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Pacific National locomotives 9208, 9313 and TT130 with an empty coal train, Quipolly, near Werris Creek, New South Wales, 5 January 2017. The 92 and 93 Classes are C44aci production model locomotive.

Centennial Coal locomotive CEY003 stabled at Lithgow, New South Wales, 26 May 2018. Seven members of the CEY Class entered service in 2012.

Modern Motive Power

David Matheson

10 May 2020

Over 2000 locomotives are in service throughout Australia, operating on various railway networks across the country. Locomotives range from shunting units with less than 100 kW power output to 4000 kW electric locomotives hauling coal trains in Queensland.


Locomotives in Australia

Various railway operators throughout Australian railway history have obtained locomotives to meet their specific needs. This has led to a wide range of different models in use. Although some types of locomotives have been used by more than one operator, most have been unique to the operator that acquired them.


Around 66 per cent of locomotives in operation in Australia operate on standard gauge tracks. These figures do not include locomotives used on local industrial railways, such as those that service the sugar cane railway networks in Queensland. A number of locomotives in Victoria have been converted from broad gauge to standard gauge. Fewer freight trains operate on broad gauge and this is reflected in the smaller number of locomotives on this gauge.


Approximately 64 per cent of locomotives in service were built or rebuilt within Australia. The other 36 per cent were built in the United States of America, China and Germany. Manufacturers of locomotives in Australia in the last twenty years or so have included:

  • United Group Rail (UGL), which has manufactured locomotives at Broadmeadow, near Newcastle in New South Wales; at Bohle, in Townsville, Queensland; and at Bassendean, in Perth, Western Australia. These facilities were previously operated by A E Goninan, which was sold to United Group in 1999. Some 5020 Class locomotives were also built at Chullora in Sydney, New South Wales.

  • Locomotives have been manufactured at Maryborough in Queensland. From 1888 this factory was operated by Walkers Limited. It was sold to Evans Deakin Industries in 1980, and then in 2001 Evans Deakin Industries merged with Downer to become Downer EDI. The Maryborough factory is now part of Downer Rail. Downer EDI has also manufactured locomotives at Cardiff, near Newcastle, in New South Wales.

  • Southern Shorthaul Railroad built two BRM Class locomotives at Bendigo in Victoria.

Various other locomotives have been refurbished within Australia.


Most of the locomotives listed on the Railways and Tramways of Australia website are operational on a regular basis. Some locomotives are stored temporarily and may return to service in the future. Others have been withdrawn from service and will eventually be scrapped. Stored locomotives are listed on the website because some will return to service.


Modern locomotives

In recent years there has been a growing standardisation of locomotive types in use with different operators. The GT46C-ACe production model of locomotive is in service with four railway owners and operators throughout Australia: the SCT Class with SCT Logistics; the WH Class with Whitehaven Coal; the LDP and TT Classes with Pacific National; and the GWA Class with One Rail Australia. The C44aci production model of locomotive is in service with eight different railway operators throughout Australia: the 92 and 93 Classes with Pacific National; the 6000, ACB and 6020 Classes with Aurizon; the CF Class with CFCL Australia and Aurizon; the CEY Class with Centennial Coal; the XRN Class and the GWU Class with One Rail Australia; the MRL Class with Mineral Resources Limited; the FIE Class with Fletcher International Exports; and the PHC Class with Crawfords Freightlines.


Most locomotives in service in Australia are diesel-electric units. Diesel-electric locomotives use a diesel engine to power an electrical generator, which provides electricity to the traction motors. The traction motors are attached to the bogies and provide propulsion for the locomotive. Traction power figures refer to the traction output of the generator rather than the power of the diesel engine. Locomotive lengths typically refer to the length over the headstocks, which are the ends of the underframe of the locomotive. The headstocks support coupling equipment, which is not included in the lengths indicated.


