XA Class Diesel Electric Locomotive
Following the war the WAGR embarked on an extensive rehabilitation programme to purchase new motive power. A new inclusion was the introduction of Diesel Electrics, and this could overcome the problem of water and coal in some parts of the state. 48 diesel-electric’s were ordered from the Metropolitan-Vickers Electrical Export Co Ltd of Manchester, England.
While the locomotives were being built, it was decided to have some of the class fitted with multiple unit operation. The last 16 units to be built incorporated this and were classified XA and differed to the X with inter-unit doors at each end. Ten X class were then converted to having multi-unit controls without unit end unit doors and classified XB.
Before entering service, it was decided to name all of the X/XA/XB classes after Aboriginal tribes in Western Australia. These were :
The first X class entered service on 4 May 1954 and the others were introduced over the following two years. Most were placed in service where coaling and watering facilities were difficult to obtain, such as the northern and eastern parts of WA.
They were found to be good on all passenger duties and slashed times from the previous steam timetable. All long distant passenger trains were soon operated with the X class.
Considerable problems did arise due to the rigid driving wheel base and type of engine used and consequently numerous modifications were made to overcome these problems.
The last X class type was not withdrawn until 1988, a 35 year working life, not bad for a first generation diesel-electric.
XA 1401 “Pedong” was purchased by members of Hotham Valley in 1988 and had clocked up a million miles in its working life since it entered service in 1955. It is restricted from operating on the Dwellingup line due to it’s rigid wheel base and since the introduction of the electrical canopy for the new electric train system, the XA cannot operate under the over-head wires of the Fremantle line due to over-head tension in the exhaust units ( the overhead is much lower on the Fremantle line ) although can occasionally be seen on the Midland or Armadale lines . Modifications to the exhaust have been looked at and may one day be undertaken to give a wider range of operation under the overhead wires.
Today there only 6 complete WAGR X type locomotives in existence with one of XA 1403's Cabs being located in a market in the suburban town of Gosnells
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