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V/Line N class (diesel)

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Title: V/Line N class (diesel)  
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Subject: V/Line, Rail transport in Victoria, Geelong V/Line rail service, Seymour railway station, Maffra railway line, Kerang train accident
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V/Line N class (diesel)

V/Line N Class
N462 painted in the 2008 livery, with N471 in the 1995 livery
Power type Diesel Electric
Builder Clyde Engineering, Somerton
Model JT22HC-2
Build date 1984 - 1987
Total produced 25
Configuration Co-Co
Gauge Broad (1600 mm, 5 ft 3 in) (22)
Standard (1435mm, 4 ft 8½ in) (3)
Length 18.87 m
Locomotive weight 123.00 t
Engine type Order 1: EMD 12-645E3C
Order 2: EMD 12-645E3B
Generator EMD AR10-JJD-D18
Some units converted to AR10-CA5
Traction motors EMD D43
Some units converted to D77
Top speed 120 km/h
Power output 1,680 kW (2,500 hp)
Tractive effort Starting: 289 kN
Continuous: 260 kN at 21 km/h
Railroad(s) 1985 -
Class N
Number in class 10 (Order 1)
15 (Order 2)
Number N451 - N460 (Order 1)
N461 - N475 (Order 2)
Locale Victorian passenger network
Delivered 1985
First run 1985
Current owner V/Line

The N Class are a class of diesel locomotives operated by V/Line since 1985. They have formed the core of Victoria's passenger fleet since introduction, and operate throughout the state. All but one have been named after rural cities in Victoria. A cab at each end gives the locomotive its distinctive shape, leading to the class being nicknamed Dog Bones.


The Victorian Railways had been stuck in a time warp through the 1970s, and by the start of the 1980s passenger numbers had fallen to around 3 million per year, due to ageing rolling stock, stagnant timetables and competition from other forms of transport. The Lonie Report of 1980 recommended cuts to the network, with the general public responding by calling for the State Government to maintain a viable rail network. The government response in February 1981 was the New Deal for Country Passengers, a $115 million commitment to recast country rail passenger services in Victoria.[1]

As part of the New Deal all B class locomotives were to be re-built as the A class for use on passenger services and ten new locomotives ordered. Tenders closed in 1983 for the first 10 units, with Clyde Engineering being awarded the contract thanks to price competitiveness and superior technology.[2] By mid-1985 the rising cost of the A class conversions saw the project abandoned after 11 locomotives were completed, and the N class order increased to 25 using the parts intended for the A class conversions.[1][3]

The class entered service on the broad gauge and operated on main lines all over the state, with the exception of the Gippsland line beyond Traralgon, a restriction that was later lifted. The class also saw regular use on The Overland Melbourne to Adelaide overnight service until it was withdrawn for conversion to standard gauge in March 1995.[2] As well as being operated by V/Line, class members were hired to the Warrnambool line operator West Coast Railway from 1993 until its own locomotives became available in 1995,[4] and to Shepparton line operator Hoys Roadlines between 1993 and 2004.[5]

In preparation for privatisation the operations of V/Line Freight and V/Line Passenger were split in 1995,[6] with the N class allocated to the passenger operator and included in the sale to National Express Group in 1999.[7] Before this time the class had also been employed on freight services with a maximum speed of 90 km/h.[2]

During the Regional Fast Rail project, a number of shutdowns were carried out to normal passenger services, with the N class being used to haul ballast trains on the Geelong line in 2003/2004,[8] as well as being hired to Freight Australia in January 2004 to haul log and grain services.[9] Since 2007 class members have also been hired to heritage operator Seymour Railway Heritage Centre for use on its trains, as the provision of TPWS equipment permits running at full line speed over the Regional Fast Rail network.[10][11]

Today with the VLocity diesel multiple units having entered service, the N class play a lesser role, their main use being peak hour commuter services and InterCity services beyond the Regional Fast Rail network to Bairnsdale, Swan Hill and Warrnambool on the broad gauge and Albury on the standard gauge. The class are authorised to operate at 115 km/h, but some units have been upgraded with D77/78 traction motors and have a maximum speed of 130 km/h.[12]


