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Former Sydney O Class tram O1111, Sydney Tramway Museum, Loftus, 25 July 2015. The O Class was Australia’s most numerous class of tram.

Sydney’s Central station viewed from the clock tower looking south-east, 4 November 2017. Central has the most number of platforms in Australia.

Australian Railway and Tramway Records - Part 2

David Matheson

16 September 2018


Records reflect a range of features of railways and tramways in Australia. Some Australian railway and tramway records are also world records. This article is the second of two parts featuring Australian railway and tramway records.


Longest tunnel

The longest railway tunnels in use in Australia are the twin tunnels on the Chatswood–Epping line in Sydney. The tunnels are 12.5 km in length and 7.2 m in diameter. Excavation of the tunnels took two years and used a 210 metre-long tunnel boring machine weighing 1060 tonnes. From where the tunnel begins a short distance north of Chatswood station, the remainder of the Chatswood–Epping line is underground.

The Sydney Metro Northwest project that is currently under construction in Sydney will include twin 15 km tunnels between Epping and Bella Vista. These tunnels will link to the Chatswood–Epping line, which will be converted to a Metro line, creating a tunnel of almost 28 km in length.


Longest viaduct

Australia’s longest railway viaduct is on the Brisbane airport railway line. The 8.5 km line includes an elevated viaduct for almost all of its length. It was constructed using 258 concrete piers and 1095 precast concrete beams that are were laid between the piers. The railway line opened in May 2001.


Lowest altitude

The lowest altitude of a railway line in Australia is on the Eastern Suburbs line between Central and Town Hall in Sydney. Its lowest point is 12.8 metres below sea level.


Most numerous class of locomotive

The most numerous class of locomotive to operate in Australia was the New South Wales D50 Class 2-8-0 steam locomotive. First entering service in 1896 as the T524 Class, the D50 Class eventually comprised 280 members, which were used primarily for goods train haulage.


Most numerous class of locomotive currently in service

The most numerous class of locomotive currently in service in Australia is BHP’s SD70ACe/LCi. There are 159 units in service, from a total of 172 that were built. The first member of the class entered service in 2005.


Most numerous class of tram

The most numerous class of tram to operate in Australia was Sydney’s O Class. A total of 626 members of the class entered service from 1908.


Most platforms

The railway station with the most number of platforms in Australia is Central station in Sydney, which has 25 platforms in use by trains. There are actually 27 platforms at Central: another two underground platforms were built above platforms 24 and 25, but they have no tracks, and the tunnels leading to these platforms were never completed. The additional two platforms are often referred to as the ‘ghost platforms’ and are not accessible to the public.


Most powerful locomotive

Two types of locomotives have worked in iron ore haulage in Western Australia’s Pilbara region with an engine output of 4474 kW (6000 horsepower), the most powerful locomotives ever to operate in Australia. The AC6000CW model diesel-electric locomotives, built by GE Transportation, weighed 199.6 tonnes. Eight units numbered 6070–7 entered service in 1999 with BHP Iron Ore. All have since been scrapped. Eight SD90MAC-H Phase II units are currently owned by Fortescue Metals Group. Numbered 910–17, these units weigh 188.0 tonnes (185.0 tons). They were originally in service with Union Pacific in the United States, before being purchased by Fortescue and arriving in Western Australia in 2014. It was planned that these units would be re-engined with EMD 710G3B engines, lowering their output to 3207 kW (4300 horsepower), but this did not occur and the units are currently stored at Thomas Yard in Port Hedland.


Oldest electric tram

The oldest electric tram in Australia is former Sydney tramcar C290, which is preserved at the Sydney Tramway Museum at Loftus. It was built in Sydney by Bignall and Morrison, and entered service on 7 October 1896, originally as a trailer car, but was fitted with motors in 1911. A total of 97 C Class trams entered service and were used on various lines in Sydney.


Oldest locomotive

The oldest locomotive in Australia is the New South Wales No. 1 locomotive, which is on display in Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum. No. 1 was one of four 0-4-2 locomotives obtained to begin railway services in New South Wales. It was built in 1854 by Robert Stephenson and Company at Newcastle-on-Tyne, England, and shipped to Sydney, where it arrived on 13 January 1855. No. 1 operated on the developing railway system in New South Wales until its withdrawal from service in 1877. It was donated to the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences and eventually placed in the Powerhouse Museum.

Oldest station

Australia’s oldest railway station in regular use is Flinders Street station in Melbourne. The station was the location of the city terminus of the Melbourne to Sandridge (now Port Melbourne) line that opened on 12 September 1854. The original station was extended and buildings added until the early 1900s. A new station building was opened in 1910, which still services passengers today.


Steepest railway

The steepest railway in the world is the Scenic Railway at Katoomba in New South Wales. Reaching a maximum incline of 52 degrees (1 in 0.78 or 128%), the Scenic Railway descends 310 metres through a cliff-side tunnel into the Jamison Valley. A funicular railway was originally constructed in the 1880s for hauling coal and shale from the valley to the top of the escarpment. From 1928 it began to carry passengers on weekends. Although the mine was closed in 1945, the railway was retained to carry tourists and bushwalkers. The Scenic Railway train can carry up to 84 passengers and operates every ten minutes during daylight hours.



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Jesser, S, ‘Pilbara Americana’, Railway Digest, vol. 40, no. 12, December 2002, pp. 16–20.

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Walters, C, ‘Desert monsters: Locomotives of the Pilbara iron ore companies’, Railway Digest, vol. 45, no. 9, September 2007, pp. 22–33.

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Walters, C, ‘Steepest in the world: Katoomba’s Scenic Railway’, Railway Digest, vol. 54, no. 4, April 2016, pp. 52–4.

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


Australia’s oldest locomotive, No. 1 Locomotive, at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, 17 December 2016.

The Scenic Railway, Katoomba, 21 June 2014. With a maximum incline of 52 degrees (1 in 0.78 or 128%), the Scenic Railway is the steepest railway in the world.



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