8606 sits powered up in Lithgow down yard awaiting a shunt to the Maintenance Centre, after a transfer from Clyde on 19th December 2018. A diesel shunt into the centre is currently required as the overhead wiring is presently switched off.
Photograph by Hugh Burns.
Built by Commonwealth Engineering of Granville N.S.W., with Mitsubishi Electrical Equipment, for the State Rail Authority of New South Wales, locomotive 8606 was delivered on 12th September 1983, and entered service on 21st September 1983. It had a short operational life of nearly 19 years service before retirement on 30th June 2002. It was sold for preservation on 21st February 2003, and is in operational condition.
With the extension of electrification from Gosford to Newcastle (opened June 1984) and to Port
Kembla (from December 1985), additional electric locomotives were required to service these new
routes and add to the existing fleet of aging 46 class and newer 85 class electrics. The
Commonwealth Engineering Company of Granville was again successful in winning the $118 million tender for 50
locomotives using Mitsubishi electrical equipment from Japan. They had previously built the 85
class, which were first introduced in May 1979. The 86 class electric locomotives were a further
development from these, with an electrical design similar but not identical to that of the previous
class. Compared to the 46 class, the 86 class had roomier cabs, modern amenities and were better
riding for the crew, but their traction control system was less direct and slower to respond to
the driver's commands.
The class leader 8601 was delivered in February 1983 and the penultimate member of the class, 8649,
was delivered during late August 1985. However, the last of the class, 8650, was not delivered
until January 1986 and underwent its trial trip on 6 January that year. 8650 was an experimental
departure from the NSW norm in featuring the Bo-Bo-Bo ("tri-Bo") wheel arrangement. It was built
as a prototype for the electric locomotive design Commonwealth Engineering planned to construct
for Queensland Railways, having also successfully tendered for these locos.
Brief details of the N.S.W. "86 class" electric locomotives are as
8606 sits powered up at Lithgow around 4:00 am on 31st March 2003.
Photograph by Matthew Doyle.
- Voltage: 1500 D.C.
- Gauge: 1435 mm
- Wheel arrangement: Co-Co (8601 - 8649); Bo-Bo-Bo (8650 only)
- Weight: 120 tonnes
- Axle load: 20 tonnes
- Length over couplers: 20.08 m
- Overall width: 2.886 m
- Height to lowered collector: 4.33 m
- One hour rating: 2880 kW
- Continuous rating: 2700 kW
- Continuous Tractive Effort: 222 kN (22200 daN)
- Maximum speed: 130 km/h
- Wheel Diameter: 1250 mm
- Gear Ratio: 79:20
- Control voltage: 120V D.C.
- Multiple Unit Operation: Up to 4 units
The Mitsubishi electrical equipment includes; six MB-485-BVR traction motors and MG-146-SF motor
alternator. There are two Westinghouse 3VC75B compressors and two SMC-EK (Airmate) model WBX 22 pantographs. Traction control is by means of three camshaft controllers and electro-pneumatic
contactors. The Mitsubishi control equipment allows manual and automatic (to current limit)
notching, and regenerative braking, being operated under electronic control set by the driver's
master controller (or jumpered train wires when operating in multiple unit).
As the new class entered service they took over the handling of the most important express, mail
and passenger trains, ranging from the Indian Pacific to and from Lithgow; the Brisbane Limited,
Pacific Coast Motorail and Newcastle Expresses to and from Broadmeadow/Newcastle as well as
inter-urban loco hauled services to Gosford and the Blue Mountains. 86 class locomotives continued
to haul the Indian Pacific and the Grafton Express up until 1994, when both runs were taken over
by diesel locomotives. 86 class electrics shared goods train workings with 85 and 46 classes on all
three electrified main lines out of Sydney. The use of quad 86 class on Lithgow to Port Kembla coal
workings was a feature of their service. 86 class locomotives were also used to haul new chopper
sets and early Tangara sets from Goninan's at Broadmeadow to Sydney.
8606 in Lithgow Locomotive Maintenance Centre Yard in
1997. Photograph by Michael McGinty.
All 50 members of the class were delivered in the then standard "candy" livery. To commemorate the
Bicentennial in 1988, the SRA adorned ten locomotives in a striking livery, including electric
units 8604 and 8619. In 1990, locomotives 8601 and 8602 were painted in an experimental blue and
yellow colour scheme. 8626 was then painted in a modified scheme, that became the FreightRail/FreightCorp blue
livery, at Clyde Engineering's Bathurst workshops during December 1990 and January 1991. The
remainder of the 86 class fleet were then repainted into this blue standard livery at Goninan's
Taree (and one at Broadmeadow) during 1994 and 1995.
During 1997 eighteen 86 class locomotives were withdrawn from service as a result of the discovery of cracks in their underframes, that had initiated within welds in areas of high stress near the bogie centre pivots. Despite the damage being easily repairable if caught early, most of these affected locos were never returned to service.
