715 being withdrawn on the 4th May 1956 followed the next day by R716 (which had a ridiculously short life, being in service just short of four years and never to run again), the first of many withdrawals over the next four years. minimum maintenance found them falling from favour with their crews and apart from being used on secondary passenger and freight services, most saw service during periods of motive power shortages and peak traffic flows, such as holiday periods and the bumper wheat harvests of the early 1960's.
Accidents were relatively few and far between, mostly being confined to engines rolling into turntable pits, through depot walls and the odd derailment. Some engines, due to a lack of major maintenance, caused more than a few headaches to both crews and running staff alike.
A very serious accident occurred on 14 September 1960 when R755, hauling a passenger train from Numurkah and Seymour, ploughed into the back of a stationary goods train at Broadmeadows. R755 was badly damaged an on 28 November 1960, became the first R to be scrapped.
During the 1960's, many R's were withdrawn and scrapped as more diesels entered service and 1967 was the final year of the 'R' class in general service on the Victorian Railways. The final three withdrawn were R742 on 23 June, R735 on 24 July and oil burning R748 on 10 August 1967. R749 which was set aside for use on special trains only.
Some engines did manage to continue on in service running special excursion trains. Each being replaced as boiler and mechanical conditions made them too costly to maintain. These being in order R706, R769, R749, R707 and R761.
The end of the 'R' class era in VR service finally came when in 1974 the last two engines in excursion service were withdrawn - R707 on 21 May and R761 on 5 September.
In R711 and R766 were converted to oil burning with a Lempor exhaust by West Coast Rail and used to run Saturday excursion trips to Warnambool. The first trip ran on R711 November 1998 with R711. West Coast ceased operation in 2004.
As at November 2008, the location of the seven locomotives that escaped being scrapped was as follows:
  • R700 – dismantled with boiler and frames at Ballarat East Yard and many parts stored at Newport West Workshop
  • R704 – on display at AHRS Railway Museum, North Williamstown
  • R707 – operational at 707 Operations, Newport West Workshop
  • R711 – operational at Steamrail, Newport West Workshop
  • R753 – dismantled at 707 Operations, Newport West Workshop
  • R761 – operational at Steamrail, Newport West Workshop
  • R766 – converted to standard gauge by Steamrail at Newport West Workshops and transported by road to the Hunter Valley Railway Trust in NSW where final fitting out is being carried out. Expected to be operational in 2009.

The R's may have gone from the regular main line service hauling any thing from express passenger trains to the lowly roadside "pick-up" runs but the memories of the 'R' class will always remain for those who knew them. Who could forget the sights and sounds of double-headed R's struggling up the long 1 in 48 grades of the Ingliston Bank between Bacchus Marsh and Ballan with the Adelaide bound 'Overland' express and then, once over the top of the grade, the mile after mile of 70 mph (112km/h) running when the cinders really started to fly; or of double-headed R's climbing out Ballarat with another 'R' pushing valiantly at the rear to Warrenheip. Some could run like the wind, and notable perforamces were put up by R734 running from Geelong to Melbourne in 54 minutes, and R749 hauling 400 tons over 75 miles (120km) including Glenrowan bank, in 77 minutes.


With the introduction of the C Class 2-8-0 heavy freight locomotives in 1918, plans were prepared for a similar but lighter axle load general purpose locomotive capable of operating over branchlines laid with 60lb rail. These locomotives were to replace aging 0-6-0 units and supplement the DD Class. 10 'K' Class locomotives were constructed at Newport Workshops during 1922 - 23 (Nos. 100 - 109) The design proved successful with the locomotives employed on both branch and main line duties. They could be turned on 53' turntables and operate virtually anywhere on the Victorian system. Although limited to a maximum speed of 40 miles-per-hour, their higher tractive effort than the DD Class made them particularly suitable for branchlines with steep grades.
In 1923 an agreement on rail gauge standardization was reached, and the decision taken that future locomotives would be suitable for conversion to standard gauge (4' 8½). Both the C & K class locomotives were unsuitable for conversion. Yet, during the Second World War an acute shortage of locomotives lead to the construction of a further 53 locomotives to the "1922" K class design between 1940 and 1946. Some minor improvements were incorporated in this series, with the final seven locomotives being fitted with balanced Boxpok coupled wheels.
The members of the original batch of K class locomotives were renumbered, becoming Nos. 140 - 149. The second series carried Nos 150 - 192 from new. During the 1950's the maximum speed for the class was raised to 50 miles-per-hour.



