West Coast Railway Modernised R Class Locomotives R711 & R766

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In the Australian state of Victoria West Coast Railway operated the franchised passenger service between Melbourne Spencer Street and the coastal town of Warrnambool. Under Phil's guidance R Class 4-6-4s R711 & R766 were modernised to haul steam services. Sadly following changes on the railways of Victoria these services have now ceased. R711 & R766 have now passed into the care of Steamrail Victoria.

Whilst the modifications are nowhere near as comprehensive as applied by David Wardale and Phil in South Africa the two locomotives are interesting examples of the untapped potential of the steam engine. The work was undertaken at West Coast's Ballaarat East Workshops. Phil's contribution to the modification work centred on the oil firing and exhaust ejector systems, improved packings, piston rings and lubrication.

West Coast Railway R Class 4-6-4 R711 on one of the turntable roads at South Dynon depot. June 20 2001

West Coast Railway R Class 4-6-4 R711 on one of the turntable roads at South Dynon depot. June 20 2001

I do not claim the below list to be exhaustive; rather it is based on my own observations and experience of the locomotives. Any errors or omissions are mine. This list includes more than just the parts designed by Phil.

Changes made during the rebuilds include:

Redraughting incorporating a Lempor arrangement
Redraughting incorporating a Lempor arrangement
Oil firing
Oil firing
Power reverse
Power reverse
Increased mechanical lubrication and greater oil tank capacity
Increased mechanical lubrication and greater oil tank capacity
Nos. 3&4 Control pipes & Footsteps on cowcatcher
Nos. 3&4 Control pipes & Footsteps on cowcatcher  
Changing the voltage of the electrical systems
Changing the voltage of the electrical systems
Modifying the tender water filler, Lighting on the tender back & Multiple working gear
Modifying the tender water filler, Lighting on the tender back & Multiple working gear
Moving and changing the speedometer and drive
Moving and changing the speedometer and drive
Rear view mirrors

A series of modifications visible in the cab (all visible on one page), including:

Fitting permanent radio and train description equipment

Fitting permanent radio and train description equipment
Fitting of a diesel control stand to allow multiple working with diesel(s)
Moving the injector water feed controls
Changing the gauge glass angle

Modern Cab seating for the crew

R711 at Melbourne Spencer Street before heading to Echuca. July 29 2001

R711 at Melbourne Spencer Street before heading to Echuca. July 29 2001

A very comprehensive article regarding the modifications was published in the Steamrail Victoria magazine The magazine of Steamrail Victoria in August 2001. Click here to read it.

In 2002 an article written by the webmaster appeared in the 6024 Society magazine, the 'Kings Messenger', regarding my experiences with R711 during 2001. Click here to read it. Link to My 6024 page

In late April 2002 I paid a visit to West Coast's depot at Ballaarat to see R766. This locomotive was awaiting final work to be completed following a motion failure the previous year.

R766 has a brass numberplate as seen here at Ballaarat East depot. April 2002

R766 has a brass numberplate as seen here at Ballaarat East depot. April 2002

R766 at Ballaarat East. Note also the bufferbeam plates are brass. April 2002

R766 at Ballaarat East. Note also the bufferbeam plates are brass. April 2002

The failure in April 2001 resulted in a bent crankpin. With the wheels out of the frames this unusual view was possible showing the nature of the bar frames etc. April 2002

The failure in April 2001 resulted in a bent crankpin. With the wheels out of the frames this unusual view was possible showing the nature of the bar frames etc. April 2002

This is the driving wheel at Ballaarat East with a new crank pin installed. April 2002

This is the driving wheel at Ballaarat East with a new crank pin installed. April 2002

Ballaarat East retains a turntable from the days when it was a roundhouse. Here R766 on the left sits alongside Steamrail R700 which was at the depot for a rebuild. April 2002

Ballaarat East retains a turntable from the days when it was a roundhouse. Here R766 on the left sits alongside Steamrail R700 which was at the depot for a rebuild. April 2002

Click here to see more photographs of R711 in action.

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