As Australia’s pioneer streamliners these 11 locomotives were also the first mainline diesel-electrics for the Commonwealth Railways. They were purchased to help improve long distance services across the Trans Australia Railway between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie, where the remote and arid conditions coupled with the immense distances, made supplying water for the pre-existing steam locomotive fleet a real trial. These were also the first diesel locomotives built by Clyde Engineering following their acquisition of the domestic license to market products of the Electro-Motive Division (EMD) of US firm, General Motors. Like most Clyde/EMD locomotives, the design of the GM1 Class was heavily adapted to suit Australian conditions. Based on the EMD F series, the GM1 Class were designed longer and shorter than the American version. Southern Shorthaul’s GM10 is arguably the oldest locomotive in commercial service on any Australian main line today.
Similar to the investment in the GM1 Class for standard-gauge operations, the Commonwealth Railways (CR) a couple of years later ordered 14 Sulzer-powered diesel-electric locomotives from the UK-based Birmingham Railway Carriage and Wagon Company for narrow-gauge service. Although of a vaguely similar form to the GM1s, the NSU Class were a smaller, lighter, less powerful locomotive, intended to operate the narrow-gauge Central Australia and isolated Northern Australia Railways. Following the absorption of the CR into the Australian National Railways in 1975, some NSUs were transferred for use on some of the former South Australia Railways narrow-gauge branch lines centred on Peterborough and Gladstone. Remarkably, all 14 members of the class have survived into the 21st Century, although their condition and status varies wildly with some operable and preserved in museums, and others left exposed to the elements, having not been touched in years.
Following the success of the GM1 Class, the Commonwealth Railways sought to expand its fleet as traffic and, over the years routes expanded. By 1955, the Clyde/EMD product had been improved and upgraded and the GM12s reflected those improvements, notably being more powerful. Despite ownership changes and the influx of many new, and more advanced locomotives, the GM12 Class has continued to operate in service in South Australia almost without break, although today GM37, GM43 and GM47 are the only examples still in regular use in the state. Other examples of the class, however, can now be found in regular service interstate.
A more thorough retelling of the CL/CL/CLF Class story can be found here, but in summary these seven units were remanufactured by Morrison Knudsen Australia (MKA) in 1992/93 from former 1970s CL Class locomotives. As part of the deal, Australian National (AN) sold the CLs to MKA, with the rebuilt locomotives then being leased back to AN on a power-by-the-hour basis. The CLFs were thus returned to AN for freight service. Today, their use is intermittent, with two each owned by One Rail Australia, RailPower and Southern Shorthaul Railroad.
Following on from the seven CLF Class locomotives, MKA then turned out ten remanufactured CLP Class units from its Whyalla factory during 1993. A more detailed article on these locomotives can be found here, but it is worth mentioning that these CLP units differed from the CLFs in having an increased fuel capacity, greater weight, higher gearing and provision of a head-end power unit. The latter feature for providing power supply to the coupled passenger carriages of the Ghan, Indian Pacific and Overland trains that CLPs were intended to haul. Like the CLFs, changes in ownership have left the CLP Class fleet split between owners and locations. Four are owned by One Rail Australia with two each owned by RailPower and Southern Shorthaul. Of course, there is also CLP10 which belongs to us, and is currently being restored at Cootamundra as CL17. Click here for more details.
Back to Streamliners in Australia
Last updated 19 May 2023