The N class feature a frame and body locally designed, but with imported General Motors-EMD technology in the prime mover, generator and control unit, along with locally produced components such as the bogie frames by Bradford Kendall. The class was the first in the world to use the EMD D43 traction motor, similar to but smaller than that used in the C and G classes. Head end power is provided by a separate engine unit in a special compartment located at the number 1 end of the locomotive behind the electrical cabinet. The 240 kW generator provides 415V 3-phase AC power for train lighting, air conditioning and other carriage requirements.[2]

Fitted with 6,800 litre fuel tanks the class were capable of running from Melbourne to Adelaide without refuelling.[13] Electrical and electronic components are modular to minimise delays after failures, and a reactive muffler system reduces the exhaust noise level. While most of them have only been used on broad gauge, three of them have been converted to standard gauge by moving the wheels inward on the axles and repositioning the braking equipment.[2]

The narrow carbody provides for a catwalk along each side between the cabs, with fold back body panels for maintenance access. The cab is similar to that of the contemporary G class, with an anti-climber beam to prevent upward movement should a collision occur. Twin high impact windscreens are provided, with dual blade wipers. Each cab has room for a two person crew, as well as an instructor if required. Air conditioning is provided, as well as an air-operated retention toilet at one end accessible from the catwalk. The locos were initially provided with automatic staff exchange equipment, but this was removed in the 1990s when the use of Electric Staff ended. The space remains in the cab side today.[2]

The design was the basis of Clyde Engineering's prototype locomotive GML10 built in 1990.[14]


The N class were delivered in the V/Line tangerine orange and grey livery, and progressively named after cities in Victoria, except for N453 which is named after the City of Albury on the other side of the Victorian/New South Wales border. On 3 March 1987 locomotive N470 was returned to Clyde Engineering, Somerton for a ceremony, where brass plaques were affixed at both ends under the builder's plates, reading "N470 completing one million horsepower of diesel-electric locomotives built in Australia by Clyde Engineering Co".[15]

From 1995 the class members were repainted into a red and blue livery, with the V/Line logo on the side being altered after the privatisation of V/Line in 1999.[3] As of 2008, most N Class members have received white stripes along the cab-fronts, and cowcatchers painted yellow to increase visibility at level crossings in a program started in 2007.

In May 2008 locomotive N468 was repainted into the new V/Line livery of red with grey, white and yellow. Three of the repainted locos were converted to standard gauge in 2011 following the conversion of the Melbourne-Albury line.[16]


Locomotive Name Serial No Entered service Owner Notes
N451 City of Portland 85-1219 20 September 1985 V/Line Passenger
N452 Rural City of Wodonga 85-1220 10 October 1985 V/Line Passenger
N453 City of Albury 85-1221 1 November 1985 V/Line Passenger Standard gauge
N454 City of Horsham 85-1222 20 November 1985 V/Line Passenger
N455 City of Swan Hill 85-1223 19 December 1985 V/Line Passenger
N456 City of Colac 85-1224 29 January 1986 V/Line Passenger
N457 City of Mildura 85-1225 27 February 1986 V/Line Passenger
N458 City of Maryborough 85-1226 17 March 1986 V/Line Passenger
N459 City of Echuca 85-1227 15 April 1986 V/Line Passenger
N460 City of Castlemaine 85-1228 15 May 1986 V/Line Passenger
N461 City of Ararat 85-1190 25 July 1986 V/Line Passenger
N462 City of Shepparton 86-1191 14 August 1986 V/Line Passenger
N463 City of Bendigo 86-1192 4 September 1986 V/Line Passenger Standard gauge
N464 City of Geelong 86-1193 29 September 1986 V/Line Passenger
N465 City of Ballarat 86-1194 20 October 1986 V/Line Passenger
N466 City of Warrnambool 86-1195 31 October 1986 V/Line Passenger
N467 City of Stawell 86-1196 26 November 1986 V/Line Passenger
N468 City of Bairnsdale 86-1197 19 December 1986 V/Line Passenger
N469 City of Morwell 86-1198 29 January 1987 V/Line Passenger
N470 City of Wangaratta 86-1199 17 February 1987 V/Line Passenger Standard gauge
N471 City of Benalla 87-1200 28 February 1987 V/Line Passenger
N472 City of Sale 87-1201 27 March 1987 V/Line Passenger
N473 City of Warragul 87-1202 28 April 1987 V/Line Passenger
N474 City of Traralgon 87-1203 28 May 1987 V/Line Passenger
N475 City of Moe 87-1204 6 July 1987 V/Line Passenger


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