Queensland is the only state that operates electric locomotives hauling regular trains. Aurizon operates the 3551 Class, the 3700 Class and the 3800 Class locomotives; Pacific National operates the 71 Class; while BHP Mitsubishi Alliance operates the BMACC Class locomotives. Electric locomotives operate hauling coal trains and provide a high traction output. The 71 Class electric locomotives are the most powerful units in the Pacific National fleet. They share the same design as Aurizon’s 3800 Class and BHP Mitsubishi Alliance’s BMACC Class. Electric locomotives formerly operated in New South Wales and Victoria, but this has not occurred for a number of years.


In the Pilbara region of Western Australia there are four railway companies which operate heavy haul iron ore trains: BHP, Fortescue Metals Group, Rio Tinto and Roy Hill Australia. BHP and Rio Tinto have large locomotive fleets of around 200 and 250 respectively, while Fortescue Metals Group has a fleet or around 50 locomotives and Roy Hill Australia has 21. Almost all of the locomotives in operation in the Pilbara were built overseas. They have powerful engines and are used in multiple units to haul long trains of iron ore from mines to ports for export.


Ages of Australian locomotives

New locomotives are currently being delivered in Australia, but there are some in service that are more than 60 years old. An estimated 2005 locomotives were operational in Australia in September 2019, which was a similar figure to 2018. Approximately 50 per cent of are less than 12-years-old. A breakdown of the ages and gauges of locomotives in operation is shown below.



Age range  1067 mm  1435 mm  1600 mm  Total


0–5                   45                176             0            221

6–10               195                397              0           592

11–15                111                158             11           280

16–20               56                  51             0            107

21–25                  2                234             0           236

26–30              107                  22             0           129

31–35                29                  29            42          100

36–40               47                 112              3           162

41–45                 1                   19              0             20

46–50                8                  50              1              59

51+                     2                   75             22            99

Total               603               1323            79         2005

Source: Trainline 7 Statistical Report, Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, Canberra, 2019, p. 70.


Newer locomotives are mostly assigned to mainline duties, such as hauling intermodal trains, or heavy haul coal or iron ore service. Older units are typically relegated to secondary work, often providing additional motive power behind newer locomotives.


More information

Locomotives operating on narrow (1067 mm), standard (1435 mm) and broad (1600 mm) gauge lines in Australia are listed on the Railways and Tramways of Australia website. The listings do not include small industrial locomotives, such as those operating on Queensland’s sugar cane railway networks. Steam, diesel and electric locomotives retained solely for historical purposes are also not listed. The Locomotive Classes page lists the locomotives in operation with links to further details about each class.


Railways and Tramways of Australia features a Locomotive Number Index. These indexes list locomotives in operation throughout Australia in number and letter order. Designations beginning with a number appear first, and are followed by those beginning with a letter. An observer seeing a locomotive of an unknown class can note the locomotive number and operator, and then use the Locomotive Number Indexes to determine its class. Further details about the locomotive class can be found by clicking on the links in the indexes. The locomotive’s operator can usually be determined by the operator’s name, logo and livery displayed on the locomotive. A small number of locomotives are painted in a different livery to that of its operator, which are usually locomotives that are leased to another operator, or those that have recently been sold to a new operator.



‘Australia wide fleet list 2019’, Motive Power, November/December 2019, pp. 64–74.

Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics and Australasian Railway Association, Trainline 7: statistical report, Australian

     Government: Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, Canberra, 2019.

Clark, PJ, An Australian locomotive guide, 2nd edn, Rosenberg, Sydney, 2015.

Railpage <>.

Walters, C, B Peadon & B Baker, A guide to Australasian locomotion, 2011 edn, Australian Railway Historical Society, New South Wales Division,

     Sydney, 2011.

range (years)


Pacific National locomotives TT122, TT120 and TT117 with a loaded coal train approaching Tarro, near Newcastle, New South Wales, 24 January 2018. The TT Class are one of the GT46C-ACe production model locomotives.

BRM001, BRM002 and G514 lead an Up intermodal train paused at Lithgow, New South Wales, 26 May 2018. The BRM Class locomotives were built in Bendigo, Victoria.

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