With revised methods of working long distance freight trains reducing locomotive changes on-route,
usage of electric locomotives on the Sydney to Broadmeadow route was discontinued in March 1998.
However 86 class locos continued to be used on coal trains and the occasional container train
between Lithgow, Sydney and Port Kembla (on the South Coast). The creation of the Rail Access
Corporation (later Rail Infrastructure Corporation) in 1996 lead to higher charges for electricity
being imposed, that made electric locomotives less economic compared to diesel units, particularly
when combined with the locomotive changes that were required, due to the limited range of
electrification in NSW. Thus all 10 of the 85 class and progressively further 86 class locos were
withdrawn from service.
In February 2002 government owned Freightcorp and National Rail were purchased by a consortium of
the Lang Corporation and Toll Holdings which formed a private company trading as Pacific National.
By the middle of June there were only seven 86 class units remaining in service. It was decided by
this company that these remaining electric locomotives were surplus to requirements and all were
withdrawn from service on 30th June 2002. Sunday 30 June saw the last freight train to use these
locomotives, being CA16 from Clarence Colliery to Inner Harbour hauled by 8628, 8627, 8607 and 8606.
The last locomotives available for service were 8641 and 8646 which were held at Enfield into early
On the 7th September 2002 the Sydney Electric Train Society arranged a special farewell passenger
train charter to mark the both the withdrawal of the 86 class electrics, and the end of commercial
use of electric locomotives in N.S.W.. Pacific National facilitated loco 8646 being specially
prepared and made available for this trip. Thus this 86 class unit became the very last NSW
electric locomotive in commercial service.
Late in 2002 Pacific National commenced a disposal process for their surplus locomotives, including all members of the electric locomotive fleet. Following recommendations from Lithgow Locomotive Maintenance Centre, 8606 was selected as one of the top ranked operational units and was sold to the Sydney Electric Train Society effective 21st February 2003. The other 86 class loco initially set aside for preservation was 8646, obtained by the (then) N.S.W. Rail Transport Museum. The balance of the 85 and 86 class electric locomotives were then sold to Silverton Rail/Allco Finance.
8606 sits inside the Lithgow Locomotive Maintenance Centre workshop
building on 25th February 2003. Photograph by Hugh Burns.
After 9 months in storage and replacement of a defective battery, 8606 was operated light-engine (under electric power) from Lithgow LMC direct to Hornsby Maintenance Centre in Sydney on 31st March 2003. After replacement of a defective frequency relay (used in starting the alternator) and a motor-alternator set overhaul (to rectify worn bearings and an uneven commutator surface), the locomotive ran its inaugural Society trip operating the "8606 Return to the North Tour" on 6th December 2003. 8606 has since been used on a number of the Society's trips, the last being our "Terrain Tunnel Push-Pull Tour" on the 29th October 2005.
In late 2004 four 86 class units were reactivated for hauling spoil removal trains from the Bondi Junction turnback excavation works. These were 8601, 8609, 8622 and 8644. Subseqently in November 2006 seven 86 Class locomotives were sold by Allco Management Limited - these being 8601 and 8650 (tri-bo unit) to Dorrigo Steam Railway and Museum. 8609, 8622 and 8649 to El Zorro and 8607 and 8644 to private buyers. The remainder of the 86 class fleet was scrapped at Broken Hill. Later former El Zorro units 8609 and 8622 were scrapped at Lithgow State Mine yard in 2017. As at 2018 all of the remaining 86 class locomotives are intended for preservation.
Following a change of management at Railcorp's Hornsby Maintenance Centre and a change in policy away from embedding heritage electric stock in an operational depot, SETS moved 8606 (and its other items) to covered accommodation at the Junee RoundHouse Railway Museum on 7th June 2009. The loco was then opened to public display within the museum without its pantographs. (Which had to be removed for the transfer over non-electrified lines.)
8606 awaits departure from Lithgow down yard for Clyde in Sydney as light engine on X714 on 27th October 2018. The locomotive was previously electrically operated light-engine on the main line almost exactly 13 years earlier!
Photograph by Hugh Burns.
On 16th and 17th June 2018, 8606 and the other SETS items were transferred from Junee RoundHouse back to Pacific National's LMC Lithgow for reactivation. In summary the works involved re-installation of two overhauled original-type SMC-EK pantographs, new pantograph hoses, a new set of batteries, new fire extingishers, installation of ICE train radio equipment (which required the roof to be removed for modification and a new roof seal), testing of both and repair of one cab air-conditioning unit, provision of camping toilet, cleaning commutators and checking brushgear, meggering of all rotating electrical equipment, cleaning and test operation of all high-voltage switch gear, equipment changeout of all 26L brake equipment, changing around a dozen lamps and one inverter, relubrication and finally fit for service inspection and certification. These various works were undertaken by SETS, Pacific National Lithgow and their radio and mechanical maintenance contractor Progress Rail, and various specialist contractors (for pantographs, fire extingishers and air conditioning).
