History of the Tasmanian Government Railways W, U, V, X, XA, Y, Z and ZA class locomotives.


W class

In 1959 the Tasmanian Government Railways purchased two diesel-hydraulic locomotives that were capable of running in multiple. Mainly confined to the North East Line, these two locomotives were plagued with mechanical issues.  Both locomotives were scrapped in 1981, having spent their later years as shunters or close to the Launceston workshops.

U class

Twenty small industrial locomotives were built in 1950 by Malcolm Moore to 3 foot gauge for the Kiewa hydro-electric scheme in Victoria. When this part of the project was completed, the locomotives were sold and six were purchased by the Tasmanian Government Railways and shipped to Tasmania. All were extensively rebuilt before entering service from 1958. Another two units were purchased by the Commonwealth Government, later came to Tasmania and were similarly rebuilt, but to metre gauge and were sent to Thailand.

V class

These standard British shunting units started the dieselisation of the Tasmanian Government Railways when four locomotives were delivered in 1948. A  further four V class from England (two in each of 1951 and 1955) and built a further four in their Launceston Workshops between 1959 and 1968. The Tasmanian built locomotives were slightly different from their UK built predecessors, particularly in the body size and details. The Mt Lyell Mining and Railway Company in Queenstown purchased two similar units from the UK in 1953. With the closure of that railway in 1963, one loco went to the TGR and became V13, while the other went to the Emu Bay Railway and became their number 22.

To read more history of the W, U or V class locomotives in Tasmania, then Click here.

X and XA class

In 1946 the Tasmanian Government Railways released a tender for the construction of between 5 and 10 diesel-electric locomotives. Later that same year the tender was awarded to English Electric Company in the United Kingdom to build 10 locomotives. During 1948, another 10 locomotive were ordered following a review of the tender. Subsequently a third batch of 12 was ordered in 1949. The  locomotives started arriving in Tasmania from September 1950 through until December 1952. The first twenty locomotives were built at the Vulcan Foundry whilst the remaining twelve were built at the English Electric Dick Kerr works.

The X class was the first mainline diesel-electric locomotive purchased by an Australian government railway system and was the first to have a multi-unit capability. By the 1970s, it was not uncommon for three X, XA or Y locomotives to operate together and were seen on goods trains or passenger services such as the Tasman Limited.

With the introduction of the Y class, it was found that X class were susceptible to overheating when working in multiple with Y class on heavy goods trains. Between 1961 and 1970 five X class had their generators and control equipment modified to give better operation with the Y class.  Other modifications to both X and XA class locomotives included the fitting of automatic couplers and sliding windows.

All 32 locomotives were delivered in a plain dark green livery, later a cream strip and or chevron was added to each end. From 1954 all were progressively painted in a red and cream livery, before the 1971 yellow with black stripe livery was introduced. Four locomotives were repainted into the AN green and gold livery from 1981.

The X class were retired from service 1988, when the final vacuum braked general freight services ended.

To read more history of the X and XA class locomotives in Tasmania, then Click here.

Y class

With the successful introduction of the X class, the Tasmanian Government Railways decided to add additional diesels to their fleet. Based on the English Electric export design, eight Y class locomotives were built at the Launceston railway workshop. Construction began in 1961, and three of the planned eight were built quickly. However, construction of the other five was slow, with the last not being delivered until 1971.  Similar in design to the Western Australia F class and South Australian 800 class, the Y class had end platforms and were fitted with Bo-Bo bogies and vacuum brake and weighed 59 tons.  Y4 was named Rowallan and Y5 named Sir Charles Gairdner after the previous and current Tasmanian Governors respectively.

In 1986 Y1 and Y5 were converted to air brake and spent the majority of their lives as shunt locos at various locations around the state.

To read more history of the Y class locomotives in Tasmania, then Click here.


Z class

The Z class locomotives were built for the new log traffic and were initially used on the Western, Fingal and Bell Bay lines and on the northern part of the Main Line. They were based on the West Australian Railways R/RA classes, as English Electric were offering four locos based on this design at a cheaper rate and quicker delivery.

From 1984 the train braking system on these locos was converted from Vacuum to Westinghouse air brake, and later all locos were repainted AN green.  Between  and 2001 all four locos were modified to allow Driver-Only-Operation.  The locomotives remained in service until mid 2014 when they were all stored.

ZA class

The ZA class locomotives were the Tasmanian Government Railways initial choice for hauling log trains to Longreach on the Bell Bay line, although the Z class were ordered and delivered first. The ZA class are based on the Queensland Railways 2350 class, although with bogies similar to those used by  Z class.  Initially four ZA class were order and delivered in 1973, with a final two locos arriving in 1976. The second of this pair, ZA6, became the last locomotive built by GEC in Australia and the last new loco built for Tasmanian service for another 38 years. The last operational ZA locomotive (2114) was stored in 2014.

After many years of negotiations, 2118 (formerly ZA6) was donated to the Tasmanian Transport Museum and delivered to Glenorchy in January 2021.

To read more history of the Z and ZA class locomotives in Tasmania, then Click here.