The J class locomotives were built by the UK firm, Vulcan Foundry of Newton-le-Willows, Lancashire in 1953 and 1954. They were primarily intended for use as light goods engines. The class used many features of the K class, but unlike the K, were designed for possible conversion to standard gauge. No locomotives were converted in service.
A total of 60 locomotives were built of which the first thirty (J500 to J529) were coal burners and the final thirty (J530 to J559) were oil burners.
The J class were the last steam locomotives to enter Victorian Railways service in 1954 and they quickly replaced the ageing D2 and D3 locomotives on many branch lines. Their light maximum axle load (14.7 tonne) and length (they could be turned on a 53 foot turntable) meant they could be used over the entire VR rail network. They had a maximum permissible speed of 80km/h (50 mph).
The Js were the last class of steam locomotive to remain intact on the VR during the transition from steam to diesel. Scrapping began with J523 in November 1967, but many were put into storage for use during heavy wheat harvests. The last operational locomotive was J549 which was used intermittently as a yard pilot until 1972. J538 was the last locomotive scrapped in June 1978.
Several locomotives escaped scrapping. These include:
  • J512 - undergoing conversion to standard gauge at Seymour Rail Heritage Centre
  • J515 - operational at Victorian Goldfields Railway, Maldon (on lease from the Seymour Rail Heritage Centre)
  • J536 - long term restoration project at 707 Operations, Newport West Workshops
  • J516 - awaiting restoration at the Yarra Valley Tourist Railway, Healesville
  • J541 - operational at Victorian Goldfields Railway, Maldon
  • J549 - under overhaul at Victorian Goldfields Railway, Maldon
  • J556 - static exhibit at ARHS Museum, North Williamstown


In 1902 the first twentieth-century VR locomotive design was constructed at the Newport Railway Workshops. The DD class 4-6-0 designed for both freight and passenger duties proved so successful that 261 locomotives had been built by 1920. Initial duties included fast passenger express trains, making full use of the class permitted speed of 60 miles-an-hour. Displaced from express passenger work by the introduction of the A2 Class in 1907, the DD's (and their rebuilt counterparts) performed sterling service on both branchline and mainline service for more than six decades and were to found over the entire VR system. A number of builders contributed to the DDconstruction programme :- Newport Railway Workshops (138), Phoenix Foundry - Ballarat (7), Beyer, Peacock & Co. - England (20), Baldwin Locomotive Works - USA (20), Walkers Ltd. - Queensland (20), Thompsons - Castlemaine (40), Ballarat North Railway Workshops (8) and Bendigo North Railway Workshops (8).

The Class underwent numerous changes over its long term of service and reclassification reflected changes to the boilers -
D1 those with original saturated boiler design
D2 those superheated with original boiler shell
D3 those rebuilt with new larger boiler based on K class design. (Nos606-699)

The DD design was adapted for a tank engine, of which 58 DDE units were constructed 1908-1913, being subsequently reclassified D4 in 1929. Two DDE units were converted to tender engines in 1922/3.


With the significant increase in the Melbourne Suburban Traffic during the latter 1880's an update of the locomotive fleet was necessary. In 1889 a 2-4-2 Tank engine was received from Kitson & Co. of England. A total of 70 further engines were constructed locally (25 by David Munro & Co, South Melbourne and 45 by the Phoenix Foundry, Ballarat) between 1892 and 1894. These engines were the mainstay of the suburban services until the arrival of the DDElocomotives in 1908. Electrification of the suburban network from 1918 displaced the E class, many of which were either withdrawn from service or sold.
When a need for shunting locomotives arose, the E Class was adapted to an 0-6-2 arrangement with some modifications. 5 of these EEClass (Nos462 to 470 even numbers) were built by the Phoenix Foundry Company of Ballarat in 1893. The classed increased in number with the conversion of 24 of the 2-4-2 tank 'E' class units between 1898 and 1924. During the late 1920's the 0-6-2 tanks were reclassified as 'E' Class.

E 371

Built by David Munro & Co. (13 of 1892) as a 2-4-2T entering VR service on 23-12-1892 as E 496
Converted to 0-6-2T and renumbered EE 496 in 6/1898
Renumbered EE 371 in 3/1929
Reclassed E 371
Last of class to be withdrawn after performing shunting service at Ballarat
Workshops shunter - Newport
Officially withdrawn on 15/11/1968
Purchased by CMRPS. All copper & brass, including boiler, had previously been removed
Transferred by road from Spotswood Railway Workshops to Maldon
E 371 is on display at Maldon.