On Thursday 25th October 2018, 8606 was taken on an electrically powered test run to Mount Victoria and back, with LMC Lithgow Shunter 48120 in tow. On Friday 26th 8606 hauled four 82 class locos up to Mount Victoria as a load test. On Saturday 27th 8606 was electrically transferred light engine from Lithgow to Clyde Yard in perfect weather.
One of the benefits of electric locomotive hauled trains is that they can be taken into Sydney's underground railways. Other than being a feature of SETS passenger excursions, this also makes electric locos useful for working the Robel rail train on underground lines. Most recently 8606 was operated by Pacific National as as E802 overnight from 7/8th to 10/11th January 2019 inclusive, to electrically haul the Sydney Trains Robel Rail Train from Clyde to drop rail around the City Outer. 8606 has previously worked Robel trains to North Sydney via the Harbour Bridge and to Bondi Junction on the Eastern Suburbs Railway.
Similarly to 8606, locomotive 8644 entered service on 28th June 1985. It was withdrawn on 30th June 2002, following Pacific National's decision to cease operating all electric locomotives. Thus 8644 had a fairly short operational life of 17 years service.
8644 was among the fleet of locomotives moved from LMC Lithgow to Broken Hill for storage. However 8644 was one of the lucky six (8601/07/09/22/44/50) that were returned from Broken Hill, when it was selected to be one of the four 86 class units to be reactivated for hauling spoil removal trains from the Bondi Junction turnback excavation works in late 2004.
On Saturday 29th October 2005 SETS ran its Terrain Tunnel Push Pull tour which visited Campbelltown, Lithgow, Bankstown and the City Circle, and featured chartered electric locomotive 8644 operating with our own 8606.
Photograph by Michael McGinty.
While the Bondi works were underway, the four 86 class locos were stabled at Eveleigh. As the Bondi works wound down in 2005, the locos became available for charter. Consequently SETS used 8644 on two trips with 8606 in August and October 2005 for double-heading and push-pull excursions. 3801 Limited also used 8644 on 19th February 2006 to operate their "Sea and Speed" tour to Kiama and Newcastle via the Harbour Bridge.
Following the successful double 86 class excursions, SETS applied to purchase 8644 to have a second 86 class loco permanently available. In November 2006 we were advised by Allco Management Limited that our submission was successful. The locomotive was purchased for preservation by three SETS members (holding equal shares) on 29th November 2006, who still own the loco. The locomotive was moved to Chullora for long term storage in 2009. However outside storage at Chullora for 9 years has proved very detrimental to the locomotive's steel body and brake equipment and the locomotive now needs significant body work, a repaint and some replacement brake gear to return it to traffic.
Currently 8644 may be the third 86 class to be returned to service, in the possible time-frame of late 2019 to early 2020, to become a backup unit to 8606 and 8649.
Again similarly to 8606, locomotive 8649 was delivered in August 1985, and entered service on 4th October 1985. Following the discovery of cracks in its underframe, 8649 was simply withdrawn from service around mid-1997 and was moved from LMC Lithgow to Werris Creek for storage around July 2000. Thus 8649 had a fairly short operational life of only 12 years service.
An official photograph of 8649 in brand new condition at LMC Lithgow around October 1985. Following on from the initial XPT livery, it was decided to introduce this stunning new paint scheme on all State Rail locomotives and country carriages.
After the withdrawal of all remaining electric locomotives by Pacific National on 30th June 2002, 8649 passed through a number of owners including Silverton Rail/Allco Finance, El Zorro and Transition Rail Services. However despite the various changes in ownership, the locomotive was not moved from its storage location at Werris Creek.
Following the winding-up of El Zorro commencing on 23rd May 2013, all their remaining 86 class electric locos were disposed of. Ultimately 8609, 8622 and 8649 were sold to Mr Costa Lucas for scrapping. As a result previouly retained 8609 and 8622 were broken-up at State Mine Lihgow in 2017. However for 8649 action on this was delayed long enough for it to become apparent to SETS that Sydney Trains (and Pacific National) would need more than one 86-class electric locomotive for their planned City railway tunnel trackwork and Harbour Bridge works. It was also clear they would need this in a fairly short timeframe.
The dry conditions at Werris Creek have resulted in fairly limited corrosion of the loco body, even after being stored outside for 20 years. After a quick assessment that 8649 appeared to be in generally good condition, SETS commenced negotiations and an agreement was reached for 8649 to be belatedly purchased for preservation on 8th July 2018.
Following a preliminary review it is now planned for 8649 to be the next 86-class locomotive to be recommissioned by SETS and Pacific National for Sydney Trains works, in early 2019.
Locomotive notes by Stephen Halgren and Hugh Burns.