- 707 Operations Inc - Mainline Steam Train Trips in Victoria
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R707 was built by the North British Locomotive Company Limited in Glasgow, Scotland and allocated the builders number 26997 (the builders plate is mounted on the smoke deflectors).

R707, together with R708 and R709, was shipped aboard the MV Rhexenor and landed at Nelson Pier, Williamstown, on 10 July 1951.

R707 was not issued to traffic due to major damage to the roller bearings on the driving wheels caused by the entry of salt water while being shipped to Australia as deck cargo. The leading driving wheel assembly (wheels, axles and roller bearings) also suffered alignment defects and repair work required the driving wheels to be pressed off the axles, replacement roller bearings fitted and re-balancing after re-assembly. The locomotive was stored at Newport Workshops.

The PCB Experiment

During the 1923 and 1924 the Victorian Railways experimented with the use of pulverised brown coal dust (PBC) on various locomotives of the A2, DD and C classes. Although the tests showed that PBC could be used as a source of fuel in locomotives, testing was discontinued as the technology at the time was not considered advanced enough to warrant widespread service application.

In 1936 developments made in Germany justified further studies. Since the very early 1930's the German Federal Railways had been operating a number of freight locomotives using brown coal dust with very successful results. This ultimately brought together representatives of the brown coal industry and locomotive manufactures to form an association known as STUG (Studiengesellschaft) which conducted research and development of the 'stug' system of PBC firing.

This led the Victorian Railways, in conjunction with the State Electricity Commission of Victoria to investigate the possibilities of using brown coal from Yallourn as fuel for locomotives. This dust was obtained from the briquette factory at Yallourn and was derived by means of electrostatic separation of the dust from the flue gases. PBC was now the abbreviation for precipitated brown coal dust.

By the late 1940's, development had advanced sufficiently to enable the VR to purchase two sets of 'stug' PBC equipment from Henschel and Sohn in Germany. The first set was fitted to an 'X' class locomotive No. 32 in July 1949.

Following successful trials with X32, in early 1952 VR decided to fit R707, which had not entered service since delivery, with the remaining set of 'stug' equipment.

Modifications to R707 included:

  • removal of the MB-1 type stoker and associated equipment
  • fitting of the 'stug' burner equipment
  • alterations to the firebox involving the re-design of the brick arch and the replacement of the grate and ash pan with a fire-brick lined firepan
  • reducing the length of the superheater elements by some 12" (305mm) due to the higher superheat temperatures experienced with the running of X32, with the resultant effects on the piston packing in the cylinders
  • reconstructing the tender with a new tank and fuel hopper fitted to the existing under frame and bogies. The fuel hopper was completely enclosed and tapered down to the fuel conveying equipment. As a result of these modifications and the addition of transmission units, etc., the water capacity was reduced from 9,000 gallons (40,900 litres) to 6,000 gallons (27,300 litres).

R707 was finally issued to traffic as a PBC equipped locomotive on 4 August 1954, just three years since its delivery. Prior to its entry into service, steaming trials were undertaken at North Melbourne Locomotive Depot and following adjustments, R707 then made a number of test runs to Bendigo.

Because if the reduced water capacity of the tender, R707 did not have sufficient margin to allow for bad weather and traffic delays while running express passenger trains to Bendigo. The expenditure which would have been required to construct new fuel handling equipment at Bendigo Locomotive depot was not justified and as these facilities already existed at North Melbourne depot along with the availability of specially trained crews, fitters and workshop facilities. R707 was therefore based at North Melbourne during its PBC service life and was confined to running passenger and freight trains from Melbourne to Geelong and to Seymour.

R707 was taken out of service in May 1956 following some major damage as a result of a derailment. Directions were issued on 7 May 1956 for repairs to be carried out at North Melbourne depot, however with further additions to the diesel fleet and the withdrawal of X32 for repair; it was decided to discontinue the PBC test program. R707 had only run 30,761 miles (49,494km) in twenty-one months of service.

The engine was stored until 28 February 1957 when it was sent back to Newport Workshops for re-conversion to black coal firing. The PBC equipment (including the pulverised fuel tender) was removed. R744, which has been shopped some months earlier for heavy mechanical and boiler repairs, was stripped of various parts and fittings and the tender to complete the re-conversion of R707.  It was re-issued to traffic as a black coal burner on the 31 May 1957.

Coal Burner Service

R707 continued an uneventful career with periods of storage at Newport Workshops in April and August 1960 and again at Bendigo in August 1961, at North Melbourne on 27 November 1962 and again at Bendigo on 10 March 1664. It is interesting to note that during its overhaul, R707 was lifted by two 75 ton capacity overhead cranes but, due to problems experienced with the electric braking on one of the cranes; it was not able to be lifted sufficiently to enable a brand new set of driving wheels to be fitted.

R707 was also one of the last of its class to undergo boiler re-tubing at Bendigo. It was then allocated to Bendigo Locomotive Depot on 10 August 1964.

R707 was withdrawn from VR revenue service and stored at Bendigo on 21 July 1965, just fourteen years and eleven days since its arrival from Britain.

On 20 June 1967, R707 was steamed up for a stationary boiler test and also supplied steam for a boiler test on a 'J' class locomotive J501 on the same day.

R707 spent a short time on "display" outside the locomotive depot at Bendigo (a position previously occupied by R704 prior to its last run to Melbourne on 14 October 1967 and placement into the Railway Museum at North Williamstown). On 31 October 1967, R707 was towed into the locomotive depot for AB exams (its place then being taken by stored R766).

On 3 November 1967, R707 arrived at Newport Workshops from Bendigo under its own steam. On 9 November, it underwent minor repairs (broken spring, etc.) to enable it to be used on a special tour on 18 November 1967 (in company with R749 which was then set aside for special excursion service).

Following this trip, R707 was returned to storage at Geelong depot on 8 December 1967. It was then towed to South Dynon Diesel Depot on 4 October 1968 for inclusion in a display of locomotives and rolling stock at a VR exhibition at Spencer Street station on 5 and 6 October 1968. R707 was then transferred to Newport Workshops on 25 November 1968 for further use on special tour workings.

Many excursion trips to various destinations saw much use of R707, sometimes hauling the train on its own and at other times, double-heading with another R or other steam locomotives of the D3, J and K classes and, on rare occasions, with a diesel-electric locomotive.

Perhaps the most memorable were the runs staged on the broad and standard gauge tracks which run parallel with each other from Albury to Melbourne. The first of these was on 15 April 1972 when, to commemorate the 10 Anniversary of the opening of the standard gauge in 1962, R761 and R707 ran on the broad gauge beside an X class diesel-electric hauling the Spirit of Progress on the standard gauge,.

Another parallel run, this time from Benalla with visiting New South Wales steam locomotives 3801 and 3820, was made to Melbourne on 21 April 1973. A similar parallel run took place between Wodonga and Wangaratta on 24 November 1973 with 3820 on the standard gauge and R707 double-headed with R761 on broad gauge. This occasion marked the Centenary of the opening of the North Eastern railway from Melbourne to Wodonga.

The end finally came for R707 on 21 May 1974 when it was withdrawn from service and returned to Newport Workshops to be 'set aside pending instructions' (which in those days usually meant the inevitable scrapping). Despite being the second last 'R' in service, R707 had completed only 123,572 miles (198,827km). R761, the last R, was withdrawn from service on 5 September 1974.

Last Updated: 13 November 2008

[Click on any image to enlarge]
R707 outside Newport Workshops for washout showing stays replaced during boiler repairs