Victorian Railways L Class
L Class engines
image caption

Year(s) built



English Electric, United Kingdom

Number Produced




Years in Operation


Fleet Numbers




Type of Electric Train


(l × w × h)

59 ft (17.98 m)

Number Operational


Number Preserved


Number Scrapped


Power Source

1500v DC Pantograph

Electric system(s)



5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)

V - E - T - D

The Victorian Railways L Class is a Co-Co electric locomotive that operated on the Victorian Railways (specifically the Gippsland line and sometimes the Melbourne metropolitan network) and it's successor V/Line between 1953 and 1987

History Edit

Australia was an early player in railway electrification and electric multiple units, with Melbourne's suburban rail network electrified by 1919 using 1500v DC. However in the 1950's, electrification in Victoria was limited to the Melbourne suburban network with older, smaller, 620 hp E Class electric locomotives as well as older models of EMU.

In the 1950's, Victoria's rail infrastructure was very run down due to depression and wartime austerity and over utilization, thus they embarked on a revitalization program dubbed "Operation Phoenix". Part of the investment involved a substantial upgrading of the Gippsland railway line to Traralgon including duplication (as far east as Moe), regrading and electrification in order to service the brown coal industry in the LaTrobe Valley and the briquette traffic from it

To suit this requirement, the VR ordered a design from English Electric that could both haul 1400 ton loads up a 1-in-110 gradient and had a low axle load for operation on the VR's lightly laid main lines, the engine weighing 97 tons (despite EE insisting on a heavier locomotive). They were put to service on the Gippsland line in 1956 and were put to use on express passenger trains and heavy briquette trains

Back when they were in operation, they outclassed anything in the Victorian Railways fleet, the sole exceptions being the H Class 4-8-4 steam locomotive, and the 1977 C Class diesel electric locomotives. They were able to best the performance of the S Class 4-6-2 locomotives in hauling a 600 ton load up the 1-in-50 Glenroy Bank. They were also able to haul a 1100 ton load between Dandenong and Oakleigh stations in half the time it took an X Class 2-8-2 to cover the distance. While they proved to be an excellent locomotive on express passenger duties, on heavy freight trains they proved to be somewhat less successful, their light weight and low factor of adhesion causing them to slip on heavy loads

However at the time, the advantages of electrification were not realized in full as only the Gippsland railway line was electrified as far as Traralgon, and having to change from electric to diesel locomotives at Traralgon only added to operational costs. The de-electrification of the line past Pakenham forced V/Line to withdraw the L Class in 1987

Preservation Edit

Four L Class are preserved today

  • L1150 is in static preservation in the ARHS Railway Museum in North Williamstown
  • L1160 is owned by SteamRail Victoria and is stored at their Newport Workshops. It is unlikely to be restored
  • L1162 is owned by SteamRail Victoria and has been restored to operational condition, however doesn't operate services due to it's limited scope of operations and red tape surrounding it's operation on the suburban network
  • L1169 is owned by SteamRail Victoria and is stored. It was used as a prop for the 2007 film "Ghost Rider"

Specifications Edit

Trivia Edit

  • The original order was for 17 L Class locomotives. The order was increased to 25 for the then proposed electrification of the Geelong railway line, which of course has never occurred